Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

5 Unmistakable Reasons Why You Should Market Cannabis To Women

Women have tremendous purchasing power, so why are they so underserved?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

They say the future is female, but what does that mean for the cannabis business owner? Since the creation of advertising and branding, most marketing efforts have been directed towards grabbing the attention of men—even though women play a significant role in household purchase decisions. As the world of business—and cannabis—bend towards greater gender equity, some entrepreneurs are wondering if they should start specifically appealing to female consumers and how to do it.

Jordan Siemens | Getty Images

1. Women drive a majority of purchases.

Fact: Women are the primary drivers of household purchasing decisions. According to the Harvard Business Review, women decide on the purchases of 94 percent of home furnishings, 51 percent of consumer electronics, 60 percent of automobiles, 91 percent of homes, and 92 percent of vacations. Worldwide, women make roughly $13 trillion in earnings and control around $20 trillion in consumer spending, making women a broader consumer market than both China and India combined. And it is not a stretch to think that these trends carry on over into the cannabis industry. To put it bluntly: It simply makes business sense to market your cannabis business towards women.

2. Women are a growing market.

While men still make up a majority of cannabis users, the gap is steadily closing. According to a white paper released by the Green Market Report, roughly 74 percent of American cannabis consumers are men and 26 percent are women. However, of those that are likely to try cannabis, approximately 48 percent are women. The same white paper also found that about 39 percent of new cannabis users are women. What this means is that women are increasingly becoming interested in using cannabis. As markets mature, and as the social stigma behind cannabis use declines, women will continue to take up a more significant percentage of the market share. Bearing this in mind, you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue to solely market to a shrinking consumer base (i.e., men) or whether you should branch out into a growing one (i.e., women)?

Related: The 35 Most Influential Women In Cannabis

3. A growing number of women are getting into the business. 

Even if you own a B2B cannabis business, it still pays to keep women in mind. A 2017 survey conducted by Marijuana Business Daily found that women hold roughly 27 percent of executive roles in the cannabis industry. If you only count ancillary cannabis businesses, that number jumps to approximately 42 percent. Likewise, another 35 percent of executive-level positions in cannabis dispensaries are held by women. With more women getting into the cannabis industry, you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself as a company that only cares about its male consumers.

4. Few cannabis companies market to women.

Aside from the fact that it’s the right thing to do, one of the best reasons why your brand should market towards women is that there aren't a whole lot of companies doing that are right now. Of course, there are some companies out there that are selling to women, such as TSO Sonoma and Autumn Brands. However, the majority of cannabis companies are either trying to go gender-neutral or are leaning hard into the male demographic. This is also true outside of the cannabis industry. Research from MBLM found that 10 out of the 15 sectors surveyed are more successful in creating intimacy with male consumers than women. In business, success is not found by doing what everyone else is doing. Success comes from doing what no one else is and by doing it well.

5. More women use cannabis than you think

We’ve already discussed the statistics behind women as cannabis consumers, but there is more to it than you might think. In addition to the number of women who report to using cannabis, there are even more women out there using cannabis that are not recorded. According to a survey by Van der Pop, a Seattle-based publication that focuses on female cannabis consumers, approximately 70 percent of women who use cannabis believe that there is a stigma associated with its use. Another 66 percent of female cannabis consumers reportedly hide their usage, with fear of judgment being the primary reason. Additionally, most cannabis consumer data only includes the person making the purchase. If a woman uses cannabis, but a friend or partner purchases it for them, there is no way to track it. There is a significant opportunity for cannabis companies that can successfully market to these two hidden demographics.

Even if your company has already decided to market to female cannabis consumers, it might not be as easy as you might think. Decades worth of sexist advertising has primed our brains to make tragic missteps when marketing to the female consumer. Here are a few tips to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes.

Related: New Report: What Women Want In Cannabis

Don’t market to women

As paradoxical as it might sound if you want to reach women, don’t market your company or product to women. What do I mean? Don’t market to women in general, but rather specific types of women. Marketing to an entire gender as a general audience is not only sexist but also bad business. Women make up half of the general population, and they are just as diverse as men. Different women hold different values and have different needs. When devising your branding/marketing strategy, zero in on what kind of woman would want your goods or services. Is she a rustic lover of the outdoors? Or maybe she’s health-conscious consumer? Maybe she’s both. Regardless, you need to have a specific idea of the type of woman you want as a consumer and market to her and not some vague cardboard cut-out idea of what you think a woman is.

Avoid pink

This should go without saying, but sadly it bears repeating: When marketing to women, don’t just slap pink on something and call it a day. In fact, just avoid any of the stereotypical marketing ploys that companies use to “appeal” to women. Not only is using pink a tired stereotype, but it’s also just plain stupid and lazy. A classic example of halfhearted marketing to women can be found in the computer company Dell. In 2009, the company launched the Inspiron Mini 10 netbooks. In conjunction with the launch, the company put a website called “Della” in the hopes of appealing to female consumers. The site featured so-called tech tips which included recommended calorie counting or how to find recipes online. Naturally, the campaign backfired.

Don't market blindly

Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, you need to do your research. It can help you test your messaging and unlock critical insights that you would have never thought of. The best way you can avoid making mistakes like the one made by Dell is by conducting some consumer research. No matter how open-minded or progressive you might think you are, our language is filled with offensive euphemisms and stereotypes. Knowledge is the best way to rid yourself of them. Furthermore, it pays to know that your messaging is resonating with the correct audience. You may think that your branding campaign is perfect for the kind of woman that likes to go rock climbing when in reality it resonates with tech geeks.

Include women in your marketing/branding efforts

Again, this should go without saying, but you would be surprised. It is essential to include women in your marketing/branding efforts—and not just for reasons of equality. As a man, you will naturally have some blind-spots when it comes to gender, and including women will help you avoid these issues. As a woman, it's important to include other women in your branding/marketing efforts because a diversity of opinions will help you avoid mistaking your own views as being representative of your entire gender. In general, it is good business to keep a team of people with a diverse arrangement of thoughts, ideas, and identities.

Ignoring the overriding moral imperative, branding your business to appeal to women just makes good, old-fashioned sense. Women make the vast majority of household purchasing decisions, they generate and command an enormous amount of wealth, and they're one of the fastest-growing consumer demographics.

Appealing to women may be a no-brainer, but doing it successfully is another question. Once again, common sense will win the day. So do your homework. Don’t treat women as a monolithic demographic but actually include them in the branding process. Failing to do some is a mistake you may regret. 

Related: 6 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make Pitching Their Cannabis Company