The UK’s CBD market is one of the strongest in Europe. Worth over £300 million and predicted to grow to £1 billion by 2025, it’s a sector whose growth has remained steady even amidst the pandemic and rapidly shifting regulations.
For sellers, this green rush means an unprecedented level of competition. The once largely underground vertical is now a booming market, where you can find every imaginable CBD-infused product, from dog chews to vape juices.
The quality of offerings available has also gone up, driven by increasingly better-informed consumers and the dropping prices of hemp cultivation. The novelty of being a brand that sells CBD will no longer be enough to sustain growth. As in any market nearing maturity, staying competitive will mean creating a strong brand voice and real value for customers.
Succeeding and grabbing a portion of the market will be difficult, but not impossible. While there are hundreds of CBD businesses, most Britons haven’t tried it yet, and many are curious. For businesses, that means cornering a chunk of the market is still possible, provided that you can stand out amidst the competition.
Establish Your Brand
CBD Marketing also typically falls between two categories: medical and wellness. While these two verticals are closely related, how your brand will look like will vary wildly based on which one you choose.
Take for instance, the difference between Dr. Watson and Euphoria’s marketing. Both sell CBD candies, yet look entirely distinct from one another. Dr. Watson’s CBD Gummies, which are branded as a product “Backed By Science”, uses design elements reminiscent of many health supplements–clean and simple, with nutritional facts front and center. Meanwhile, Euphoria’s CBD Lollipops appeal more to young, recreational users with its bold color palette and edgy pop-art.
The divide isn’t only limited to serious or fun. There are a great many uses for cannabidiol, and so potential users and their preferences will also be as diverse. But that doesn’t mean brands should market CBD as a generic cure-all–it’s a new product for many people, and they will want to know exactly what they’re spending money on and putting in their bodies. In this industry, trying to appeal to everyone is the quickest way to get dismissed as a business who’s only in it for the cash grab.
Finding your unique selling proposition is the first step to building your brand and also arguably the most difficult, especially for businesses in a market as nascent and developing as CBD. Below are a few questions that can help brands determine where they fall within the spectrum and how to connect with their target market:
- What problem is your product trying to solve?
- What don’t you want your brand to be known for?
- Who is your target user? What are their likes and dislikes?
- How does your target user speak?
- How old is your target demographic?
- What do they know about CBD? Are they enthusiasts who already know their stuff, or first time users?
Build Awareness and Remain Consistent
With literally thousands of competitors vying for the same customers, how you market your products will often be your only tool for carving out a niche. However, a strong brand isn’t built overnight, rather through a series of carefully targeted, multi-platform campaigns. Social media will obviously be crucial, but so will email marketing, search engine optimisation, and creating resources like infographics and white papers.
Of course, your branding will go beyond what you want your product to look like. Design is only the physical representation of your voice and core values. These values need to be consistent across all marketing materials and customer touchpoints, down to the tone you use when you interact with followers on social media. A uniform experience will be critical to establishing a presence that ensures your product won’t fade against a hundred others amongst store shelves.
Marketing CBD products is a little trickier than selling other supplements or wellness products. Cannabidiol’s newfound legal status means many have taken advantage of the trend to peddle it as a miracle cure for everything from anxiety to cancer.
Consumers haven’t been as quick to buy into the hype. A majority report having some reservations about using CBD, even if they’re open to the idea. The ambivalence outside of the niche of enthusiasts is understandable. The reputation of CBD is inextricably linked to the use of marijuana, which is still prohibited in the UK. Educating the public will be a top responsibility for brands. Marketers will need to clearly communicate what CBD is and the risks of taking it to make consumers comfortable with using their products.
And in terms of transparency, the industry has a ways to go. People want to be certain that what they’re consuming is safe and does as it says on the label. However, a report by the Centre for Medical Cannabis found that that’s not always the case. More than half of the products examined in the report did not contain the CBD levels they advertised–some don’t contain it at all. Others have THC levels higher than the legal limit, or have enough ethanol to qualify them as alcoholic drinks.
Understand the Restrictions on CBD Advertising
Unfortunately CBD’s association with THC places the cannabinoid under a complex and often confusing regulatory framework in the UK. Brands need thorough research into national and local laws to avoid getting products taken off shelves and ecommerce platforms.
CBD-products have to be certified under novel food regulations. Laws may also vary depending on your product–and what you’re telling consumers it can do. Brands who claim curative value will need to back those assertions up with relevant legal documentation. In the UK, that means filing a product licence with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHPA). If you find that your product fails to classify as medicinal, then you would be better off leaving terms like “healing” or “preventing” out of your marketing materials.
