Marijuana Marketers Discover Guerrilla Marketing

James T. Berger headshot

James T. Berger
Senior Marketing Writer

Published September 21, 2021

How do you market a product that is still federally illegal?

There is a form of marketing that’s ideal for marijuana – it’s called guerrilla marketing. “Guerrilla” seems strong, forceful and intense, and it conjures images of insurrection and guns blazing. It’s especially perplexing when you put it in front of “marketing.” In reality, guerrilla marketing is hardly combative communication. It uses cost-efficient techniques to capture brand awareness with the target market without interrupting them.

It’s a form of niche marketing that can be used in many ways.

Marijuana Marketers Discover Guerrilla Marketing

In an interview, Jamie Steigerwald, chief marketing officer of Nug Avenue, the Los Angeles marijuana delivery service that specializes in selected cannabis strains, maintains that traditional marketing simply doesn’t work for marketing cannabis. “Because cannabis is still federally illegal, many companies, especially public ones, will not work with cannabis companies,” he said. “This includes Google for pay per click (PPC), major carriers for text messaging, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, streaming services like Pandora and Hulu, any many more.”

Steigerwald says his best method of guerrilla marketing focuses on text messaging. “Marketing to our existing customer base is by far the most cost-effective method and produces the highest return on advertising spending (ROAS). It works because, instead of gambling if our messages will get filtered, we are very safe with our text messages to our customers. Our texts lead them to landing pages with the promotional information.”

What marketers like about guerrilla marketing is its fairly low cost. The real investment is in creative insight. Another benefit is that implementation need not be terribly expensive. It’s more an investment in time rather than money. Companies that have enjoyed success utilizing guerrilla marketing include Frontline pet products, Burger King and GoldToe underwear company.

Guerrilla marketing is also used in:

  • outdoor advertising execution such as creating statues or temporary artwork on sidewalks,
  • indoor techniques such as strategic placements in trade stations, stores or university campuses,
  • event “ambush” activities such as promoting a product or service within some event or sports game, and
  • experimental techniques that create unique and experiential ways the consumer can interact with the brand.

When asked why guerrilla marketing works so well in marketing marijuana, Steigerwald said: “It’s not just that it works well. It’s that you must employ nontraditional tactics because traditional tactics are not available. For us, it’s more about survival and being creative.”

The most successful techniques, Steigerwald continues, “are communicating to your target markets in ways that they understand, but without raising red flags. We’ve had some success with mainstream display marketing using emojis.”

Asked what other products or services lend themselves to guerrilla marketing, Steigerwald said, “communicating to your customers where they are in a language they understand always helps build community and can be used by any product or service.”

About The Author

James T. Berger headshot
James T. Berger, Senior Marketing Writer of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.