Spreading the word is global loyalty and promotions company Snipp Interactive Inc. (OTCQB:SNIPF) (TSXV:SPN), who announced on Tuesday the launch of a new cannabis industry marketing resource, The Cannabis Marketing Resource Center, or CMRC for short. Aggregating years of knowledge in marketing and promotion of heavily regulated industries such as Alcohol and Pharmaceuticals, Snipp’s CMRC provides legal weed a one-stop shop for navigating brand awareness within government guidelines.
The ultimate focus of the CMRC is to use established sectors with similar regulatory burdens as a guide for cannabis businesses seeking to understand both consumer and business-to-business marketing best practices. Snipp has ten year’s experience with Alcohol, Pharmaceuticals, Tobacco, Arms and Ammunition, and Three-Tier Tax Systems in their arsenal to help the marijuana industry succeed.
“We are very excited to announce the Cannabis Marketing Resource Center,” remarked Atul Sabharwal, Chief Executive Officer at Snipp in a statement on Tuesday. “Having access to such a wealth of knowledge will allow the industry to launch sophisticated, compliant and responsible programs that will enable all of the players along the chain – from manufacturers to distributors to retailers and the associated accessory providers — to plan for a future that will resemble the experience of very similar regulated industries.”
In Canada, as well as in the United States, the legal cannabis industry faces an upwards battle when it comes to marketing their product. As The Cannabist reported in early January, pot smokers across the country should not expect to see loud advertising campaigns or celebrity endorsements. New regulations will limit marketing options, similarly to alcohol and tobacco products.
In practical terms, as per The Cannabist report, it means consumers will see government warning labels, standardized lettering, and limited use of “branding options.” Furthermore, as elaborated by Sabharwal, cannabis companies will now have to deal with issues of age verification, non-purchase inducement requirements, and correct in-state registration and bonding requirements, depending on the type of program.
According to Sabharwal, this applies to Canada, the U.S., and the E.U. equally where legalization is being contemplated and approved, both in medical and recreational markets. He noted that there is still a gap to be bridged between current regulatory frameworks and the “world of creative promotions.”
Free to join, CMRC members receive access to a host of valuable resources, including case studies (such as this one on Constellation Brands), webinars, and a one-on-one consultation with Snipp’s design and deployment teams, made up of employees with cross-industry, legal and technical knowledge. The program is designed for players at every level of the marijuana industry, from large firms to small shops. In fact, according to Sabharwal, it is run at multiple levels, from producer to seller and from doctor’s offices down to patients.
“You just have to look at the three-tier taxation system of alcohol to understand the need for these types of programs at every level of the chain, whether it’s producer to distributor to retailer to consumer; or doctor to pharmacy to patient to caregiver,” said Sabharwal.
In a competitive marketplace, however, the CMRC is looking for the most qualified applicants. The program seeks to attract legitimate players in the space who need these kinds of solutions as the markets consolidate, and legalization comes closer in the recreational space in Canada. Sabharwal noted that the competition is going to be intense in the legal marijuana industry, with the winners ending up being those who think through their marketing plans -- similar to those in the Alcohol and Pharmaceutical spaces.
So far Snipp has seen interest from some of the most significant players in pot on both sides of the border. To-date, three of the big four cannabis companies in Canada have shown interest, along with numerous leaders in the U.S. market. Those numbers include many in the accessory space. According to a statement, Snipp deals with a billion-dollar Fortune 500 company in the wines and spirits space, who is working to bring marijuana-infused drinks to the market in Canada.
Asked about misconceptions that cannabis companies may have when it comes to marketing to consumers Sabharwal offered some timeless advice. “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” Sabharwal noted. “Alcohol and Pharma have had similar regulations and adoption requirements as Cannabis. Follow their lead and learn to adapt before trying to reinvent the whole process.”
The Cannabis Marketing Resource Center initiative is, however, about much more than just programs for consumers. As Sabharwal pointed out, it is for programs all along the supply chain.
“Marketing success is about more than direct to consumer sales,” said Sabharwal. “Cannabis businesses need to think about giving doctors incentives to recommend their drugs or oils or other products. They need salespeople to recommend their strain in-store. Then, of course, there’s sampling and trials of new products, capturing market share as a manufacturer through rebates and offers, co-branding opportunities with accessory providers -- the list goes on.” -
As a veteran provider for heavily regulated sectors such as Alcohol, Pharmaceuticals, and Tobacco, this is all familiar territory to Snipp.
“All of these challenges are being solved today in Pharma and Alcohol marketing, and Cannabis will be no different,” Sabharwal said.