2022 State of CBD advertising
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If it seems like everyone is talking about CBD products, it’s because they are.
But that’s not necessarily great for any one CBD brand.
After the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act (also known as the Farm Bill) reassigned CBD to FDA regulation, the market placed massive bets on consumer demand. In 2019, hundreds, if not thousands, of CBD brands flooded the market only to be stamped out the following year by depressed pricing and catastrophic brick-and-mortar sales during the pandemic.
You can witness this narrative in numbers from Charlotte’s Web, a leading CBD wellness brand in Colorado. Their revenue fell 14% in Q2 2020 compared to the previous year. As a result, the company was forced to lower their prices—which exacerbated hits to their gross margin in Q3.
In 2020, the nascent CBD category was a victim of its own hype cycle. Too many brands jumped on what’s still a growing opportunity within a poorly regulated space, and most of those brands couldn’t stand out in ways that complied with FDA regulations.
CBD brands need marketing best practices.
According to Brightfield’s 2021 Mid-Year US CBD Report, CBD brands that survived the market’s initial bloodbath have a few things in common:
- They invested in eCommerce.
- They adopted subscription models to create brand loyalty.
- They used targeted ads to push people to brand websites.
One thing is clear: CBD brands that can create online communities within their subcategories will win the battle for market share.
But we also know that paid social isn’t what it used to be. In 2020, the average clickthrough rate for a Facebook ad across all industries was just 0.9%, and Apple’s app tracking transparency further limited targeting audiences with any kind of precision.
We’ve created this report to help CBD brands bust through the struggle. Now that 2022 is looking brighter for CBD brands that have found their niche and understand FDA compliance, those same brands need guidance on how to shine so they can secure market share long term.
Table of contents
> CBD market overview: Projections and regulations
> CBD audience personas
> CBD messaging with examples
> CBD creator marketing: How to do it right
> CBD campaign engagement rates
> CBD’s golden brand opportunity
CBD market overview: Projections and regulations
First, a quick TL;DR on CBD:
- CBD is one of 80 biologically active chemical compounds in cannabis.
- CBD products that are derived from hemp and contain less than 0.3% THC are federally legal.
- CBD is regulated under the FDA, which also regulates cigarettes and alcohol. People need to be 21 or older to buy CBD in the United States.
- While CBD is federally legal, that doesn’t mean it’s fully legal in all 50 states. Cannabis laws vary by state, and they’re changing quickly. Refer to this updated map to learn more about your state, including where CBD oil has only been legalized for medicinal use.
CBD market size and projections
Between 2021–2027, CBD is expected to grow like this:
CBD marketing do’s and don’ts: Cheatsheet
CBD marketing by social media channel
CBD audience personas
While all advertisers need to play by the rules when promoting CBD products, we’re starting to see some trends that reflect who may be most attracted to CBD products in all categories.
Some aspects of each audience persona may overlap, but we’ve defined two profiles that will help brands develop messaging and speak to people who are most interested in CBD products.
The self-care persona
The pain management persona
CBD messaging with examples
CBD brands have an opportunity to develop their unique voice within a space that hasn’t yet seen a long-term market leader. Developing that voice requires two approaches: carving out new conversations and leaning into conversations already happening.
Here’s what people are talking about right now when they have conversations about CBD:
1. CBD for health and wellness.
People are getting ahead of regulations when they talk about CBD.
While the FDA has approved CBD to treat only certain kinds of childhood epilepsy, people are still talking about CBD to treat anxiety, depression, pain, and insomnia.
These conversations aren’t unfounded—the science studying the effects of CBD is early but promising for the treatment of psychosis and anxiety. More randomized, double-blind studies will soon reveal a more nuanced understanding of the underlying mechanisms behind the effects of CBD on health and wellness.
Still, 14% of Americans use CBD products for various reasons, including anxiety and pain management—and they’re talking about it a lot. Over a two-year period, CBD for pain management was mentioned ~275,000 times, while CBD for anxiety was said ~129,000 times.
2. CBD consumption format matters.
People like to talk about how they consume CBD.
Some people prefer CBD gummies because they taste good, and they’re easier to consume as part of their routine (like vitamins).
Other people prefer oils and tinctures to help alleviate pain because they think they’re absorbed more quickly than edibles.
3. CBD quality matters—but people don’t know what to look for.
CBD is new and still associated with marijuana, which means it’s still sort of scary.
People know they want to buy CBD products that are high quality and free of contaminants—but they don’t know what that means yet.
Opportunity: Brands that can educate people on what high-quality CBD products look like with radical transparency have a chance to win a lot of trust. When developing your own messaging, don’t be afraid to talk about source, concentration, and cannabinoid profile.
CBD messaging examples
CBD is such a new category, it’s difficult to point to any one brand as the gold standard of compliant—yet compelling—messaging.
But a few brands are starting to emerge as leaders in cracking that code. Here’s some inspiration for your next CBD campaign:
Happy Dance by Kristen Bell
Messaging focus: Happy Dance’s Look Alive Face Moisturizer contains only natural ingredients you can pronounce and has 150mg CBD.
Why it works: Happy Dance shows its CBD content with a close-up on the packaging, but they talk about the absence of “naughty” ingredients in novel ways to show their commitment to natural ingredients.
