The style of marketing has radically shifted within the cannabis industry as legalization developments and advancements continue, and we have largely women to thank for this breath of fresh air. With illicit markets being largely commanded by male figures, women are pioneering the “influencer” style of cannabis promotion that is emerging.
How Cannabis Marketing Is Transforming
A recent research paper, released in Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal with a focus on Instagram trends, found that cannabis influencers on Instagram are altering the stereotype of illicit cannabis culture being dominated almost completely by men to one where cannabis is shown as a desirable accessory in certain feminine lifestyles.
This was discovered after evaluating the aesthetic and textual variations in the accounts of 60 ostensibly illegal vendors in Switzerland and 70 “cannabis influencer” profiles in the United States.
The researchers wrote in said study that “The role of influencers in modifying cannabis culture to make it more mainstream and acceptable to women could have a global impact on cannabis cultures and continuing legalization discussions.”
“As a result of legalization, cannabis marketing on social media has changed dramatically. Cannabis influencers can reach millions of individuals of various ages, genders, and nations through social media platforms like Instagram to propagate their thoughts about cannabis as a legalized recreational commodity,” they further clarified in their writings.
Problems In Cannabis Marketing
As is, unfortunately, typical for the cannabis market currently – cannabis marketing still has its fair share of obstacles.
Even if items are being marketed to people living in legal cannabis states, the research paper authors stated that marketing cannabis on social media networks such as Instagram still proves to be difficult with federal prohibition. This is because cannabis businesses fear being implicated, however indirectly, in illicit cannabis activity.
These cannabis “influencers” in the United States have adapted as needed, with disclaimers typically noting that they are not selling cannabis but merely showcasing how they incorporate the products into their lifestyles, unlike unlawful merchants who try to conceal regulations prohibiting direct sales.
Despite the changes in Instagram marketing, many so-called influencers and cannabis enterprises are still having trouble with big platforms that routinely ban cannabis accounts for breaking drug-related restrictions.
In February, the marijuana technology startup Weedmaps launched a parody ad as a response to the censoring of cannabis businesses on social media and in mainstream advertising.
Separately, advocates accused Twitter of hypocrisy after it partnered with a federal drug agency last year to promote substance abuse treatment resources when users search for “marijuana” or other substance-related terms on the social media platform—but no such health warning appears with results for alcohol-related terms.
More About The Apparent Shift
The researchers stated their discovery of a shift in the usage of symbols connected to amateurism versus professionalism, closeness, and lifestyle when cannabis is marketed by legal influencers rather than illicit dealers, and argue that these changes are linked to how influencers do gender differently than sellers.
Influencers are overwhelmingly female, and this shift in gendered symbolism prompts us to consider how some aspects of the legal cannabis economy are marketed as a desired feminine accessory, which contrasts sharply with the more macho, underground symbolism of illegal cannabis sales on Instagram. More broadly, such a shift in marketing’s symbolic meaning could make cannabis more appealing to a larger range of people.
According to the research, the prevalence of women-identifying profile holders was the most noticeable aspect of self-titled cannabis influencer profiles on Instagram, with the focus of influencer posts being on the person who was using the product, rather than the product itself.
This influencer style of marketing in legal states allows viewers to envision how they might utilize cannabis products in a variety of social and personal circumstances. Women play an active part in mainstreaming cannabis as influencers by linking cannabis usage and products to their daily activities.
Influencing is a method for women to take control of the symbolic implications of cannabis—and gender—by putting themselves in the spotlight for their own benefit.
According to the study, there is a push within the industry and culture to expand the traditional cannabis culture of ‘hippie’ pot smokers to include motherhood, health and exercise, high-end city living, and other mainstream values.
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