What the Cannabis Industry can Learn from Juul in the US
What the Cannabis Industry Can Learn from Juul in the US
The vaping industry in the US is currently experiencing a sharp adjustment in its market position. The extraordinary success of vaping products has, over the last year, given way to law suits, state-wide bans and broad recrimination. Following reports of vaping related deaths in early September 2019, President Trump announced that his administration would ban the flavoured e-cigarettes that have become so popular with young people.
Young Industries Can Learn From Each Other
A recent article by Joan Irvine, ResponsiTech Co-Founder & CEO, considers how the cannabis industry can learn from Juul’s recent marketing ‘nightmare’. Both industries are young, having been introduced over the past two decades, and both share a responsibility to market their products responsibly in order to protect young people:
“Risk mitigation and compliance for online youth safety is not a hypothetical issue that can be avoided any longer.” – Joan Irvine
Advertising to Young People in the US – the Bottom Line
Scott Rabinowitz has had 20 years’ experience in working in high-risk industries, and his article Online Advertising in an Age-Restricted Industry notes that whether you’re selling cannabis, or vaping products, the baseline responsibilities for marketers are the same. The principle is clear across the US:
If you engage in any form of online advertising from any vendor for your cannabis brand, the legal burden falls to you. As the licensed cannabis brand, it’s your responsibility to ensure that every channel where you advertise on the internet or elsewhere serves your ads to an audience that is at least 60-70 per-cent adults (or more based on state regulations) age 21+ to view the ads. – Scott Rabinowitz
How Can Cannabis License Holders Build on Lessons Learnt?
Both Rabinowitz and Irvine are clear that the cannabis industry needs to learn from manufacturers like Juul, how to limit their exposure to risk. Drawing on their extensive industry experience they both provide a range of suggestions for how this might be applied:
- Parental Filtering. Cannabis companies should embed parental filtering codes on their sites. This is now a widely available technology which allows both parents and businesses to share responsibility for young people being unable to access age-restricted products. Both Irvine and Rabinowitz underline the importance of this step.
- Age Verification. At present the age-gates to cannabis products ask the age of the visitor, and require a birth date. Irvine advocates the use of age verification. This goes one step further, by offering a simple and effective way for visitors to verify their age at the point of entry.
- Regular Digital Footprint Audits. Rabinowitz suggests that online marketers of licensed cannabis products carry out an annual professional digital audit. This demonstrates your responsibility when it comes to checking your advertising ingress across blogs and social media that might be accessed by young people.
- Use Adult imagery and Features. Irvine notes that one of the problems Juul has had to cope with is that their marketing of flavoured vaping products appeared to be targeting young people. The message is clear; use appropriate imagery for your adult market.
- Keep an Eye on Keywords. Rabinowitz comments on the power keywords have to draw young people to age-restricted products. He recommends regular audits, and absolute discipline here. Keywords associated with your products should, in no way, distort or manipulate branding to include young people as consumers.
Watching From the UK
At present we’re watching the Juul drama unfold in the US, but – as yet – there appears to have been little impact on the vaping industry in the UK. Similarly, our cannabis industry doesn’t yet exist but is likely to develop over the next 5-10 years, according to a group of cross-party MPs. There’s much we can learn from the present moment, about how to market age-restricted products legally, efficiently and responsibly.
AgeChecked provides online age verification for websites that sell age-restricted goods and services.