CBD: The Do's and Don'ts of Digital Marketing
Updated: Nov 8
When CBD was legalized in 2018, it opened up a whole new market for hemp-based products.
Since then, the cannabinoid world has grown quickly. So quickly, in fact, as it’s estimated to become a billion dollar market as soon as 2024.
But anyone trying to break into the CBD game will tell you it’s not as easy as it seems when it comes to marketing products online.
What’s the Problem?
First off, the rules for how CBD can be advertised vary from state to state and platform to platform, so it’s important to look closely at the policies you’re trying to operate under. Most companies even take on a lawyer to make sure they’re in the clear with state laws and the FDA.
Regardless, always make sure you’re informed about what you’re allowed to do because the standards change quickly as new studies are conducted. When it comes to the FDA, you need to be careful about what you call your product.
CBD products can be categorized as a food, drug, dietary supplement, or cosmetic. However, the list in reality is much narrower than that. For it to be considered a drug, it has to be tested and approved by the FDA, a process which isn’t practical unless you have a millions of dollars at your disposal.
One drug, Epidiolex, was actually approved to treat epilepsy with CBD as an active ingredient. But because there is a drug that exists with CBD, it can no longer be added to foods or dietary supplements. Therefore, any product with CBD can only be considered cosmetic.
The standard for your product to be cosmetic is quite low. Just don’t misrepresent your product, meaning don’t market it as a drug.
In the words of the FDA, “any product intended to have a therapeutic or medical use, and any product (other than a food) that is intended to affect the structure or function of the body of humans or animals, is a drug.”
So, using terms that make your product sound like a drug (i.e. “cure”, “treatment”) is a big no-no unless you want to want to spend a pretty penny paying off FDA fines.
But it’s not just the FDA you have to worry about. If you’re trying to make a social media page for your hemp-based product, you may have a hard time keeping the account up. And they’re even more strict about advertising.
So, How Can You Advertise CBD?
Despite the challenges, there are effective ways to market cannabinoids online.
Although it may sound strange, the best way to start is by taking out any mention of CBD, hemp, or cannabinoids from your advertisements, landing page, and Facebook and Instagram pages, including in the pictures of your product.
Words can be cleverly hidden on labels through the placement of graphics, and it's recommended that you hint at what you're selling rather than explicitly stating it.
This can be a little tricky, but you don’t want to go through the trouble of setting up an ad campaign only for it to be flagged. Besides, witty wordplay can be more memorable and attention grabbing for your audience.
Another method is through the help of influencers. Many CBD companies have utilized the power of influencers to get around the official social media guidelines that limit advertisers. Influencers can show your product on their page without as much scrutiny.
But, if you truly want to advertise without the threat of being shut down by social networks, radio and podcasts are where you should really focus your attention. The podcasting world is booming with potential and reaches a range of audiences.
Lastly, the simplest way is to not neglect SEO. Optimizing your site to be visible on the SERPs (search engine result page) will be valuable in growing your audience.
The situation for CBD marketers isn’t hopeless. As long as you’re mindful of the language you use and are smart about your content, digital marketing can help expand your business to take advantage of the ever expanding landscape of cannabinoid products.