Six Viral Marketing Strategies that Worked for Dispensaries

Everyone wants to go “viral” in the new media landscape, but it’s the single hardest thing to achieve. A business needs the right set of circumstances, message, and uniqueness that stands out in an often crowded marketplace. How do you get media to pick up a story you’ve created? Here are six examples of strategies that, for better or worse, made headlines:

The Jaw Dropper
In the early days of medical marijuana, very few people knew what “cannabis caviar” was. Buds that were soaked in hash oil, then rolled in kief, were a novelty that fetched a high price due to the various forms of plant used. When The Releaf Center started selling their caviar for $60 a gram, it probably didn’t seem like a huge deal. Most expensive extracts (hash called wax, shatter, or budder) regularly fetch that price. But when the Denver Westword extrapolated the price out to the ounce, suddenly it fetched a $1,400 price tag. The article soon had 300 comments in one of their biggest cannabis stories in the history of their blog. It was one of the easiest viral stories I’ve ever helped work on. Sometimes, you can get everyone’s attention by creating a new category: in this case, super-expensive cannabis.

The Celebrity Strain
Our stars are very human, and as humans they enjoy consuming cannabis. There’s always someone getting busted for a lack of discretion while they toke. Since growers and dispensaries can name a strain whatever they’d like, many have taken advantage with their own custom celeb-named pot. From Charlie Sheen to Obama OG, coming up with a hot name at the right time and getting the word out can score you some great free press. It’s also a great conversation piece for budtenders when talking to patients and only takes a little awareness of who’s in the news.

The First
Also known as the “YouTube comment” strategy, being the first at anything will garner attention. Most blogs and papers are dying to fill content, so give them an excuse to cover your brand new thing. Forming an industry group is an old staple, but even coming up with something like a cannabis farmer’s market will net you press. Being a first mover in the world of weed often secures you a following solely because people lack other alternatives. You also become the go-to source when people need quotes from industry stakeholders on a variety of topics.

The Cringeworthy
When I think about examples of what to avoid doing as a dispensary, I usually show people the trailer for “The Dispensary” which shows, among other things, a budtender receiving presumed sexual favors for marijuana. It’s awful. It’s everything the industry shouldn’t be. And, between the three videos, it has almost 35,000 views. While I wouldn’t advocate going nearly as far as they do, sometimes you can walk the line of good taste to get eyeballs on your company. This is a strategy you should avoid if working in the medical marijuana side of things, but the old adage remains: sex sells.

The Losing Battle
Sometimes, a loss is really a win. When the Colorado dispensary chain The Clinic started a charity raffle of a $4,200 ounce (see The Jaw Dropper), state officials quickly jumped in and declared it illegal. What was the hold-up? All Colorado “lotteries” must be sanctioned. By running with the premise and having a noble cause (see NOT The Cringeworthy), they managed to get the story picked up in a variety of publications. The cost to them? A warning from the state. Similarly, we ran a “March Reefer Madness” sweet 16 bracket at The Releaf Center. A cease and desist letter came a few weeks in, but not before the press picked it up locally. Look for opportunities where the downside is extremely limited versus the exposure you receive.

The Advocate
Supporting a specific patient is one of the best ways to help bring national attention to a problem. The Stanley Brothers are perhaps the best example, with a special strain of high CBD cannabis called “Charlotte’s Web” named for a young girl who fights intractable epilepsy. While some may question their motives, the Stanley’s have created one of the most recognizable strains of marijuana in the U.S. and given hope to a number of parents. Finding someone in your community worth fighting for will always help provide visibility to your business.

Author: Jake Browne

Photo Credit: MarihuanayMedicina


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