Marketing Values: How Some Brands Don’t Make the Cut
When a company doesn’t deliver on the core values it advertises, people notice. For cannabis industry professional Elizabeth Barr, Director of Operations at Point Bay Cannabis, false advertising and misleading campaigns not only hurt consumers, but also set back the industry as a whole. That’s why, in 2020, Barr started WKND Recreational, a premium cannabis product line that stays true to its promises.
How Marketing Hurts Small Cannabis
Lately, marketing has become a more prevalent part of the cannabis industry. This is great for large cannabis companies that can gain traction in advertising through funding from corporate investors. Unfortunately, increased cannabis marketing leaves behind the smaller, legacy cannabis businesses who don’t have a big marketing budget.
Large cannabis companies like Canopy Growth Corporation (Canopy) have succeeded in drawing in large investments to market their products. According to their 2021 financial statements, Canopy drew in $629,099 in December of 2021. Many legacy farmers, on the other hand, have little-to-no knowledge on how to market their companies to consumers. Barr believes that this may be due to legacy farmers having more of a ‘hustler’ mentality. “They’ve been removed from society in a lot of ways, up in the hills growing or trying to stay away from publicity,” she says.
Barr had her first encounter with false cannabis advertising while shopping at Hall of Flowers, a licensed, industry-only, highly curated business-to-business show designed to facilitate commerce between premium licensed cannabis brands and retailers. While shopping, she realized that many of the products marketed as ‘premium’ or ‘hand-grown,’ had failed to meet these standards.
Barr is not the first to realize that some cannabis companies have been misleading in their advertising. Neuroscientist and CBD researcher Yasmin Hurd has also found discrepancies in how some cannabis companies market themselves. In an interview with Spotlight PA, Hurd cites Compassionate Certification Centers, a medical cannabis company that has gone under fire for claiming that medical cannabis can be a “viable substitute” for buprenorphine and other drugs approved by the federal government to help treat opioid addiction. In the interview, Hurd calls Compassionate Certification Centers’ statements “blatantly incorrect” and “beyond misleading.”
Fighting Lies with Laws
Cannabis marketers need to be aware of and follow the constantly evolving regulations and laws on the industry, many of which ban misleading advertisements. According to the Bureau of Cannabis Control’s notice regarding advertising or promoting commercial cannabis, companies cannot “advertise or promote in a manner that is false, untrue, or tends to create a misleading impression as to the effects on health of cannabis consumption”. When cannabis companies do mislead consumers through false marketing and branding tactics, they leave the consumer in the dark, ultimately creating a relationship of mistrust.
“Advertisers can’t make claims that aren’t supported by the truth,” writes Cannabis Law Group in their legal blog “Companies can’t make misleading or unsupported claims about the health benefits of their marijuana product.”
Sandy Lynskey of MacMurray and Shuster Law Firm shares this sentiment. “While stating that a product is ‘top-quality’ may be permissible as puffery, a recreational-retail dispensary’s claim that it offers ‘the lowest prices around’ must be corroborated by evidence referencing the relevant market area in order to avoid making a false or misleading claim,” says Lynskey.
How to Shop Smart
While several consumers are constantly on the search for their next product or the best deal, there are certain things they should keep in mind when buying cannabis. The main things that consumers should consider are their budget, the dispensary and cultivators providing the cannabis, and the quality of the plant. Focusing on these top priorities will lead to greater satisfaction when purchasing cannabis.
To get information about the quality of the cannabis they’re buying and ensure that their purchase is what they expect, consumers can use websites such as Leafly. Leafly offers cannabis users the opportunity to look at different products, check reviews, and ultimately decide if a product is right for them before walking into a dispensary.
Competing with Corporate Cannabis
While Barr remains committed to maintaining integrity and transparency throughout all WKND Recreational marketing endeavors, she has found it challenging to compete with corporate cannabis. These larger businesses have leverage over smaller industry brands due to their sizable corporate investments, making it easier for them to advertise and market their products to consumers. “It feels like we are up against an impossible situation,” says Barr.
Many smaller cannabis brands have been left to wonder how they can compete with the marketing budgets of larger corporations. Although this is a company issue, it also affects consumers in the long run. Inflated budgets and misleading marketing can lead to less competition in the marketplace and more false products. Luckily, consumers can help the fight.
The main way consumers can help end the wave of false marketing and misleading branding is to know what they’re purchasing. Knowing where your money goes and who produced the cannabis that you are consuming makes the entire transaction more transparent. “I purchase cannabis I believe in,” Barr says. Like Barr, cannabis shoppers should be cautious as they proceed to make their purchases, and be vigilant in uplifting the companies that they can trust.