Cannabis Marketing

This year, we’ve become ingrained into the world of cannabis marketing. Our Chill program has had street teams on the ground in California five to seven days a week for the past six months. Needless to say, we’ve learned a lot. As a concierge delivery service, Chill has been a great experience for our teams. This excites us, because the cannabis industry is a boom.

One area we’re especially excited about? The emerging CBD CPG product industry.

CBD CPG – what?!? Let’s start at the root. All of these terms can trip you up – and sometimes, we use them informally without noting their true meanings. CBD, or cannabidiol, is derived from the cannabis plant. When people talk about cannabis, there are two main components they talk about: CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the psychoactive compound that, in simple terms, gets someone “high.” The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 federally legalized hemp. Hemp is a variety of cannabis that contains no more than 0.3% THC. (On the other hand, marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC and is still treated as a controlled substance federally.) Therefore, when we talk about CBD CPG products, we’re usually referring to products that are hemp-based. Although, marijuana is legal in several states – and budding.

So why should CPG brands take a look at marketing CBD or hemp-based products?

Many claim that CBD helps them relax, recover from a workout, sleep better, reduce pain, fight depression or anxiety, focus or improve their overall health and well-being. There’s even been a rise in competitive athletes and casual fitness enthusiast who are using CBD before and/or after workouts. These benefits are a great opportunity for marketers of a variety of products:

  • topical creams or lotions
  • snack foods
  • teas, coffees and other beverages
  • cosmetics and skincare products

Following the 2018 Farm Bill update, CBD CPG products, or CPG products containing hemp, are increasingly entering the market.

CBD is growing a whole new food category, for one, and disrupting the way we snack. These edible products containing CBD from hemp are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And by 2025, The Nielsen Company predicts the U.S. CBD beverage market to be $1.7 billion and the CBD edible foods market to be $950 million.

What was recently a non-category is now an exciting growth opportunity. Of course, an industry in its infancy will require research, product development and testing. Time will tell us how these products affect their users long term. Those CPG brands embracing cannabis now are on the forefront of this craze. This is, as they say, ground level.

While the future remains a bit foggy for cannabis marketing, we’re predicting a surge in the CBD CPG product industry.

How should the CBD CPG product industry charge up their advertising and promotions? There are several factors to consider:

Let’s get this one out of the way. Check the state’s and municipality’s regulations where you want to promote your product to ensure the media and messaging you select are within their guidelines. This can be a tricky area to navigate, since every location follows different guidelines when it comes cannabis marketing. And…those regulations are always changing.

With our Chill program, we’ve learned the hard way that some media just doesn’t fly – and that some written guidelines still leave room for interpretation. We haven’t shied away from the advocacy required to protect every advertiser’s first amendment rights when done responsibly, but we predict regulations will be an ongoing conversation.

Because of the limitations in where and how CBD brands can advertise, brand experiences are a great place to turn for promotional purposes. Brands have better control over their experiential marketing and can ensure that they walk the straight line when it comes to cannabis regulations.

Even when it comes to organic (not paid) social content, brands need to be extremely careful. Social and online content for cannabis brands is risky business. Experiential marketing provides a safer avenue with more controls in place than other forms of cannabis marketing.

Any new product category requires a bit of consumer education. And within the CBD CPG product industry, that couldn’t be more true.

We applaud Chill for its concierge approach. Ensure all customers properly understand each unique product and can properly select the CBD that will work best for them. So many new customers have questions about CBD in general, and Chill is taking the time to answer those questions. This level of service is certainly a plus in winning – and keeping – business. There should be no worry about the product someone’s consuming.

A cannabis marketing plan should most definitely include educational content. For early movers, a lot of the education has stemmed from demystifying CBD and overcoming stigmas. This is something that’s already improving vastly – with many supporters of CBD products – but will likely still be a factor for years to come.

For CPG marketing plans, also plant the seeds of knowledge around using one product category over another. For example, why should I drink hemp-infused tea over using a hemp-oil tincture? Or why is a protein bar with hemp better for me than a protein bar minus the hemp? These are natural questions that will arise as customers try brand new products.

CBD CPG brands who lead with transparency and education around their products will position themselves as industry leaders right outta the gate.

Education is power, right? Well with CBD, education is also euphoric. It gives them peace of mind and confidence for using your products.

