How to Become a Pro at Marketing in a Nascent Industry

Lessons learned from building campaigns about cannabis

Breaking into a new industry comes with plenty of challenges, but as the marijuana industry is seeing, there's lots of rewards to being there from the beginning. Getty Images
Headshot of Rosie Mattio

The newfound transparency in the once-illicit cannabis business creates instant appeal as well as consumer security. It’s a good time to be marketing this space. However, while the industry flourishes, mainstream business is scrambling to understand new laws, new vocabulary and new ways of thinking.

Though the concept of marketing for a brand new industry is still intimidating, these campaigns require no new methodology. Learning about the subject always helps, but a skilled marketer can analyze and solve problems in any field.

Market the unknown by mastering the basics

Using tactics from other industries has—and will—continue to serve marketers well when making crucial campaign decisions in a nascent industry.

Events and experiences are popular ways of reaching across the digital divide. Whether to activate a new product launch or just bring the community together, small and large events continue to dominate the marketing scene in technology, wellness, cannabis and beyond. These experiences can give both consumers and members of the media an inside look at where their favorite products and services really come from.

To shed light on precisely how businesses in new industries operate, the big data industry is also growing rapidly to meet new informational needs. Data enables brands to better understand customers and marketers to understand their audiences.

New industries are just beginning to build a vast store of data on consumer demographics, product preferences and, most interestingly, pricing data as they settle in.

Retail data collectors, like the cannabis industry’s Headset, are starting to show serious storytelling potential with regular trend reports. A company like Headset highlights its services by releasing a report on senior consumer trends while simultaneously painting a picture of the fastest-growing demographic of cannabis buyers and their unique interests.

Before developing a campaign, think: How are you helping someone learn about this new industry?

Data helps connect cannabis to real-world problems that can be solved in unexpected ways. Not everyone is interested in cannabis (yet), just as they may not be interested in a brand new app or wellness product. Still, when brands piggyback on bigger stories, it puts things in terms that the outside world can understand. There’s a reason we see headlines calling out “Uber for Weed” and “Cannabis on the Blockchain”: They’re hot topics connecting cannabis to the big picture.

Before developing a campaign, think: How are you helping someone learn about this new industry?

How to model campaigns in a new space 

Technology and healthcare tend to serve as inspirational models for new industries. Trust is so important to marketing, and brands in nascent industries need to build trust quickly, so they utilize qualities such as brand colors and messaging that consumers already know well.

There’s another factor that is important to consider, and that is where you will prioritize your efforts. The cannabis space, for example, is hyper-regional. Due to differing policies from state to state, and even on a municipal level, cannabis marketing campaigns are carefully targeted.

It’s important for marketers to be cognizant of rules and regulations that may apply to a specific field. Navigating a market with federal restrictions can pose challenges, like when editors want product samples shipped over state lines. Informing clients of the extra lengths and budget it will take to pull off a campaign is a vital part of managing marketing expectations and success.

This is true in cannabis, especially with social media. While many brands do get lucky and go viral, the same social media tools are not readily available because of federal restrictions.

Facebook, Instagram and now YouTube are all infamous for their censorship of cannabis-related channels, content and paid advertisements. It is not at all uncommon for companies to have social media accounts seized and permanently deleted. Therefore, more grassroots social media tactics, especially content marketing, are gaining ground.

There is no shortage of dilemmas to solve in a nascent industry. Luckily, marketers are the picks and shovels of any budding industry, cultivating from the ground up.

Rosie Mattio is founder of RMPR.