Marijuana Business Magazine February 2019

Marijuana Business Magazine | February 2019 68 M illennials might be a cannabis company’s bread and butter. But middle-aged and older adults are increasingly turning to marijuana for medical or recreational use—and that underscores the need for cannabis businesses ranging from retailers to makers of infused products and concentrates to develop generation- specific marketing, advertising and outreach strategies. “There’s so much advertising clutter out there,” said Chuck Underwood, founder and principal of The Generational Imperative, an Ohio consulting firm that helps businesses better understand and market to different generations. Every generation has unique triggers in their brains, he said. When advertisements appeal to those triggers, it tells members of that generation, “This ad or this TV spot is meant for you,” he said. “Generation-specific messaging does a stunning job of cutting through the clutter,” Underwood added. Your marketing, advertising and out- reach strategies should resonate with: • Millennials (ages 18 to 37, though industry professionals advise not marketing to anyone under age 21) • Generation X (ages 38 to 54) • Baby boomers (ages 55 to 74) • The silent generation (ages 75-94) Keep research, digital strategy and education top-of-mind when you craft your messaging, Underwood and other marketing experts advised. “Especially with cannabis, what will work in dispensaries and in generic mar- keting and advertising is a really cut-the- crap, give-it-to-me-straight educational campaign,” Underwood said. MILLENNIALS What matters to them: Millennials are empowered and engaged, Underwood said. They’re team players and enjoy group dynamics, and they’re generally optimistic and upbeat, said Underwood and Natalie Cupps DiBlasi, co-founder and executive director of Laced Agency, an advertising firm in Redondo Beach, California. They’re also early adopters of new technology and supportive of social movements, including cannabis consumption, according to DiBlasi and Taylor West, senior communications director at Cohnnabis, a marketing agency in Denver. Millennials crave authenticity and transparency in marketing, they added. Millennials also want businesses to demonstrate social responsibility because they care about causes, DiBlasi, Underwood and West said. How to reach them: Use Instagram or similar storytelling media that empha- size visual components, including video and photography, DiBlasi and West said. Cannabis brands should avoid Snapchat for now, DiBlasi cautioned, because the platform doesn’t make it easy to target messages to audiences 21 and older. Millennials are driven by a “what’s next?” attitude, Underwood said. That’s why it’s critical to stay tuned into the media channels millennials use, because they tend to immerse themselves in a platform, exhaust its use, then move on, Underwood said. Pop-up events, live-streaming, pod- casts and email marketing for retail offers can also be successful, DiBlasi said. Millennials also look for many trusted sources to verify product and advertising claims, so word-of-mouth is critical, West said. When more broadcast advertising avenues open to cannabis businesses, ads on Hulu or the ESPN app will be worth exploring, West added. Messages and strategies that resonate: A social responsibility campaign resonates if it has an authentic connection to the brand, West said. “Remember to take a stand,” DiBlasi said. “Brands that are unwilling to commit to a set of values risk losing millennial consumers, because with more spending power, millennials are now— more than ever—strongly positioned to demand more from companies.” Age-specific marketing, advertising and consumer outreach strategies are more effective at reaching millennials, Generation X, baby boomers and the silent generation. To develop generation- specific marketing, consider: • Millennials are empowered, engaged and early adopters of new technology, so stay tuned into the channels they’re using. They also want businesses to demonstrate social responsibility, because millennials care about causes. • Gen Xers are skeptical of marketing and brand messaging, and they prefer evidence-based materials and transparency. They also have a greater sense of nostalgia than other generations, so think about the use of #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday in campaigns. • Baby boomers have a “forever young” attitude, and they don’t want to be reminded of their age. They’re the most active users of Facebook and they do extensive research before buying products, so a successful campaign will have heavy Facebook engagement and search engine optimization. • Members of the silent generation are conservative and patriotic. They’re more hesitant to accept social change. Campaigns that celebrate family values, a strong work ethic and military service resonate with the silent generation. • Conduct focus group research to identify generation-specific attitudes toward cannabis as well as questions, concerns and misgivings about the plant. Research is also appealing to investors, who want to know you understand your consumers. GENERATION G A P Chuck Underwood Courtesy Photo