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‘Data and Cannabis. What’s Next?


Digital Frustration in the Cannabis Industry

In a previous post about defining digital frustration, we outlined that it can be described as the feeling of being overwhelmed and frustrated by the number of options you have when making any tech-related decisions.

Think of the last time you had to buy a new computer or decide which software to use. I think we can all remember a time we spent hours trying to get Microsoft Office to work properly. Digital frustration happens to the best of us!

Now picture making these decision in an entirely new industry with the whole country watching you – no pressure, right?

The Cannabis Industry is Thirsty for Data

The main benefit that technology has for any company is its ability to gather data that can be used to make better decisions. Cannabis as an industry is facing a major lack of data for two reasons:

  1. It’s a brand new industry with barely any historical data.
  2. Marketing for cannabis prohibits the use of ‘paid media’, (Example, Facebook Ads) which is a primary source for gathering data.

The lack of historical data combined with the inability to market using digital channels such as Facebook Ads is posing an industry wide challenge to cannabis companies. As a result, they are struggling from an operational and marketing perspective. They don’t know what works and what doesn’t.

Tech-based Decisions: Operational and Marketing

Cultivation and Processing Technology

The cannabis industry and supply chain is being compared to alcohol, tobacco and big pharma. Although the supply chain of these industries can provide guidance for emerging cannabis brands, there are still distinct differences in the type of technology and processes needed to develop a premium cannabis product.

In 2018, we saw Licenced Producers (LP’s), use a combination of technology and manual power to quickly scale up their production. This was in response to supply shortages across the country. We are now seeing a shift and these companies are investing in technology to help streamline cultivation and processing. 

With advanced technology at play, some of the largest investments will go to artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics. Therefore, it’s a race to not only capture the most data, but the best data.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is how a company interacts with its consumers online. This includes platforms like a website, social pages, emails and much much more. Over the past 10 years, digital marketing has developed in a way that allows companies to deliver a personalized customer experience. How? The collection of data.

Online Advertising – The Data Dream

One of the biggest wins for companies that invest in digital marketing has been services such as Facebook and LinkedIn ads coming to the market. These platforms allow you to create an audience based on certain criteria such as gender and age, and then serve this audience with targeted ads. ‘Paid Media’ is the term used for communicating through mediums like Facebook and LinkedIn with paid advertising. The ability to target at such a large scale has given companies the opportunity to collect mass amounts of data that helps them understand what is working and what isn’t.

Unfortunately for the Cannabis industry, paid media is not an option the same way it is for someone like Nike. As a result, cannabis companies do not have the same access to data about their customers. This makes it much more difficult to create brand awareness and understand the wants and needs of customers.

Earned and Owned Media is King in Cannabis

Paid media refers to services like Facebook ads, while earned and owned media are different ways of advertising on and offline. They focus on something called organic reach. Organic reach is the size of the audience that sees and interacts with your brand without using paid media services.

Earned vs Owned Media

Owned media refers to the pieces of content that your company has created and put online for customers to interact with. Examples of owned media are blog posts, videos, photos and longer-form reports that have been produced by your company.

Earned media refers to the liking, sharing, and commenting on the content your company has put online. When a customer engages with a piece of your content, it brings increased visibility to a wider audience without an additional cost to you or your brand. Essentially, it’s free marketing. 

Earned and Owned Media for Cannabis

Without access to paid media, cannabis companies have to rely on earned and owned media to drive brand awareness and gather data around customer likes and dislikes. This means that it will take longer to gather the right data. However, it also means that brands producing quality content are the ones receiving the most brand visibility. 

The takeaway? Create content that provides real value and answers questions that your customers are asking.

Where will the data, or lack, take us?

There is no doubt that the cannabis market is fiercely competitive and growing fast (pun intended). Cannabis companies that are invest in branding, research, and strong content will be the first to gain real data insights on their target market.

Do you want to be first? Email us at and learn more about getting ahead of the curve in the cannabis market with Sidepart.



Dana Doswell

Author Dana Doswell

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