Controversy is a great attention grabber, since it can be easier to get media coverage with a provocative topic, but to actually market and sell a highly-debated product is another matter entirely. If you’re faced with selling and marketing a controversial product or service, consider these tips to get your product in front of your target audience:
1. Know your limitations
In general, most controversial products come with more regulations, so it’s crucial that you know exactly what the regulations are and what lines not to cross. For Bloom Medicinals, there are limitations even before a new shop opens in a new region. This is because the physical buildings from which the company sells medical marijuana cannot be located within a specified distance from schools, substance abuse centers, churches, playgrounds, or areas where children gather.
Matt Schneider, director of marketing at Bloom Medicinals, explains, “In some states, the limitation is 500 feet; in other states, it’s 1,000 feet. And it’s not enough for us to just look at maps to decide where to locate. We need to travel to the states where we will be locating and examine the properties we’re considering very closely to make sure they’re legal places to be.”
Honest Marijuana Company cultivates eco-conscious cannabis products to sell to dispensaries that are licensed to sell recreational marijuana products. “Marketing is quite challenging because of the limitations, admits financial partner Serge Chistov. “You can’t simply advertise in any publication that you want. You must determine who will see the publication and make sure it isn’t one that children are likely to see.”
He further explains, “In that case, do we rely upon the publication’s circulation figures? Should we gather our own data? Overall, rules and regulations are not clear cut. Selling recreational marijuana is currently a giant experiment. Our government is trying its best to regulate well, but we’re all learning and adjusting. Plus, we can’t use certain words in our advertising, such as ‘free.’”
Social media regulations also exist. Honest Marijuana Company had built an Instagram following of 25,000, and believed it was following all the rules, but it unknowingly crossed a line and the company account was closed. It tried to find out why, but had no luck. “So now,” Chistov says, “we’re rebuilding our account under a new name.”
Another industry in which the language and images used to market a product are limited is the e-cigarette industry. Companies such as blu eCigs aren’t allowed to actually show people smoking their products in advertisements or advertise on television until after 10 p.m., and 85% of the viewers of the programs containing advertisements of e-cigarettes need to be 18 years old or older. Billboard ads are also banned in school zones.
As these examples show, regulations can be more significant with controversial products, and it’s crucial to understand all regulations thoroughly and to follow them precisely. However, as Honest Marijuana Company’s Instagram example shows, even that is sometimes not enough. If you aren’t sure about the line in the sand, make sure to double-check and even triple check, too.
2. Educate, educate, educate
If your company has an excellent product, it’s important that you create quality talking points about the product’s benefits and share them as often as possible. “With medical marijuana, people may have preconceived ideas about what it is, and these ideas often don’t include data from the evidence-based research that clearly shows the benefits, ” says Schneider. As just one example, chemotherapy can cause cancer patients to suffer from extreme nausea. They often can’t eat much and they can have severe weight loss. With medical marijuana, this problem can be addressed.”
So, education is a big part of the marketing strategy of Bloom Medicinals. “We rent rooms in public libraries,” Schneider says, “and people with backgrounds in healthcare and other relevant fields discuss our products. We share how one of the reasons that healthcare is a $635 billion business is because so many people are suffering from so much pain. We talk about how marijuana helps to alleviate this pain at a low cost.”
The team at Bloom Medicinals appreciates it when people who hear their message continue the education process with word-of-mouth marketing. Schneider explains, “We believe that the best way to establish growth as a business is by word of mouth and by establishing rapport with future customers.”