Marketing Your CBD Brands

Marketing Your CBD Brand in 2020
George Weston Article - GCI Content Hub

Marketing Your CBD Brands

Choosing between the vast range of CBD brands and products on the market can be bewildering. CBD is now available as an active ingredient not only in tinctures, vapes, and drinks, but also in pet products, luxury face creams, gummies, pillow sprays and suppositories. Even within some of the more niche sub-categories, there’s often a wide variety of somewhat interchangeable brands on offer. Given this, it would be reasonable to question individual brands’ ability to acquire loyalty to a meaningful and long-lasting extent. Certainly, it takes a lot of work, but through a combination of careful planning, positioning, persistence, bold thinking, transparency, product efficacy, and a considered pricing and distribution strategy, it’s still possible to foster a brand that not only stands out from the crowd, but gets customers coming back again and again.

Picking Your CBD Product Category

Of course, spotting a gap in the market, whether in the form of a new application for CBD or an under served demographic, for example, is a good place to start for a brand hoping to become the ‘go-to’ for a particular audience. In some cases, there may be a pre-existing rival in the same precise category – this is OK, so long as the newcomer is shrewd in their collection of market data, pinpointing the behaviour and preferences of their target consumers.

As a rule of thumb, the more research a brand conducts, the better chance it will have of understanding and being able to accommodate its customers’ requirements; whilst a brand can evolve over time as it collects real sales data and gets to know its consumers better, it’s still hugely important that they do the preparatory work in order to get off to a flying start. Market data can be gleaned from sources such as consumer surveys, forensic analysis of the competition and publicly available research reports. The key is to always keep in mind the ‘problem’ your brand is trying to solve, and/or the gap in the market your brand aims to fill.

Competition for Your CBD Products

When conceiving of and developing a brand, it’s also vital to remember that the market for CBD products doesn’t exist in isolation, but as part of the wider CPG sector. No expensive face cream containing CBD stands a chance of surviving, let alone claiming market share, unless the brand recognises that its true competitors are the long-standing luxury cosmetics brands that customers know and trust. Nor can a CBD soft drinks company ignore what the proliferation of booze-free soda brands are doing to disrupt both the existing alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks sectors.

More broadly, the motivation behind consumers taking an interest in CBD should be considered – anxiety, stress and difficulty sleeping can also be alleviated by certain fitness products and mindfulness apps and platforms, for instance. Here, efficacy is important (more of which later), but so too is benchmarking all other aspects of the product, from design to messaging and distribution strategy, above and away from the narrower CBD category.

Your Marketing Strategy

For CBD brands, it’s important to be bold when it comes to marketing strategy, to overcome the twin challenges of restrictions on advertising and the multitude of products already available. Thinking outside the box can help pique interest, as a number of companies have already shown.

Examples of Bold CBD Marketing Campaigns

Mr Nice, a leading UK CBD company, dropped a Land Rover, wrapped in metallic foil and emblazoned with a fluorescent version of the brand’s logo, right into the middle of the men’s fashion floor at Selfridges in London’s Oxford Street in the run up to Christmas 2019. Unsurprisingly, they saw a significant uptick in sales of merchandise, but more important is what it did for longer-term brand awareness – more recent visitors to their online and physical stores say that the installation helped solidify their reputation as the leading lifestyle brand for British cannabis aficionados.

Foria, a CBD sexual wellness company, isn’t afraid to post sometimes provocative but always engaging content on its social media channels: a typical recent Instagram post asked followers who ‘have a vulva or love someone with a vulva’ to ‘tell us what takes pleasure and orgasms to the next level, and what doesn’t feel so hot’. They also recently published their first ‘Intimacy Journal’, designed to facilitate readers’ ‘cannabis-fuelled amorous adventures’. By championing female sexual empowerment in a way that’s playful but nevertheless conveys a serious message, Foria has become a reference point for sexual health products containing CBD.

Promoting Your Brand

Recent events have highlighted how sometimes opportunities present themselves even in the most difficult circumstances. An understandable gut reaction by many firms, big and small, has been to cut marketing budgets, as one of the first cost-saving measures implemented in response to the pandemic. But for certain companies with sufficient resources, this may be the time to do the reverse, thereby capitalising on the relative silence of their competitors. More specifically, brands can access cheaper advertising inventory and paid media, as publishers struggle to fill the void left by their former customers.

To ensure that audience engagement isn’t transient, persistence is key. A noisy and costly product launch is all very well, but needs to be followed up by consistent engagement with consumers to ensure they remain loyal and interested. This means continuing to produce new content and experiences, communicating the brand’s values and positioning, and listening to and learning from the motivations of its customers. Given that 35% of CBD consumers report getting their CBD from friends, and 12% from a family member, word-of-mouth marketing is of significant value.

Brand & Audience Engagement

Building brand awareness and engaging new audiences by staying on top of the most avid consumers is a great way of tapping into this. The US CBD drinks brand Recess is an exemplar of how to do so effectively, having utilised a highly content-driven newsletter strategy communicating its brand voice in tandem with its efforts on Instagram. The brand gained over 40,000 subscribers in the first six months after launching their newsletter, with open rates for their emails standing at around 25% (significantly better than the CPG industry average of 14.5%).

Accountability, transparency and efficacy are also vital for a CBD brand trying to stand out in a crowded market. As consumers become steadily more knowledgeable about the benefits of CBD and the different products available, they’re less likely to put up with products that either don’t work or seem in any way to be duping them. Negative reports of brands misreporting the percentage of CBD and other ingredients in their products have only served to reinforce this. 35% of respondents in a 2019 survey from High Yield Insights said they were more likely to purchase CBD from a known brand and 37% said they were “excited” about the prospect of buying new cannabis products from other ‘mainstream’ CPG companies.

Winning Market Share in a Crowded Market

To compete with these recognised players, brands need to work hard to appear straightforward and trustworthy. Bluebird Botanicals drew a lot of attention with a recent campaign acknowledging that ‘‘CBD doesn’t work for everyone’’, which cemented their reputation as one of the most ‘honest’ CBD companies in the US, as well as distancing them from the perception of murkiness that still dogs parts of the market.

A final point to consider is a somewhat ironic one given what’s been discussed so far: for a lot of consumers, factors other than brand are more important considerations influencing their choice of CBD product. 81% of a New Frontier Data study’s respondents said that price was the most important factor. Additionally, 70% of consumers reported selecting whatever CBD products were most convenient, compared to 54% preferring a certain CBD brand. This goes to show that a well-thought-out distribution strategy, via both online and physical channels, and competitive pricing are of prime importance.

Of course, using tools that raise awareness might give a brand an edge on a shelf or an e-commerce site alongside other CBD products, but ensuring that it’s available on those platforms, and at a price that customers are happy to pay, is perhaps the most critical factor affecting a brand’s chances of building and maintaining loyalty in the long term.

by George Weston, Chief Strategy Officer at KXC

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