Category: Health and wellness
Messaging focus: Transparency about the amount of “full-spectrum” CBD per teaspoon and how easy it is to apply.
Why it works: Lazarus Naturals establishes trust with consumers by talking about what’s in their products. People are beginning to understand the meaning behind “full-spectrum CBD,” which may have a more potent effect than pure CBD because it contains other cannabis compounds that are helping it along.
Category: Health and wellness
Messaging focus: A documentary series on the farmers who grow the cannabis plants for Charlotte’s Web’s CBD products. The docuseries focuses on the partnerships between Charlotte’s Web’s R&D department and the farmers who are finetuning the sustainability, quality, and consistency of cannabis products.
Why it works: Charlotte’s Web is an industry leader in CBD products—in 2021, they were number one in market share for the category. That means they have a lot of responsibility as a brand to remain transparent about how they make their products—and you can’t get more transparent than personalizing the farmers who live and breathe production.
CBD creator marketing: An opportunity within advertising limitations
When you’re promoting CBD products, you may feel frustrated by the limitations of what you can and can’t say or do. Trust us, you’re not alone in that frustration.
But limitations also present some opportunities, especially on social media, where many CBD brands are running growing eCommerce businesses while brick-and-mortar sorts itself out post-pandemic.
While creators still need to adhere to the marketing do’s and don’ts we mentioned above, there’s less risk for brands to run ads through creators because Instagram and Facebook classifies paid vs. organic posts.
Here are three ways to make the most of creator marketing for the CBD category:
1. Run creator licensed ads on Instagram and Facebook.
Instagram and Facebook are the safest places for your CBD content, but paid ads from your brand account can trigger some red flags. It can be difficult to navigate regulations when you’re using paid ads for CBD.
Creator licensed ads, on the other hand, are treated like organic posts even though influencer posts are technically paid advertisements. Creator posts still need to abide by community guidelines—but not Facebook’s ad policy guidelines. Brands take on significantly less risk if they advertise through creators versus branded accounts.
2. Use discount codes with creators.
Discount codes are allowed for CBD advertising as long as the content follows our marketing do’s and don’ts. To stimulate brand awareness, use unique discount codes to test the ROI of each creator campaign.
3. Choose creators based on the regional legality of CBD.
CBD legality by state is a patchwork of evolving regulations that are hard to keep up with—but you still need to keep up with them to remain compliant.
But there’s a silver lining. When you choose creators with a minimum of 33% of their audience in states where CBD is fully legal—our official recommendation—you’re less likely to waste advertising on people who wouldn’t be able to purchase your product.
When choosing which creators to work with, refer to this updated map to find out more about where CBD is legal to purchase.
CBD campaign engagement rates: What to expect
Engagement rates, while not the be-all-end-all of creator marketing, are a great place to start if you understand how people will interact with your campaigns.
While it’s still too early to reveal average benchmarks for the CBD category, we created a mid-year report in 2021 that tracks engagement rates within our dataset of hundreds of creators across every size bracket, industry, and format.
Engagement rates by CBD sub-category
CBD products belong to a variety of sub-categories, including alternative wellness, beauty, food and beverage, health and wellness, and pets. Here’s what we found for 2021 Q1 and Q2:
Observation: Health and wellness saw a spike in engagement as opposed to alternative wellness. Keep this in mind if you’re running a CBD wellness brand—you may want to focus on general health instead of labeling your product as an “alternative” wellness product.
Average video view rate
Observation: Video engagement saw an uptick in 2021 between quarters with Instagram’s new focus on Reels.
Actions to consider: Focus on how you can talk about your CBD product’s ingredients in a video through a creator. Consider Charlotte’s Web’s approach, wherein they involve their farmers and producers in content efforts.
CBD’s golden brand opportunity
We mentioned it before—limitations present opportunities.
While it may feel like you’re handcuffed when developing your CBD messaging, this is your time to break free of copywriting conventions. So what if you can’t talk about the health benefits of your product? That just means you can do things differently, have fun, and develop a more memorable brand.
The main opportunity that CBD brands have right now is to stand out by being as creative as possible with great storytelling. Here are three reasons you can capitalize on this golden brand opportunity if you act quickly and with enough creativity:
1. People aren’t loyal to any one CBD brand.
If you ask most people about their favorite CBD brand, odds are they can’t tell you. No true leader has emerged as a beloved CBD brand, as most people will buy what their pharmacy carries or what their favorite creator has recommended. They buy because of placement, not because of the brand—yet.
2. People want to know more about CBD itself.
According to Brightfield’s 2021 mid-year CBD report, “18% of consumers not using CBD today openly admit they do not know enough about CBD products.”
CBD brands have a massive opportunity to educate people on how CBD is produced and what’s in it. The legalization of cannabis paved the way for less stigma for all cannabis products, and people are finally ready to learn about what they are.
You may want to follow in the footsteps of DTC plant companies, which have mastered the art of attracting new customers through educational videos. Read more about their strategy here.
3. People haven’t yet experienced a good CBD brand story.
Charlotte’s Web is starting to develop its own story with documentary films about the farmers that grow their products. But no brand has created true long-term affinity through social media storytelling.
Compliance + education + storytelling. The CBD brand that can own the results of this formula will win the fight for market share in this nascent and exciting category.