May 15, 2020 3:06:41 PM
What is CBD?
If you’re looking into CBD (cannabidiol) advertising and marketing, you’ll know full well how much these products have changed the face of medicine. This substance, extracted from the tops, leaves and resin of either hemp or marijuana, is now used by around 14% of American adults, 40% of whom utilize these products for pain management. While the majority of users are between 18-29, 8% of the individuals either 65 or above in a recent Gallop survey also reported usage. In other words, this is a pretty widely used product, and it only looks set to grow.
At its heart, CBD is one of 108 active cannabinoids found in plants, following closely behind THC, but without the psychoactive elements that many users now shy away from. Instead, CBD provides a range of subtle suspected benefits for everyday use, including -
- Pain relief
- Reduced anxiety/depression
- Neuroprotective properties
- Heart health benefits
- Improved sleep
- And many more
Hemp grows up to 2-4 meters tall and is typically cultivated with a focus around seeds, stalks, and flowers. Hemp includes high concentrations of CBD, with less than 0.3% THC. As such, hemp-derived CBD products should work to restore balance in the body by stimulating the human endocannabinoid system. All without making users feel ‘high’.
As a result of this such CBD products were removed from the Controlled Substances Act back in 2018, meaning that hemp can now be grown and manufactured into CBD for public sale. This means that such products are now offered for a full-spectrum of uses, and can be openly sold in headshops, pharmacies, and health stores across the country.
By comparison, marijuana is a cannabis plant explicitly harvested for euphoric and psychoactive properties, with a 30% THC content found per dry weight making marijuana a Schedule 1 substance. CBD products derived from marijuana are, molecularly, much the same as those found in hemp. That said, additions of THC mean that the influence of such products can still be drastically different for users.
More pressingly, perhaps, from a CBD marketing point of view, is the fact that the US federal government doesn’t currently recognize any medical usage of marijuana-derived products. While 47 states do now have medical marijuana programs, with ten going as far as legalizing products for medical and recreational use, marijuana ultimately remains an illicit substance. As such, marijuana-derived CBD can only legally be sold in medical or recreational dispensaries. And, this can pose certain challenges when it comes to advertising.
History of CBD
Cannabis has been harvested as a substance for thousands of years, with its early medicinal uses dated as far back as 1400-2000 BC. Despite this, CBD itself wasn’t discovered until 1940, by Dr Roger Adams of the University of Illinois and his team. Even then, the true structure of the substance wasn’t fully understood until research by Dr Raphael Mechoulam in 1963, an impressive twenty years before THC was uncovered.
Since then, of course, things haven’t been all plain sailing for CBD. In fact, despite a 1978 Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act in New Mexico which uncovered medical benefits, laws largely stood between CBD and the public until California took the step to legalize cannabis back in 1996.
This prompted a new wave of research, much of which centered around CBD as a method of treatment for ailments, including chronic pain. Despite this, public opinion was still largely opposed to legalization overall, and so again, CBD fell under the radar.
That is until the 2000s, when stories of CBD success began to emerge in the mainstream, alongside an ever-changing perception. Stories like that of Charlotte Fiji and her battle with epilepsy particularly helped to reveal just how beneficial CBD could prove.
Now, we face a reality where the CBD market is set to be worth around $22 billion by 2022. It’s a significant shift, and it opens a great many doors for CBD marketers who approach matters with the care necessary for a product that has faced such controversy in the past.
CBD legalization status
As mentioned above, CBD legalization varies depending on whether you’re working with hemp or marijuana-derived substances. But, even federal legalization doesn’t mean that hemp-derived CBD is legal within all states. Hence why marketers must always do their research into both federal and state laws before they begin to develop campaigns.
2018 Farm Bill Regarding CBD
The 2018 Farm Bill is perhaps the most significant CBD shift of recent years. Ultimately, this $867 billion bill put an end to five decades of hemp prohibition, a move that followed from relaxed laws set in place within the 2014 Farm Bill. Most notably, law changes included -
- The ability to introduce hemp-derived CBD into interstate commerce
- The allowance of hemp production in all 50 states
- The removal of hemp’s 0.3% THC content from the Controlled Substances Act
2019 Farm Bill Regarding CBD
While there was no 2019 Farm Bill in itself, the fact that the 2018 bill only came into place at the end of December meant that 2019 was also a significant year for CBD. Most notably, clarifications were set in place regarding the 2018 bill after some initial confusion by hemp manufacturers. The FDA, in particular, took this chance to clarify their stance. At the same time, state regulatory plans scrambled to make it clear that CBD was not automatically legalized across the country off the back of these changes.
FDA’s Position Regarding CBD
Soon after the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA commissioner made a point of noting that this didn’t necessarily change the FDA’s position regarding CBD. This is a point further clarified in a statement issued by the FDA in 2019, that claimed they would continue to regulate cannabis products under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FD&C Act”) and Section 351 of the Public Health Service Act.
