2018 was a pretty big year for CBD; “CBD gummies” reached No. 3 on Google’s most popular search terms. Thanks to a lack of product regulation, coupled with strict advertising restrictions, the marketplace is awash with misleading claims and confusing language, resulting in an interested consumer who may not understand the benefits, the options, or even the differences between CBD, THC, hemp and cannabis.
While the passing of the Farm Bill didn’t legalize cannabis, it legalized industrial hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant that produces CBD oil with trace amounts of THC.
What does this really mean? Legalization of hemp-based CBD brings stricter standards, so we can expect to see a lot more transparency from products, and brands will be held accountable when it comes to the claims they make. But, until the big three — Google, Facebook and Amazon — get on the bandwagon with legislation, marketing CBD is forbidden on these platforms. There is hope, however, that the Farm Bill will open the door for future ad policy changes by these major players.
Given the harsh ad restrictions, the opportunity for brands lies within content backed by science and research. In other words, brands that talk the talk better be able to walk the walk. Here’s how:
• Educational content: Have a steady stream of content designed to educate consumers on the benefits of the product and how to use it.
• Optimize, optimize, optimize: Showing up in top search results must be a marketing focus. Google looks for expertise, authority and trustworthiness, so having informative content paired with an SEO (search engine optimization) team dedicated to staying on top of these updates is necessary to inform your brand and the consumer.
• Build a social community: Reach consumers seeking guidance on CBD use and benefits, and publicize events, newsletter signups and customer loyalty programs organically. Be transparent, engage, stay away from trippy and trendy hashtags, and find that niche community that wants the facts, not the fad.
Rich Zeldes is executive vice president and managing director at Stella Rising, the marketing agency for rising star brands. The firm has extensive experience helping brands grow to category leadership through insights, communications and media strategy.