We can do better with cannabis swag

Published Jul 29, 2022 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Kenishirotie

Cannabis brands work hard to market themselves in a way that stands out, in hopes of staying on the minds of consumers and related businesses. If they succeed, the time end energy spent translates to higher sales, making the campaign pay for itself and then some, but when things don’t quite go as planned, those efforts can end up boasting a huge price tag with minimal reward.

An effective marketing tool

One tool that’s often used in this process is free stuff. After all, who doesn’t like and hold onto a freebie, and if it’s done right, this one small gesture can turn into a loyal customer for life, because it creates a positive experience and association with a particular brand. We see these things on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with fun giveaways, and while attending cannabis events, where every booth seems to be equipped with some sort of swag. These items often include, at the very least, the company’s name, but there isn’t generally much room for anything else.

Typically, swag is small in order to make the approach affordable. For this to work, cannabis brands must shell out hundreds or even thousands of free items, to gain traction and garner attention, an expense that can add up quite quickly even at just a few cents each.

The problem

The common problem is that these free items don’t perform the way cannabis brands hope, and that’s because the majority aren’t functional, especially not for the average consumer. When you think about the last several swag items you’ve received, what comes to mind? Chances are good that it’s something barely if at all, related to cannabis.

Lanyards, pens, notepads, business cards, coupons, and the likes fill those swag bags to the brim, and once you get home, most of these things will end up stashed in a drawer somewhere and forgotten about or tossed right into the trash. Of course, that’s not always the case. Still, it’s happening more than often enough for us to see the need to write an entire article to address the issue.


Now you might be thinking, why don’t they just gift a small amount of product? That’s what would really give consumers an intimate glimpse of what cannabis brands have to offer, but it’s often not allowed or affordable. This is because every single item costs a fair amount more than most budgets have room to accommodate, and that’s not even taking into consideration the tax that must be paid, even if the products aren’t technically sold to customers.

It’s a tricky game to play, with far too many rules to navigate. Still, cannabis brands could do so much better, if they want to make an impression on current and potential consumers.

Important things to remember

Cannabis swag can make or break a small business, so it’s essential to approach this task with careful consideration. To make these free items truly effective, they need to be utilized by those who receive them preferably on a regular basis. A dab company is likely to taste a fortune on pamphlets and data when they could gift a dab tool and be remembered for years to come. Other cannabis businesses leaning towards fun, squishy gifts, pens, or coupons might see more action if they were to offer something as simple as a lighter or rolling tray. Initially, the cost of these choices might seem high, but the results will almost always speak for themselves.

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