By Chris Shreeve on December 18th, 2019
MJBizCon is the largest cannabis business conference in the world, and its sheer size did not disappoint in 2019. With over 35,000 attendees representing cannabis, CBD, hemp, and ancillary businesses around the world, this annual meeting of market leaders emphatically reiterated that this industry is here to stay.
Between walking the floor and attending the numerous sponsored afterparties, we learned a great deal in Las Vegas from a cannabis marketing and advertising perspective. The following are our key takeaways from MJBizCon 2019.
Brands spared no expense for booth activations.
Every year, the biggest brands seem to have bigger booths and conference floor activations. From full extraction labs to dump trucks and multi-tiered lighting fixtures, the cost for the delivery of these activations alone must have been through the roof. It’s readily apparent who has the funding and relative marketing budget here, but I always try to stop by and understand what percentage of these overall marketing budgets goes to conferences as compared with online advertising.
What’s astonishing to me is that the vast majority of the largest brands on the conference floor were spending tens of thousands of dollars on activations, but had no solution to target consumers online outside of their owned and operated social media channels. Particularly for direct-to-consumer brands, I was taken aback by the lack of knowledge of digital media solutions in our industry, even from the market leaders in the room. Compliant digital cannabis marketing represents a huge opportunity for brands that believe they have a stronghold in the market to take the next step and continue to differentiate their marketing programs, by focusing more of their efforts online and direct to the consumer.
The most impressive session speakers came from mainstream retail and CPG.
It was fascinating to see how many speakers had previous experience in the mainstream market. These speakers touted their big box retail and CPG expertise, and its ability to help shape their marketing decisions for their new cannabis or CBD brands. Session after session included unique perspectives on this industry, which highlighted how much that we can learn from our mainstream counterparts. At the same time, even the most impressive speakers had big questions about how they would be able to execute their marketing plans with the limited resources and technology available to them in the cannabis space.
Meetings and events outside of the conference floor drove real business discussions.
The conference floor at MJBizCon is always crazy, and it’s easy for brands to get tired of talking to businesspeople who aren’t their target audience. Many of the conversations on the floor went directly over people’s heads, which begs the question: Why spend so much on the conference activation?
See also: Report: Cannabis & CBD Digital Advertising Trends in 2020
On social media there was a big push by industry veterans to not buy tickets through monitoring posts that included #MJBizCon. The meetings and events outside of the conference were where you could have constructive conversations with real clients, prospects, and new contacts in the space. Many of our partners rented large houses off the Strip that offered a less hectic space to conduct productive business conversations. A lot of brands even chose to forego the conference booth altogether, sponsoring large afterparties and late-night networking events instead.
Is MJBizCon worth it?
MJBizCon is an absolute must for anyone looking to make strides in the cannabis industry. The sheer size of the event and the various opportunities to network with industry veterans makes this conference a necessary stop in 2020.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be realistic with your goals for the conference and make smart business decisions with your marketing dollars. For us, hitting the floor, scheduling meetings outside of the conference, and networking at the afterparties provided us the most value, and we only needed to purchase a conference pass. For other brands looking to make a splash in the industry, an elaborate booth presence and activation might make sense, but I would encourage businesses to understand the cost and limitations of this strategy, carefully track their ROI from the event, and consider whether their marketing dollars could make more of an impact through a digital spend.
For more takeaways from MJBizCon, listen to Chris Shreeve's episode of A High Level Conversation with Chris Guthrie of Delta9 Systems, recorded live on the conference room floor.
See also: Digital Ad Compliance Guidelines for Cannabis & CBD Brands
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