Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive component found in cannabis, and is commonly used to treat chronic pain, inflammation and other ailments. You’ve probably noticed CBD products propping up on shelves in recent months (provided you live in states like California, Washington, Oregon or Colorado). In fact, Arizona Ice Tea just announced a line of CBD-infused drinks, revealing just how far this little compound has come in such a short time.
August 8th marks the second annual CBD Day, and we thought it a perfect opportunity to discuss how influencers are helping cannabis brands market themselves in a complicated legal environment, which some have even dubbed “the most difficult brand challenge of our time.”
Though humans have cultivated it for thousands of years, cannabis remains a point of contention in the US and much of the world. And despite a string of recent pro-cannabis victories, the plant remains a federally illicit drug, making it extremely difficult to advertise and build brands around (even in states where recreational use is legal).
For example, cannabis brands working in California can’t claim any health benefits on their packaging, which makes labeling and differentiating products an all-around headache – especially when they are designed for medicinal purposes.
Traditional forms of advertising, like TV and Radio, come with their own hurdles. For example, broadcasting on television in California demands that the targeted audience consists of 71 percent adults, and billboards can’t be placed on Interstate or State highways.
Even the Internet, where you’d imagine anyone can market their wares freely, is a tricky space. Major platforms like Google, Facebook and YouTube all comply with federal law and prohibit the promotion of illicit substances, including cannabis. That means brands hoping to buy out regular ad spots – complete with paid social components – are out of luck.
At every stage of the marketing funnel, cannabis brands face significant challenges, starting with the most basic – Awareness. After all, customers can’t purchase from you if they A) Aren’t aware you exist and B) Don’t know what your product actually does.
How then, through all this red tape, have cannabis brands managed to create a growing industry that’s projected to reach 1.6 billion dollars in revenue this year?
Enter Social Media Influencers
Influencers have been absolutely critical to cannabis’s massive boom, because they are perfectly suited to address two key challenges. One, they circumvent many states’ tight advertising restrictions and allow brands to actually put their messages in front of potential customers in a consistent, reliable way. Two, as natural-born storytellers, influencers are jump-starting many companies on their path to creating recognizable personalities and identities that customers connect with.
“I think the biggest challenge in cannabis right now is telling stories,” said Dean Waters, CEO of cannabis-based outlet Flowertown at our first-ever OI Summit. “We’ve done a lot of Man-on-the-Street type research, and there’s still very little brand recall. So for us, it’s about storytelling, creating content that builds lasting connections.”
Influencers are also able to combat misinformation and provide serious education to curious, would-be consumers. After all, influencers possess one of the most valuable traits in today’s hyper-mediated world: trust. With cannabis’s long history of propaganda and political rhetoric, customers trust influencers to cut through the noise with honesty and openness.
Lastly, marketers and influencers are working together to produce extremely creative, thumb-stopping content, even in the face of strict regulations. These limitations have only forced marketers to work harder, positioning cannabis not simply as another consumer product, but a lifestyle marker. Just look at the content below – you wouldn’t even know these creators were showing off cannabis products at first glance! Instead, you are greeted with a mood, an idea, a feeling.
The future of cannabis is bright, and dare we say, full of green. As we celebrate CBD Day today, let’s also celebrate the many creators who are bringing cannabis into a brand new era.
@noel_russ for @paxvapor @m.scheiner for @paxvapor