These days, you can’t walk into a grocery store or drugstore without bumping into a CBD display. Although you might appreciate that accessibility, beware of what you read.
Because CBD products got hot so quickly, many of their marketing campaigns are like luxury apartments: shiny and attractive on the outside, but poorly constructed beneath. Before digging into the science, doing market research, or evaluating the efficacy of their products, some CBD brands nail together a few ads and call it a day. In the interest of “first to market, first to win,” they overlook the longevity of thoughtful marketing.
First and foremost, that endangers consumers. But it also commits CBD marketers to the clean-up when their strategy starts showing signs of poor construction. One way or another, consumers discover the truth about the things they buy.
Rather than risk upset users, regulatory attention, or wasted spend, abide by these dos and don’ts of CBD marketing:
1. DO research your market.
The CBD market isn’t monolithic. It’s not just stoners sitting on couches, nor is it all cancer patients trying a new treatment. Existing CBD brands should review their sales data and set up customer personas; new ones need to conduct competitive analyses.
What you find might surprise you. One CBD marketing agency, Hawke Media, discovered an entirely new audience in a client’s website data. Although the CBD brand had been successfully selling to Millennial men and women, it hadn’t noticed that site visitors ages 55 and up were actually converting at twice the rate of its younger customers.
2. DON’T make medical claims you can’t support.
Federal agencies don’t play around. If you make health claims about CBD that aren’t supported by scientific studies, regulators will step in. Just this past April, the FTC and FDA sent warning letters to three CBD companies claiming their products could treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, and mental health disorders.
Although some consumers believe CBD can improve anxiety, depression, pain, and more, there simply isn’t enough evidence yet to support those claims. If you have to say something about what your CBD product “does,” stick to general wellness. If consumers ask for more specific benefits, encourage them to speak with their doctor.
- DO create high-quality content.
Regulations do vary by state, but beware that many traditional advertising channels aren’t available to CBD companies. In Maryland, for example, cannabis products can’t be advertised on radio, TV, flyers, or billboards.
In a sense, though, this is a blessing in disguise. Given that only about half of consumers know what CBD is or how it differs from marijuana, online content is an excellent tactic. Especially when combined with
DON’T advertise marijuana-derived CBD.
Although marijuana is now fully legal in a dozen states, the psychoactive cannabis compound remains federally illegal. By extension, marijuana-derived CBD is technically illegal as well.
Don’t advertise an illegal product. Even if you’re in a legal state, limit your ads to hemp-derived CBD — which is federally legal because the hemp plant contains no THC. If you do sell marijuana-based CBD, let consumers discover that option for themselves when they visit your site or store.
- DO invest in influencers.
Although Facebook now allows some CBD advertising on its platform, social media platforms have taken a “better safe than sorry” approach to CBD ads. With that said, there are still some ways to get your CBD brand noticed on social.
First, make sure your brand has social media pages set up — taking care to promote only hemp-derived CBD. Then, reach out to influencers. Because influencers’ suggestions are their own, social media sites have largely let them stand. If you have a limited budget, Instagram and YouTube are chock-full of CBD influencers.
- DON’T let product quality slip.
No matter how sleek your ads are or how clever your influencers seem, remember that the foundation of a successful marketing strategy is a strong product. Because the industry is so young, many suppliers are cutting corners.
Particularly if you’ve recently switched vendors, invest in product testing. A recent Virginia Commonwealth University study of popular CBD products turned up chemicals ranging from dextromethorphan to synthetic cannabinoids. Once you receive the report, post it online to prove that your products are safe and effective.
- DO cater to new users.
The CBD market has become crowded quickly. Rather than fight for the existing pool of CBD users, why not bring in new blood? Make it easy for first-time users to find a product they like. Support them once they’ve bought in.
After testing a range of CBD products with 5,000 consumers, Feals learned many people don’t know what dosage to take. Rather than make them guess, Feals developed a “flight” containing three vials with 40 mg, 80 mg, and 160 mg of CBD oil. To answer pre-consumption questions, it set up an SMS system to send a personalized text once the flight arrives at the customer’s home.
- DON’T neglect loyal customers.
In some states, CBD consumption has been legal via medical marijuana laws for nearly a decade. Although expanding your market will be key for brand growth, don’t forget about all the users who’ve been loyal to you along the way. Not only are they long-term customers, but they’ve also had a pulse on the trend from the beginning.
Points on purchases are the table stakes of rewards programs. Give longtime users something more exclusive: FAB CBD offers members of its loyalty program access to limited-run products. Make it easy for members to order more by giving them free shipping as well.
Just like budding CBD consumers themselves, the industry can feel overwhelmed by the amount of change, noise, and attention surrounding CBD consumption. CBD may be a new space, but marketing’s best practices still hold. Know your market, choose your channels carefully, and maintain your product. In any sector, that’s the way to the top shelf.