As an experiential marketing agency, we value the share of experience over the share of voice in marketing plans. Content marketers strive to put out content that’s 10x their competitors’. In our viewpoint, your brand experience should be 10x better than your competitors’.

So what does that mean? The experience someone has with your brand is the sum of all impressions and interactions he or she has with you. It’s seeing a social media post, seeing the point-of-sale display and holding your product package for the first time. It’s how they learn about your product and its benefits. It’s the way they experience your product, itself, and the benefits they experience first-hand. It’s how they perceive your brand they see you at an event. And how your customer service is when something goes wrong. It’s every touch point. It’s the feeling they get when they think about you.

We believe it should also be considered in every marketing campaign you launch. There should be a piece of your marketing that immerses a customer into your brand. That brings your message to life. That delivers a human-to-human connection.

Engagement marketing is live, in-person, brand experiences. It could be a pop-up shop, a sampling station or a CBD educational summit. It can be supported by content, integrated with your other media and shared across social. Brand experiences are multi-sensory marketing, activating the physical senses and creating emotional, behavioral and cognitive responses. Those responses move the needle. For new brands, experiential marketing is often a great source of earned media, a launchpad for brand awareness, media coverage and word of mouth.

When you think about your CBD CPG marketing, you’ve gotta think about transformative experiences that will add meaning for someone and build brand loyalty.

From our work in California promoting cannabis delivery, we’ve experienced firsthand the power of events. Event and festival marketing in this category has given us more exposure, welcomed more open conversations and driven more redemption than our typical field marketing approach. Perhaps this is in part to the novelty of the industry, or the taboo around the topic, but we’ve seen better engagements at relevant sanctioned events.

Whether a CBD CPG product chooses to participate at an existing event or host their own, events bring together a like-minded audience. They can draw a greater reach. They offer a contextual reference for messaging. And can generate audience growth in your own marketing database.

More so, attendees of events are at ease and willing to take the time to learn more about a brand or talk with representatives. Events provide a platform for the education we covered earlier in this post.

Event-based marketing can encompass a wide variety of activations. Maybe you invite a small pool of influencers together, or maybe you take your brand to Coachella. There’s a large spectrum of types of events to consider. Your experiential marketing agency will be able to research the most relevant events to participate in, as well as provide options for your own events.

When it comes to your cannabis marketing, simplicity is king. Concise messaging. Minimal creative.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Be truthful and accurate in all messaging, including your CBD CPG product labels
  • Avoid listing health claims unless they are fully substantiated and backed by credible third party sources
  • Craft all messaging to audiences 21+; don’t try to appeal to youth
  • Include all required fine print, as dictated by each location’s regulations
  • Provide helpful information, not hard selling
  • Use simple artwork; avoid showing the cannabis plant or psychedelic designs

When you think about the leading cannabis brands, they tend to elicit calmness and positive vibes: Chill, Eaze, Level Brands and K.I.N.D. Concentrates. We will continue to see product names that resemble the same buzz.

Understanding the audience you’re trying to attract will lead you to the right creative choices. But regardless of imagery, keeping it simple is best.

One product may be great for a post-workout snack. Another may be perfect for focus and studying. Yet another may be geared toward relaxation or pain management. Knowing what value your CBD CPG product offers will be important in carving out your value statements. (This also ties to your creative, as discussed above.)

For cannabis marketing, knowing the value you create within someone’s lifestyle will be important for brand positioning. Yet, you have to be very careful with those claims and regulations. It’s a balancing act.

Like with all marketing, your audience needs to see the value in your products. They need to feel that value in their everyday to continue to use your products. And they also need to feel valued. Everything about marketing your CPG products needs to stem from the value you’re giving your consumer base.

For start-ups in cannabis marketing, lead with your brand. Your product offerings will likely change and evolve (as will regulations), but the soul of your brand never changes. Especially for this industry, your brand is the mainstay.

Experiential marketing is quite adept at delivering an emotional understanding of your brand and its authenticity. Beyond your messaging. Beyond your creative. Beyond your product’s values. It’s about forming deeper brand-to-consumer relationships.

Brand loyalists aren’t just in love with your products. These brand fans feel connected to your ethos. And brand experiences can really bring that to life.

To talk more about our expertise in cannabis marketing, please contact one of our experience gurus.