In other words, it remains illegal to add CBD to food products or label it as a supplement. They also emphasize that, except for one prescription drug for epilepsy, the FDA does not outwardly approve any CBD substance. Principal deputy commissioner, Amy Abernethy, claimed this was because “...there are real risks that need to be considered.” Hence why FDA focuses currently center around working with advertisers to find legal ways to market these products without misleading audiences.
State by State Laws/Position Regarding CBD
As mentioned above, federal legalization doesn’t automatically mean that the distribution and advertising of CBD is legal across states. As such, it’s vital for marketers also to consider state laws at the beginning of any campaign. This applies both to your state of selling, and any states that you intend to market towards. As it stands of writing, the laws and positions to bear in mind are -
- Alabama - CBD is legal with no restrictions
- Alaska - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Arizona - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Arkansas - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- California - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Colorado - CBD is legal but cannot be used in baked goods
- Connecticut - CBD is legal, but food and beverages must be registered
- Delaware - CBD is legal, but hemp growers must affiliate with Delaware State University
- Florida - CBD legal but labeling is regulated
- Georgia - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Hawaii - CBD is legal with no restrictions
- Idaho - CBD is illegal in every form
- Illinois - CBD is legal with no restrictions
- Indiana - CBD is legal, but labeling is regulated
- Iowa - CBD is illegal in every form
- Kansas - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Kentucky - CBD is legal but not allowed in tea
- Louisiana - CBD is legal but faces many product restrictions
- Maine - CBD is legal but must be extracted from licensed Maine hemp grower
- Maryland - CBD is legal, but exact market restrictions can be unclear
- Massachusetts - CBD is legal but infused food and beverages require purity testing
- Michigan - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Minnesota - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Mississippi - CBD legal but must have a 20:1 CBD:THC ratio
- Missouri - CBD legal to anyone 18+ but sales require state registration
- Montana - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Nebraska - CBD is legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Nevada - CBD legal when sold in cannabis stores but no food/beverages
- New Hampshire - CBD legal with regulations to be announced
- New Jersey - CBD is legal with no restrictions
- New Mexico - CBD is legal with no restrictions
- New York - CBD legal with purity testing but no food/beverages
- North Carolina - CBD legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- North Dakota - CBD is legal with no restrictions
- Ohio - CBD is legal with no restrictions
- Oklahoma - CBD is legal with no restrictions
- Oregon - CBD legal pending upcoming label regulations
- Pennsylvania - CBD legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Rhode Island - CBD legal pending upcoming label regulations
- South Carolina - CBD legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- South Dakota - CBD illegal in every form
- Tennessee - CBD is legal with no restrictions
- Texas - CBD legal pending label regulations
- Utah - CBD legal alongside registration for sale
- Vermont - CBD legal but can’t be mixed with meat or dairy
- Virginia - CBD legal with no restrictions
- Washington - CBD legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- West Virginia - CBD legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Wisconsin - CBD legal but cannot be infused in food/beverages
- Wyoming - CBD legal with no restrictions
What you Can/Can’t Say In CBD Advertising?
Now that you understand the CBD basics and the laws surrounding them, it’s time to get down to the details or, in other words, what you can and can’t say in your advertising and marketing. After all, legality aside, CBD remains controversial. You can only do your products justice by bearing that in mind as you develop your campaigns by watching out for the following:
Given that medical benefits are the best things CBD has going for it, you may be surprised to hear that these are strictly off-cards for your ad efforts. Remember that the FDA currently doesn’t support any medical CBD benefits, meaning that your hands are largely tied. In fact, if the FDA deems that you’re using deception surrounding proven treatments to sell, they’ll quickly strike your marketing efforts from the record.
Perhaps the good news here is that you can still state ‘possible medical benefits’, but make sure that you’re forever careful with your language and that you don’t claim anything official from an, admittedly, unapproved medical standpoint.
Along roughly the same lines, untested assumptions are an absolute no-go. The worst thing you can do here is to make a claim ‘because you heard it somewhere’. In fact, if assumptions seem developed off the back of not much, you could damage rather than boost your brand reputation.
Instead, always be sure that even your ‘possible claims’ are coming from reputable sources. Include reference links across the board, and double-check that they’re from reliable outlets ahead of time. For instance, your mate’s social media page might not quite cut it, while official studies from the National Institute of Health hold a fair bit more weight.
Bear in mind that these same rules apply for things including reviews of your products. You can’t simply pull five-star ratings out of thin air. Instead, you should always link to reputable review sites alongside any claims you make about your previous customers. Otherwise, how can you expect your brand to achieve the trust necessary for conversions?
