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CBD Marketing 101 – Everything You Need to Know About Advertising in the CBD Industry

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Written by Alexandra Hicks
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When it comes to growing your business – whether it’s new or already established – marketing is one of the most important aspects you could focus on.

The right ad campaign and knowing how to get the word out about your company or product can make or break any business. For most entrepreneurs, it all comes down to a matter of money and exactly what kind of marketing they can afford. In the CBD industry, however, advertising can be a much more cumbersome process.

With the legal status of cannabis-derived CBD currently in flux, business owners find themselves tangled in a web of regulations as they try to build brand awareness. For starters, there are many sites that prohibit cannabis advertisements of any kind. Google and Facebook, which together account for a large percentage of business adverts, have both taken a solid stance against CBD for the time being. It can also be difficult to buy ad space in traditional print pieces, whereas for a regular business, this wouldn’t even be a consideration.

But fear not, although the industry is rather limited, there are still many options available. Here we will discuss some of these options and how each one can contribute to the success of your CBD business.

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What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

cbd marketing

CBD is effective in treating numerous different disorders

Let’s start at the beginning. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the non-psychoactive components naturally found in the cannabis plant. It’s also the second most prominent cannabinoid, after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD can be extracted from cannabis plants or hemp plants. Regular cannabis is typically grown for medicinal and recreational purposes as it contains higher percentages of all the cannabinoids and terpenes. Hemp is often grown for industrial uses or extraction, and it’s classified (legally) as having 0.3 percent THC or less.

In recent years, studies showing the tremendous potential of CBD have been popping up left and right. Because of all the legal red tape in the United States, cannabinoid research is still in its infancy here. But in other countries, take Israel for instance, cannabinoids have been studied for decades. It’s now commonly accepted knowledge that CBD can help people with chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, eczema, and more.

The reason CBD can impact so many different physiological functions is because of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is a network of receptors that can be found throughout the bodies of humans and all other mammals. We create cannabinoids which bond to these receptors to regulate different bodily functions and maintain homeostasis.

The ECS helps manage things like immune response, appetite, sleep wake cycles, pain sensation, and the list goes on. However, when we are ‘cannabinoid deficient’ our bodies become destabilized and no longer function optimally. This is where supplementing with plant-based cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) comes into play.

Some advertising dos and don’ts

Now that that’s out of the way, we can move on to some basic dos and don’ts you should keep in mind while trying to navigate the labyrinth that is CBD marketing.

cbd marketing

Never advertise to minors!

DON’T market to minors – That includes branding that appeals to minors and advertising CBD or any cannabis products near minors (like a billboard near a high school). The vaping industry is already feeling the repercussions of this as the FDA continues going after them for creating flavors and labels that attract teens. Making sure CBD stays in the hands of responsible adults of a top concern for regulators.

DO think very carefully about what you want your brand to be – What is your vision for the company? Can your business add something valuable to society that would help defeat the negative reputation cannabis still struggles with? When working with cannabis, it’s important to remember that public actions won’t impact only your business, but the overall perception of the industry.

DON’T make assumptions – Don’t assume that just because hemp-based CBD is legal, social media advertising is now fair game. Don’t assume that even though your business is just as professional as any other, local stores will let you put your business cards by the register. Don’t assume anything. Do your research before spending time and money on advertisements that could possibly end up going nowhere.

DO utilize as many options as you can – Never put all your eggs in one basket. Not everyone who’s online is looking at the same websites. Nor is everyone reading the same magazine, following the same pages on social media, or driving on the same route. It’s always ideal to get a good mix of both traditional and digital advertising for your business.

DON’T infringe upon existing brands’ copyrights – Even if you come up with a creative adaptation for a company’s name, you could still get in trouble for using it. Not too long ago, Hershey’s Candies sued a small-time dispensary for copyright infringement after the shop began selling edibles called “Mr. Dankbar” instead of Mr. Goodbar and “Reefer’s Cups” instead of Reece’s Cups.

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Different Types of Advertising

There are many advertising options that are off-limits to the CBD industry, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. As a matter of fact, CBD business owners can utilize all the same marketing avenues as a regular business, they just need to do some extra research first.

Traditional marketing

cbd marketing

An ad for MedMen in an issue of Bon Appétit

Industry-specific newspapers and magazines – As implied, these publications are produced with a particular audience in mind. It’s a no-brainer when it comes to advertising your business, but it’s important to note that your brand probably won’t be the only one running an ad, so your product might get lost in the shuffle.

