April 17, 2020

Online Sales Are Booming – And Cbd Is Too.

If you’re selling CBD, you know that the waters have been pretty choppy. Since the late 2018 Farm Bill approval, the predominant current has been the rapid rise in grassroots demand for CBD, leading to massive industry expansion. But in reaction, over 3,500 companies, ranging from mom and pops to celebrity brands have entered the market and created intense competition. 

The result is that supply has outstripped demand and in early Q1 the industry was on its way to a bit of a shakeout. 

Then came COVID.

Consumers stuck at home and anxious about life and health is a good match for products that are believed to relieve anxiety and promote well-being. 

Now, hemp-derived CBD sales are up a reported 30% industry-wide.

If you’re a hemp marketer, the conditions are good to step on the gas, but those of us in the space know that pushing for sales online can be difficult because advertising is complex. Simply put, if your ad mentions CBD or your website does, the monitors are likely to catch up with you and shut your campaigns down. 

But the truth is CBD, hemp, hemp oil, full-spectrum hemp – these are terms that are largely indistinguishable to many consumers for whom they all point to the same thing:


For newer consumers seeing an ad that mentions ‘full spectrum hemp extract’ is often akin to seeing an ad that says ‘cbd’. Last month, there were 240k Google searches for CBD and almost 170k for hemp. A closer look at many of the searches shows that consumers are often using them interchangeably. And the ad platforms are happy to take your ad revenue as long as you stick to hemp-related terms and leave out the CBD part.

For the last year, we’ve been running continuous campaigns on Facebook and Google for national CBD brands with our ads almost continuously running. During this period, we’ve seen many brands have their ad accounts shut down. To avoid a similar fate, we’ve adopted a few, key principles: 

  • 1. Let the ad platforms know what we’re going to do. We are upfront with our ad platform contacts about who the brands are and the plan for advertising. Where possible we make personal introductions. When we get advice on how to proceed, we follow it. Knowing that we’re trying to abide by ad platform policy – such as it is – goes a long way when we need some road-grading. 
  • 2. Stay away from the term CBD. and are the same site – just that one uses CBD terms in its product description and one does not. That’s all we’re saying.
  • 3. Be conservative. FDA compliance is just as important as ad platform compliance in this space, so it’s best to be brief and feature-driven in what you say. Chances are your customers have a lot of good things to say their experiences. Let them do the talking through reviews and their own comments on your website and ad-specific social accounts. 
  • 4. Take the high road. Sales messages are important in ads (we’re die-hard retailers) but consumers and ad platforms respond well to positive, well-branded images. Fire-sale language is not well-received by either in this space – especially in social.
  • 5. Don’t forget programmatic. Selling pet CBD? How about a target profile of prospects who are pet owners and who make frequent vet visits? Programmatic offers the ability to combine interest and location data and there are 30 states where you can run your ads on premium sites even if they do say ‘CBD’.

Bottom line – what was shaping up to be a competitive year for CBD marketers has taken a good turn in the last few months. Advertising across digital can help your brand seize the opportunity and come out of this stronger.

Want help? Call us. Carl Izzi, Managing Director, ARSENL. (954) 603-1520.

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