Anything not approved by the FDA
Remember, FDA restrictions are still pretty tight surrounding what you can and can’t do with CBD. To avoid controversy or legal action on the back of your marketing efforts, you must, therefore, ensure that you forever keep these restrictions in mind.
For example, attempting to sell CBD as a dietary supplement or cooking ingredient remains illegal in most locations while claiming that your products are medically approved would, again, set you against the grain. In other words, if the FDA says you shouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t do it, period.
Use of the word ‘CBD’
This may seem most surprising of all, but many platforms, search engines, in particular, block ads that actually use the word ‘CBD’. Unlike the other points mentioned here, this isn’t a CBD advertising law as such, but search engines typically won’t permit such efforts, while even platforms like Facebook won’t often display them.
This can seem like a complicated hurdle to get around. After all, when else do you have to refrain from referring to the product you’re actually talking about? Yet, it’s a reality you should definitely take into account to stand any chance at ads that always hit the mark. In most cases, brands work around these restrictions using alternative words, like ‘hemp-derived oil’ or similar. If this seems like too much of a leap, do take heart in the fact that Google has taken steps to test the CBD waters of late, though it is still incredibly early days.
CBD Advertising Rules By Platform:
You might think you’re ready to go the moment you understand the above CBD advertising laws, but you would be wrong. In reality, the sheer controversy still surrounding many CBD products also means that you need to consider each unique platform before you tailor an ad that simply won’t fly with their marketing teams. After all, sites still take some level of risk when they accept your marketing drive. While you should eliminate this where possible by keeping the above in mind, you might also want to consider rules as they stand per platform, such as -
Google Ads (Formerly AdWords)
As you can probably guess from the restriction outlined above, pay-per-click (PPC) CBD advertising on Google simply isn’t an option. Worse, attempting to slip your products through the net could see you facing penalization for any future ads you try to land in this space.
Remember, of course, that this could change at any time, so keeping an eye on those regulations is vital. As it stands, though, unless you’re willing to get creative with hemp-derivative terms, you won’t be able to target your ad drives here.
June 2019 saw Facebook lifting its CBD ban, meaning that CBD advertising on Facebook is a possibility, though it can still be something of a minefield. Cannabis-derived CBD ads are still off the cards altogether, while even some hemp-derived products face setbacks when directly using the term ‘CBD.’
Luckily, as of last year’s shift, ads that are well in-keeping with state laws and FDA regulations should still make the cut. Just make sure you’re careful with your claims, as Facebook’s. Advertising policies state they will not support ads for any ‘unsafe supplements’, which, in some cases, could still include CBD.
As a rule, Instagram will always deny and even penalize companies attempting to advertise CBD products on the platform. That said, they do seem to be more lenient with this than other social frontrunners, mainly because they don’t monitor advertising as much. Still, it’s a risk to hope that your ad will fall under their radar.
Twitter permits approved CBD topical advertisers to target US based users. That said, Twitter can still prove an effective platform. As long as you don’t make any medical claims or challenge FDA restrictions, you should be able to use your account to link to your website and generally build brand awareness, all with the benefits of hashtags for discovery. It is subject to the following restrictions:
- Advertisers must be licensed by the appropriate authorities and pre-authorized by Twitter
- Advertisers may only promote non-ingestible, legally derived CBD topical products
- Advertisers may only target jurisdictions in which they are licensed to promote these products or services Advertisers may not target Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Virginia
- Advertisers are responsible for complying with all laws and regulations
- Advertisers may not target users under the age of 21
TikTok has soared up the social media hall of fame since its 2016 launch and now boasts of over 800 million users. The plus point here is that paid advertising on the app is still incredibly new, and this, paired with the generally younger audience, makes it more likely that CBD ads will gain a seal of approval.
In general terms, you may be surprised to find that LinkedIn is the only major social platform to allow CBD advertising as a rule, at least for hemp-derived products. That said, their ad policies do state that they don’t promote illegal substances, over-the-counter drugs, or unsubstantiated health claims. As such, unless you’re incredibly careful with your wording/ad focuses, you could still find yourself rejected. It’s worth asking, too, whether this business-focused market will lead to the advertising ROI you need.
Similarly, brands looking for CBD advertising on Snapchat face some ad policy restrictions. Notably, Snapchat doesn't ‘encourage or glamorize drug use. That said, CBD ads might meet with requirements as long as companies make sure to adhere to the following:
- State low THC levels
- Direct ads to 18+ audiences
- Consider location-specific lawstwitter
- Back all medical claims
Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads)
Unfortunately, due to policies that disallow advertising for any products of ‘questionable legality, CBD advertising on what was formerly Bing Ads is also a current no-go. In fact, alongside Google, Microsoft advertising will altogether eliminate any ads that refer to CBD products.
