Growing Pains: How Brands in Emerging Industries Can Make Marketing Work Despite Ever-Changing Regulation

For marketers who work for brands that operate within emerging industries, the day-to-day demands of the job can often feel like the Wild West.

Take medical marijuana, which is currently legal in 33 states. If the many regulations and rules around the sale of it aren’t enough to make your head spin, consider the complexity that comes along with trying to advertise it. While medical cannabis is surely a growing market – one that’s expected to exceed $8bn by 2024, according to research – brands in this space still face a number of restrictions around how they can market their products.

Other emerging industries face similar obstacles as they attempt to navigate through uncharted territory. From cryptocurrency to telemedicine, the potential that lies ahead is endless and exciting – but for marketers, the newness of it all can often raise questions that lack clear or easy answers. It can quickly become overwhelming, but even so, there are a number of ways that marketers can ensure they’re staying ahead of the curve and keeping pace with the changing nature of their industry.

Stay Informed

It sounds obvious on the surface, but staying in the know is especially important for brands in emerging industries, as there are often new legislation and standards being introduced every day – and even the slightest change can impact marketing. Thankfully, there are a number of resources that marketers can look to for help; in addition to keeping up with industry-specific outlets, trade bodies exist that can help brands make sense of the confusion that comes along with marketing a product or service that’s still in its infancy.

One of these trade bodies is the National Association of Cannabis Businesses (NACB), a self-regulatory organization that’s doing its part to bring transparency and compliance to an industry that varies state by state. On its website, the NACB includes a lengthy list of advertising standards that outlines everything from what kind of content is prohibited on cannabis advertisements to restrictions around event sponsorship. For instance, one section states that a cannabis establishment cannot “publish or otherwise disseminate an Advertisement via television, print, radio, the internet, or an event unless it is reasonably expected that no more than 15% percent of the audience is under 21 years of age.” While these aren’t hard and fast rules, they bring some clarity and direction to marketers, many of whom are likely marketing cannabis to the public for the first time.

Chart Your Own Course

The burgeoning telemedicine industry also varies by state, therefore making it difficult for up-and-coming companies in this space to stay up to date on each and every statewide development. Yet organizations like the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) offer help in a variety ways; for example, CCHP has two interactive maps on its site where viewers can check out either current state laws and policies or pending legislation and regulations.

As far as marketing goes, many telemedicine startups – some of which make it possible for patients to get prescriptions sent to their doorstep after consultation with an online doctor – are able to skirt regulations around pharmaceutical marketing since they’re selling a service instead of one particular drug. Case in point: while Hims, a self-described “one-stop shop for men’s wellness and personal care,” sells prescription drugs to treat ailments like male pattern baldness, it doesn’t adhere to drug advertising regulations set out by the FDA since the company itself isn’t a drug manufacturer. Because of this, their millennial-esque, cheeky TV spots lack the usual staples of prescription drug ads (think lengthy side effect lists).

While each telemedicine startup varies in terms of offerings and process, the takeaway here is that brands in emerging industries are often afforded the ability to play by their own rules since the infrastructure around their respective fields is still being fleshed out. Marketers of course still need to be careful when leveraging this gray area of sorts, but it’s important to not let regulation work against you when it isn’t necessarily applicable. In many ways, the first brands to find success in a new industry are also the ones that help shape future legislation and ground rules that could impact generations to come, which isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Be Prepared For Anything

There are times when even the most well-intentioned of brands can get caught up in regulatory roadblocks; just last year, Facebook, Google and Twitter instituted cryptocurrency advertising bans within months of one another. While the bans were implemented to prevent fraud and scams, the sweeping nature of them also prevented legitimate cryptocurrency businesses from buying advertising on the platforms. Both Facebook and Google have since reversed parts of their bans to allow for authorized cryptocurrency ads, but the lesson here is that brands in new, fast-paced industries will sometimes have to get creative when barriers begin to crop up.

This is something that cannabis brands are used to, as both Facebook and Google prohibit ads for marijuana products. Although some cannabis brands attempt to beat the system and see what content can fly, many have taken up more creative approaches, like partnering with publishers on branded content that can then be shared on social media via the publisher’s channels.

Ultimately, marketers who operate within emerging industries never know what sort of decisions or policies could drastically alter the way they do things, for better or for worse. But if they’re equipped with the right resources and aren’t afraid to think outside the box in order to reach their target audience, they’ll be more likely to thrive in the face of a volatile market.

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