Contemporary publications – Plenty of mainstream publications are willing to print cannabis-related advertisements. I recently saw a full-page ad for MedMen cannabis dispensaries in a recent issue of Bon Appétit cooking magazine. It’s the art of strategically placing ads in publications that would appeal to your target audience.

Product promotions – A lot of major companies are testing the waters by doing limited promotions on CBD products. For example, a Carl’s Jr restaurant in Colorado did a one-day-only promotion on a burger that was topped with CBD-infused sauce. They chose 4/20 (unsurprisingly) as the day to conduct this marketing test – which happened to be insanely successful.

Radio – If you don’t often listen to morning radio shows, you’d be surprised at how raw some of the topics can be. That said, most local stations have no problem running ads for CBD and other cannabis businesses. If you want to do something more independent, try a podcast or your own internet radio show.

Video – Although I’ve seen a few television commercials for cannabis dispensaries, they are few and far in between. Not only is it a bit too progressive for most corporate TV networks, it can also get quite costly. A lot of cannabis and CBD companies are taking to sites like YouTube to upload and share video advertising content.

Billboards – Whether you can employ outdoor signs or not depends entirely on where your business is located. Take California for example, billboards and signs are permitted and many can be seen when driving on major freeways in the state. Some restrictions apply like not placing signs near California boarders or within 1,000 feet of daycare centers, schools, youth centers, and playgrounds.

Digital marketing

Email marketing – Record a list of customer emails to build a targeted network of contacts that you can message regarding sales, events, and other important news. Make sure to send emails regularly, but not too often – no one wants to be spammed.

cbd marketing

SEO is an important aspect of site building

Search engine optimization – SEO is the process of ensuring your site can be easily found by search engine crawlers. When a person searches something on Google, the site has a certain algorithm that it uses to produce results based on relevance and authority.

Digital content – Things are constantly changing in the cannabis industry. As such, people who aren’t checking the news daily can miss important information. Use this opportunity to create blogs, infographics, videos, podcasts, and other types of content to share your knowledge with the world.

Advertising campaigns on relevant sites – A lot of CBD and cannabis sites sell advertising space. Some sites offer a small side bar advert while others will sell you a full-sized banner at the top of the page. Shop around and make sure to spend your money on a site that gets a decent amount of traffic.

Native Advertising – Simply put, native advertising refers to branded messages that blend in with the platform, as to not disrupt the user experience. A couple perfect examples of this are promoted search engine results and sponsored Facebook ads. For help with branding, check out Taboola or Outbrain.

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Social media and influencers

Facebook

Although advertising CBD in most areas of Facebook is forbidden, forming a private group is a good way to share your product or service with like-minded individuals.

Twitter

Twitter users seem to have success with the site, although their terms of service states that paid advertisements for “drugs and paraphernalia” are prohibited.

Instagram

Instagram is owned by Facebook, so their policies are the same. But many people seem to get away with sharing photos on their own pages, as long as they stay away from paid ads.

YouTube

There is no shortage of product reviews and marketing videos on YouTube. They went through a period of deactivating cannabis-related accounts, but the dust seems to have settled now.

LinkedIn

Known as a social media platform for professionals, LinkedIn is great for posting industry updates, sales, job openings, blogs, and much more.

Pinterest

Pinterest is extremely popular among women, with about 4 times more female users than male. What’s interesting is the diverse age range of their viewers, from teens to senior citizens.

MassRoots

MassRoots is a cannabis-based social media site. It’s only available for people in legal states (verified via GPS through the app), but they’re nearing 1 million users.

WhatsApp and other direct messaging sites

Although it’s less common in the United States (for now), in other countries like the U.K., people are using a combination of direct messaging apps and word of mouth to advertise.

Celebrity influencers

Here we’ll quickly reference Kim Kardashian’s CBD baby shower, which resulted in tremendous exposure for HelloMD who helped organize the party. But for a big name like Kim K to mention your brand, it’ll cost a pretty penny. 

Feedspot

Feedspot in an RSS feed reader that shows content from a combination of major sites. It’s a bit old-fashioned in terms of internet technology, but it’ll drive some minimal traffic to your site no less.

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, the opportunities for marketing a CBD business are plentiful and over time, as the stigma continues to dissipate, the options will only continue to multiply. We hope our overview was helpful to you. Subscribe to our Business Weekly Newsletter for more articles about marketing and advertising. 

About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Alexandra is the managing editor at CBD Testers. She has always been interested in alternative and natural remedies, and the versatility of cannabis as a healing plant is something that greatly appeals to her. It's for this reason that she decided to work as a cannabis industry journalist and editor, to help spread accurate information about the benefits of this plant.

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