Quora is a fantastic source of discussion surrounding CBD marketing, but is it a reliable platform to base your ad campaigns around? It could well be. Admittedly, Quora makes no promises surrounding CBD ads, but, while ingestible CBD products aren’t permitted, their marketing team are willing to consider ads for topical CBD products on a case-by-case basis. To give themselves the best chances, brands simply need to consider further restrictions on things like deceptive content or ads that claim weight loss benefits.
Unsurprisingly for a platform that has taken a rather public stance against selling CBD, Amazon doesn’t typically allow advertisements for such items. There is a range of reasons for this, including policy guidelines that state the ecommerce giant will not advertise content surrounding any ‘controversial or highly debated social topics. Although you will find product ads that promote products for the term "cbd oil", however it is hemp oil and not CBD oil.
Reddit is yet another social platform that doesn’t take kindly to CBD-focused as per pretty strict restrictions against any healthcare products. While they don’t state CBD itself in their regulations, they are quite clear on the fact that they will only accept ads for FDA-approved health products sold by registered vendors. Sadly, that eliminates the possibility of CBD slipping through their net.
Pinterest doesn’t expressly forbid the advertising of CBD on their platform, though limitations surrounding health products still make it unlikely that your brand ads will land well on this platform. Most notably, they forbid advertising of health products that could be ‘unsafe, unreliable, or easily abused.’
As part of the Google umbrella, YouTube also refuses to place any paid ads that contain the words ‘CBD.’ Some paid searches on YouTube have been allowed as part of trials but, again, official changes have yet to follow. That said, CBD brands may still find that the marketing opportunities possible from creating video content (so long as it’s listed as age-appropriate), could be worthwhile from marketing perspectives.
In the past, Spotify has been criticized for not blocking alcohol ads, a fact that might leave you hoping they’re the right outlet for your CBD focuses. Indeed, there are no direct rules here that disallow the marketing of CBD in either audio or overlay ads. That said, a push at the start of this year to prevent political ads is a sure sign that Spotify is in the process of refining their ad focuses.
Lastly, Pandora prohibits the advertising of any ‘adult or age-restricted products.’ While their restrictions only state alcohol and tobacco, there’s a high chance that this also includes CBD products, even in cases of name changes.
What can marketers do today with no risk?
As you can see, the majority of online ad platforms still leave CBD brands in the dark, but there are still plenty of things you can do to get your name out there, including -
Search engine optimization (SEO) is always integral to marketing campaigns but becomes even more so for CBD brands who don’t have access to Google paid ads right now. Sadly, high competition in this area at the moment means that merely using keywords like ‘CBD’ isn’t going to be enough to earn top spots. But, with the help of SEO experts, it should still be possible to settle on keywords and structured strategies that get your brand out there.
Content creation is a fantastic sub-sect of the SEO world and is also guaranteed to prove invaluable. Everything from press releases through to blog posts exploring (verified) CBD benefits, and more is sure to help your brand receive more coverage. Even better, there’s little all those social platforms can do to prevent you from sharing this content and receiving much of the attention you would have with paid efforts in the first place.
Link building, where you acquire inbound links that point back to your site can also prove invaluable. In fact, brands like CbdMD’s managed to increase traffic by 65% from this effort alone. The most notable benefit here is that bloggers and other sites that are liable to link back to you are far less likely to place such severe restrictions on the mere mention of CBD, and can become advertising sources all of their own.
Trade shows are always useful, and CBD-specific options like World CBD-Expo can prove especially valuable for your brand. Not only can you entirely dismiss any worries about acceptance here, but you can also rub shoulders with your competitors in a way that online platforms would simply never allow you to do.
Affiliate marketing is big news right now, with 15% of digital ad spending attributed to this alone. For CBD marketers targeting millennial audiences, this method could prove particularly useful as countless millennials report trusting influencers more than their friends. Even better, offering free products for review to popular influencers across social networks could see you enjoying those marketing benefits for far less than you would have if you went down traditional ad routes.
Email may seem like an outdated marketing method these days, but many brands report that email marketing the king of conversions. As such, email advertising CBD is also well worth your while. The most significant benefit from CBD email campaigns is the fact that you can tailor offers and promotions directly to interested consumers, all without any limitations in terms of third parties. While you still need to stick within the law, this provides you with a great deal of freedom in how you choose to target your products here.
Organic social marketing
As we’ve covered, social marketing and CBD don’t exactly get along in most instances, but brands are still making great use of organic social methods. After all, if you keep within the law and any site regulations, social media platforms are unable to refuse your brand an account. Then, you’ll be free to make use of invaluable marketing benefits, including hashtags, stories, and content sharing. Any of which should see you enjoying a far more loyal audience than you ever would’ve earnt through those paid ad efforts.
So, there you have it – the ultimate guide to CBD marketing and advertising. We won’t lie; it isn’t always easy, but taking these pointers into account could certainly see your CBD brand flourishing. Contact our marketing agency to learn more about how we can help grow your CBD business.
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