Advertising cannabidiol (CBD) is currently stuck in a catch-22-type of situation. The FDA prohibits companies from making CBD-related medical claims, but the main reason why companies put CBD in their products in the first place is precisely the compound’s medicinal benefits.
But this logistical nightmare isn’t the real roadblock to the fledgling CBD industry’s progress – it is the gimmicky products by phony companies that truly undermine its foundations and muddy the waters which have to be completely transparent if the sector is to develop in what it can and needs to be.
Such charlatans create an effect that is somewhat reminiscent of crying wolf – by flooding the market with gimmicky products that merely bank on CBD’s hype without delivering on its promise, customers are naturally more reluctant to trust real, tested products created by bona fide companies. This blemishes CBD’s reputation as a whole, setting the industry back and possibly even preventing the cannabinoid from realizing its immense potential.
“The companies that are looking to make a quick buck off of three little letters are actually nullifying the legitimate companies in the industry who are making authentic products and looking to help people,” says Chris Van Dusen, CMO of CBDistillery, a Balanced Health Botanicals brand. “With over 3,000 companies in the space, these gimmicky products are creating confusion for the consumers and spreading misinformation.”
The skepticism which is bound to arise as a result of all this is already evident. A recent article in the New York Times covering the whole issue was titled “Ads Pitching CBD as a Cure-All Are Everywhere. Oversight Hasn’t Kept Up.” And while such advertising would indeed be false, as hardly anything besides some magic potion can rightfully be advertised as a “cure-all,” the title implies that the heart of the problem is “ads pitching CBD as a cure-all,” rather than companies making gimmicky products that have little or nothing to do with CBD in the first place.
In other words, we are already seeing how general public could easily put proper CBD products with sweeping benefits, which may have been advertised in violation of FDA’s guidelines for abstaining from CBD-related medical claims, and gimmicky CBD products, under the same umbrella.
In a similar vein, the aforementioned Times article mentions a report, “accusing companies like MedMen of modeling their marketing campaigns after strategies used by the tobacco industry in the 1950s, including questionable health claims and techniques geared toward young consumers.” Again, while keeping advertising in check is all-the-more necessary in an industry like that of cannabis, it seems like the critical focus is falling entirely on marketing strategies behind legitimate CBD products rather than the contents of fake ones.
But to be fair, that common-denominator, undiscerning approach to viewing CBD companies that overstep the current advertising boundaries and actual charlatans might be the best way for the fledgling industry to manage risks.
Compliant companies like CBDistillery don’t mind the extra scrutiny, anyway, but view it as a necessary part of the development process.
“While regulation around the quality and purity of products is the ultimate goal, for now, any federal regulations that enforce action against companies making false claims and misleading consumers is a positive,” Van Dusen explain. “The leaders in the space are already following stringent standards set by the U.S. Hemp Authority and guidelines set forth by the FDA to ensure their products are third-party tested and of the best quality.”
CBDistillery showed that there is still room for creativity in CBD advertising even within the tight regulations. To separate itself from the phony pack and show consumers what real CBD is all about, it decided to take a more conspicuous approach to marketing itself and educating the public.
The company recently made headlines for taking a grand stand against industry players that merely try to “capitalize on the craze” with gimmicky products like CBD toilet paper and CBD condoms, and that grand stand came in the form of a seven-billboard display in Times Square.
“CBDistillery’s Gimmick-Free campaign was born out of this necessity and provided a call-to-action for consumers to pay attention before making purchasing decisions, by educating themselves, as well as a call-to-action for industry leaders to guarantee their products are third-party tested and trustworthy,” Van Dusen explains.
Besides the billboards, the company has been employing other “unconventional, but effective marketing initiatives, including endorsed radio, strategic direct-mail campaigns, brand ambassadors that embody our mission and destigmatize the industry through massive educational campaigns across various social platforms,” Van Dusen says.
The direct-to-consumer email marketing fills the gap of paid social media advertising which is prohibited for cannabis companies, whereas their brand ambassadors range from “UFC fighters, surfers, yogis, to comedians and more. This allows people to connect with true personal testimonies and hear from sources they can trust. While they still cannot make medical claims on our behalf, they can share their personal story with CBD and how it has affected their lives,” Van Dusen says. “Until regulation is finalized, no-one should be making medical claims on behalf of a CBD company.”
On top of that, CBDistillery created the #CBDMOVEMENT™, another strategic initiative that has proven very successful, which was launched “to provide the masses with easy access to hemp-derived CBD products, widespread resources to become more knowledgeable on CBD, the latest industry research and verified consumer testimonials. The #CBDMOVEMENT™ is steamrolling change across the nation and inspiring consumers to think about alternative methods of wellness while changing the mindset of the stigmatized cannabis industry,” Van Dusen explains.
Even though the advertising hurdles do present a roadblock to the industry, on the plus side, it is a roadblock that’s also stopping snake oil vendors, as much as possible, from flooding the market with gimmicky products. CBDistillery shows there are legitimate advertising strategies around that roadblock. However, for companies without that kind of firepower, perhaps email marketing and other simple, but proven techniques would be the best way to get the ball rolling, after which customer testimonials and word-of-mouth will hopefully maintain its momentum.
Image Credits: CBDistillery