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How Cannabis Brands Should Market to Gen Z and Millennials

A new report helps cannabis and mainstream marketers better understand their customers.

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Gen Z and Millennials are typically a marketer’s worst nightmare, especially those working within the cannabis sector. Not only are these the hardest-to-reach generations, but they also love to hang out on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, just two of many platforms that ban paid cannabis advertising. Yet, marketers cannot take Gen-Z and Millennials lightly since, combined, they account for 38% of legal cannabis consumers.

Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

The good news is that grabbing the attention of these two demographic groups doesn’t have to be complicated. What makes marketing to Millennials and Gen Z seem so difficult is their updated perspectives on advertising. Today, a whopping 70% of consumers detest traditional advertising. They would rather learn about products through original content and influencers. This preference is particularly applicable to Gen-Zers, 44% of whom have made a purchasing decision based on an influencer.

These demographics also want to engage authentically with the brands they’re purchasing more than previous generations. Rather than engaging through commercials and billboards, they want to communicate with brands through social media platforms. Although these may seem like hurdles at first glance, marketers can use these characteristics to their advantage. There is abundant opportunity and growth available within these demographic groups considering that Millennials are now the largest living generation in America and Gen Z commands 40% of all consumer shopping. All marketers need is the right information to grab their portion of that wallet share. 

Fortunately, Headquarters (HQ), our strategic advisory studio focused on helping cannabis brands accelerate growth, in collaboration with The Statement Group, has compiled such insights into our recent HQ Cannabis Brand Affinity Report. We dove deep into Millennial and Gen-Z engagement trends on various social media platforms to help cannabis, and mainstream marketers better understand their customers, enabling them to hone their advertising strategies to impact this massive consumer segment. 

Related: What Millennials Want In Weed

The findings

We found that Gen-Z and Millennial consumers identified music, fashion, influencers, and gaming as their primary interests through this report. Although gaming has long been known to have a strong connection with cannabis consumers, its value is officially verified through this study. Ninety-one percent of Gen-Z males and 84% of Millennials play video games regularly, presenting a massive opportunity for cannabis marketers to reach almost half of Gen-Zers and most Millennials by pivoting to the right brands and names in the gaming realm. 

In this category, many of the Best Value gamers, or mid-tier names less relevant to the average consumer but relevant to Gen-Z and Millennials, actually bested the Big Name gamers, A-Listers, and Top Brands with a significant following. 

Jordan Daley topped the Best Value list with a Value Score of 76, while the world-renowned Ninja came in first for Big Names with a Popularity Score of 67. This might be counterintuitive, but it goes to show that partnering with lesser-known brands and influencers can have a greater ROI than collaborating with more famous ones.

Another category that resonates strongly with Millennials and Gen-Z is music, which we found equates to 38% of total interests when all genres are combined. However, Hip-Hop and R&B, specifically, are 2300% more important to recreational cannabis consumers within these generations than to the average internet user. Within these genres, the Big Names with the highest Popularity Score, a ranking of A-Listers and Top Brands with a significant following, include Wiz Khalifa (96), Travis Scott (87), Snoop Dogg (81), Kendrick Lamar (78), and Kanye West (76). Meanwhile, the Best Value artists are Na-Kel Allah Smith (97), Fendi P (95), Valee (94), Larry June (94), and Westside Gunn (91). The latter group of artists represent affordable options for partnerships that, while not as famous as the former group, are incredibly significant to and therefore more impactful on a cannabis brand’s target market.


To gather this information, we used proprietary algorithms to analyze millions, if not billions, of social media connections between brands and their followers, including exactly how and how often they are engaging with influencers. We first separated these into 56 categories and later broke down each into Mindshare Tiers, which ranks each category’s significance in relation to the rest based on the number of accounts in a specific group the user follows. From there, we focused on those with the highest Mindshare Tiers to discover the particular brands and individuals that are most significant to Millennials and Gen-Zers. Finally, we separated these into Big Names and Value Names based on how relevant they are to the consumer and their overall popularity. Big Names iinlcuded top-tier, higher-priced influencers, and Value Names were still important but less expensive than the former.

Putting the data to good use

Targeted marketing is one of the most crucial aspects of a successful paid social strategy. Still, without a clear roadmap that deciphers the chief interests and passions of the target consumers and, more specifically, where they hang out online, any investment brings minimal benefit. A majority of cannabis brands are smaller, local companies that can’t afford to partner with global brands such as Supreme or Ninja, but our report lays out the macro and micro options that are less expensive yet still impactful on their audience. Gen-Z and Millennials are very open to being influenced, which is a significant opportunity for brands to gain market share while saving time and money —as long as they understand what matters most to their consumers. Our report is here to help clear that pathway, lighting the route to help cannabis brands develop messaging and position themselves in a way that enables them to grow their market share while saving both time and money.