Then there’s the oft misinterpreted guideline for THC levels. Many believe a CBD product is legal to sell and market if it contains less than 0.2 percent THC. However, that’s only true for products that aren’t meant for human consumption. For food or other ingestibles, the level needs to even be lower at one milligram per component part. Any trace amounts should also be impossible to extract by your average consumer.
Due diligence will ensure your products stay on the shelves. At the same time, having the pertinent certification can help your brand win over curious yet hesitant consumers, as 19 percent of Britons would be more likely to try CBD products if they knew they were made according to strict standards, according to polling from the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry.
Leverage Social Proof
Advertising used to be exclusive to big name brands with the budget to sink on large productions. But today’s Internet-savvy consumer is no longer wooed by billboards or snazzy commercials alone.
Content marketing for CBD has proven far more effective, giving small and medium businesses the ability to compete alongside established brands. CBD brands in particular will rely heavily on organic channels and user reviews to speak for their products, as most major platforms such as Amazon and Facebook still do not allow ad campaigns for cannabis-derived items.
During the first few years of social media, brilliant Twitter or Facebook photos were enough to solidify your brand in the minds of consumers. Today, user-generated content such as reviews and recommendations affect purchasing decisions far more significantly than branded ads. Around 80 percent of consumers trust reviews more than ads. For CBD brands, reviews will further help boost much needed legitimacy.
Maximise the power of social proof by highlighting positive reviews on your website and content. And don’t just rest on your laurels. When it comes to getting your target audience to listen, your service will need to consistently speak for itself. Reviews lose power the older they are–as many as 85 percent of consumers think reviews older than 3 months aren’t relevant.
Build Awareness Through Influencers
The power of influencers has long been proven. Yet as with everything that reaches a point of saturation, the word of content creators have also lost some of its impact. When your feed is full of sponsored content, you’re bound to start glazing over many of them, as with ads.
However, that’s not to say influencers are completely out of vogue. Consumers are just becoming pickier about who they listen to. And that has resulted in a power shift away from the Kim Kardashians of influencer marketing. Creators who have fewer followers are seeing higher engagement rates, according to a study by analytics firm InfluencerDB.
For marketers, especially the great majority who don’t have the budget to hire influencers with a large following, that’s a good thing. CBD brands can reap similar benefits by sticking closer to their community and working with these “microinfluencers”.
Nurture Your Community
The changing attitude and increasing legality of CBD and cannabis products have given consumers greater access to things that can greatly improve their quality of life. However, as with everything that goes mainstream, it also carries pitfalls. Those only interested in cashing in on the popularity of CBD have resulted in hundreds of brands that don’t understand–or worse, are disinterested in–the community that got the industry where it is today.
Looking after your community will help ensure sustainable growth for your business. In a highly competitive market, surviving is all about fostering loyalty. With hundreds of other options to choose from, it’s the brand’s job to prove why your product is not just a one-and-done purchase.
One way brands can do that is through authenticity. In the age of neverending notifications and targeted ads, convincing ad-fatigued consumers that your product is the real thing is harder than ever. CBD Marketing can be particularly tricky, as it's all about building trust around a product that was illegal only a few years ago.
That means providing the information your customers need to make informed decisions. This can take the form of helpful content such as videos about how to vape CBD properly, FAQs, or proactive and friendly customer support. As many people are still unclear about how CBD works, this presents an opportunity for brands to establish themselves as experts in the field.
Know Your Competitors
To be different, you need to know what everyone else looks like. Analysis into the competitive landscape also helps brands determine long-term plans for the business, whether that’s going into brick-and-mortar or focusing on e-commerce.
There are several frameworks brands can use to structure their research. One of the most common is SWOT analysis. SWOT focuses on identifying Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. This model is often used to identify a brand’s competitive edge and as a guide for CBD marketing strategies.
Strategic Group Analysis will tell you what your closest competitors are doing right–or wrong. By looking at the performance of brands in the same group, businesses can evaluate how effective a CBD marketing strategy will be before they invest in it. For instance, brands looking to work with influencers may want to look at how much and what type of engagement sponsored posts actually generate.
The SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results) model helps brands turn vision into actionable plans. If the goal is to “stand out”, how will you know when you’ve reached it? Is it the number of followers on a certain platform, your website’s conversion rate, or the ratio of new versus return customers? Quantifying your brand’s aspirations to carve out a slice of the CBD market will allow you to formulate sustainable plans for how to get there.
The future is looking green and healthy for the CBD industry. While competition is stiff, success is still ripe for the taking for brands who can win consumer trust and loyalty. In order to do that, businesses need to develop an authentic voice, be transparent, and establish authority by helping the general public navigate the newly legal world of cannabis-derived products.