In 2018, the U.S. government passed The Farm Act, which legalized hemp and CBD on a federal level (Broadcast Law Blog, March 2019). As a consequence, the CBD industry embarked on an epic boom. In fact, according to a 2019 Consumer Reports survey, at least 64 million Americans have tried CBD in the past two years, and market research firm, Brightfield Group, predicts the CBD market to grow to $22 billion by 2022 (Consumer Reports, April 2019).
What is CBD?
What exactly is CBD and how is it different from its more commonly known counterpart, THC (aka, marijuana)? CBD is just one of the 85 different cannabinoids derived from the hemp plant. It does not contain any THC and does not cause any psychoactive effects (i.e., consumption of CBD will NOT get you high). CBD has many uses and benefits, including pain relief, relaxation, anxiety relief, anti-inflammation, sleep aid, etc. (Meg Adelman, February 2019). It can be consumed in many different formats – topicals, transdermal patches, oils, tinctures, gummies, pills, beverages, vape pens – and has no harmful side effects.
The positive effects of CBD consumption have made the product wildly popular and it seems it’s showing up everywhere these days. From dispensaries to health food stores, drug stores, e-commerce stores, and even gas stations, consumers don’t have to look far to find and purchase CBD products. This popularity is exciting for manufacturers of CBD products, but as with any other popular or trendy product, competition is high and differentiation is paramount to creating a sustainable market presence and profitable business.
Marketing for CBD
So how do CBD manufacturers stand out among all the noise? Like any other business, developing a sound marketing strategy is key to success. Unfortunately, many publishers’ advertising policies have been slower to adapt to the changing laws. Many of the big online players – Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, etc. – are still trying to play it safe and prohibit any mention of CBD, and in some cases, hemp. This poses a challenge for CBD companies that want to advertise their products online and through their social media channels.
In this new frontier of marketing products that were only recently legalized, how do CBD producers get their message out without getting their accounts suspended, ads disapproved, etc? This is where IMI comes in. After working with clients who have added CBD products to their portfolios, we have navigated the waters of ad policy, rules, and regulations regarding CBD/hemp, and have learned the ins and outs of marketing these products across multiple digital channels. Here is our comprehensive guide to the do’s and don’ts of advertising CBD online:
Facebook & Instagram:
Facebook and Instagram seem like ideal platforms for CBD campaigns, however, their ad policies make it virtually impossible to have any type of paid ad presence. Although Facebook’s advertising policies don’t explicitly mention CBD, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that users are not allowed to post ads mentioning CBD or ingestible hemp and that paid ads promoting posts that mention those products are also not allowed (The Verge, June 2019). Many companies have other non-hemp/CBD related products that they would still like to feature on Facebook and Instagram. If you still want to have a presence on these platforms for your non-CBD products, here’s what you need to know in order to prevent getting your ads disapproved or your account shut down.
- Mention CBD or hemp in any paid ad copy or include any product images with CBD or hemp visible on the packaging. Your ads will be disapproved and multiple disapprovals will lead to ad accounts being suspended or completely shut down.
- Link to a landing page where CBD or Hemp is mentioned.
- Facebook not only crawls the ads themselves but also crawls the pages where ad traffic is being sent.
- Link to a landing page or website where CBD or hemp products are sold.
- Even if you have a Facebook ad for a completely unrelated product on Facebook, if it links back to a website where CBD or hemp products are also sold, your ads will get disapproved.
- Post about CBD or Hemp on your organic Facebook or Instagram pages if you want to run paid ads for other non-CBD or Hemp related products in your portfolio.
- For example, if you want to run paid ads for dried berries or an herbal supplement on Facebook or Instagram, they may be disapproved if you post about your CBD or Hemp products on your organic accounts.
- Consider creating a separate website for any products in your portfolio that are unrelated to CBD or hemp so you can advertise those products on Facebook.
- Develop a solid organic social strategy.
- Organic posts about Hemp or CBD are perfectly fine, but cannot be associated with any paid ads that are linked to the same website or landing page.
- Develop a good social influencer strategy to ensure presence on social.
- Since influencers control their own content and aren’t considered advertisers, they can post about your CBD and Hemp products on their own accounts without any repercussions.
Ultimately, running any type of paid advertising campaign on Facebook or Instagram is likely more trouble than it’s worth. Stick to organic posts and utilize influencers if you want to promote your CBD products on these platforms.
Luckily, there are still some options for CBD promotion on other social channels, like Snapchat. Snapchat has its own rules and restrictions about how you can talk about CBD or hemp, but it’s much less restrictive than Facebook or Instagram.
- Make any type of reference to health or wellness benefits. Snapchat will not allow CBD companies to make any type of health or wellness claims, nor can you encourage consumers to take the product “for” anything.
- For example, saying that taking CBD for pain relief would be strictly prohibited.
- Don’t include any type of promotional messaging on the ad itself or the landing page that the ad drives to.
- Discounts, sales, promotional rates, etc. cannot be mentioned anywhere in reference to the product.
- Utilize fun and engaging creative
- Lifestyle images and animated ads tend to work best in this channel
- Feel free to call out CBD or hemp in your ad copy, but make sure to always mention that the product contains 0% THC or the ads will be disapproved.
- Target users who are 18+ since CBD messaging cannot be directed toward a younger audience (StackAdapt, 2019).
Google & Bing:
Much like Facebook and Instagram, Google and Bing have very strict ad policies for CBD and Hemp. Some mention of hemp is ok in shopping campaigns, but CBD is strictly prohibited.
Plan to invest in PPC campaigns for hemp and CBD products. It’s simply not worth it and there aren’t many loopholes to get around the rules and regulations.
Paid Display & Native Ads
Display and native ads are a good option for creating a strong online presence for CBD and hemp products and there are a number of vendors who are willing to run these types of ads. However, they, too have their unique quirks and rules to follow.
- Drive ads to a landing page or website where products are explicitly sold.
- The only way to do this would be to include an age-gate so the user has to confirm they are over the age of 21 to enter the site.
- Many companies don’t want to adhere to this requirement because it still implies that CBD is an illicit product.
- Utilize CTAs that indicate the product is for sale.
- Avoid language like “Buy Now” and choose a CTA like “Learn More” instead
- According to a recent publication on cannabis advertising from StackAdapt, here is a list of “don’ts” for your CBD ad creative:
- Include pricing/location product details
- Include images of people, animals, or characters (real or animated)
- Appeal to young people
- Include testimonials or sponsorships
- Glamorize the product or tout its health benefits
- Include CBD and hemp in the ad creative and copy
- These terms are not prohibited, but
- Drive ad traffic to a landing page with educational content
- The display exchanges allow companies to educate consumers about CBD, but directly referring to any type of sales language is prohibited.
At the end of the day, the laws around CBD marketing are murky at best. There are still many unknowns, and rules and regulations are being updated at a rapid pace. The best course of action for any CBD advertiser would be to regularly follow CBD news for any updates on what is/isn’t allowed. The federal government may be loosening its grip on the cannabis industry, but many publishers are taking longer to update their ad policies until the laws are more clearly defined. However, with a little research, preparation, and partnership with a digital marketing agency that is seasoned in this industry, you can develop a strong CBD promotional strategy that doesn’t rely so heavily on Facebook and Google.
CBD Marketing Best Practices 2019