5 Marketing Mistakes Made by CBD Brands (And How to Avoid Them)

The multi-billion-dollar industry has seen a few advertising blunders

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Rarely do we have an opportunity to watch an entire multi-billion-dollar industry take shape before our eyes, with every mistake on full display. That’s one of the great things about participating in the CBD industry: everything is so new. To say that there’s been a lot of mid-course correction in CBD marketing would be a nice way of putting it.

A recent report claimed that 1,000 CBD brands have disappeared since last year, and there’s probably another 1,000 brands on the chopping block. This thinning of the CBD herd is due in large part to marketing mistakes made by brands that just didn’t understand their customers. 

As a former journalist who co-founded a CBD brand, I keep my own list of marketing mistakes that I see other CBD brands making. Here’s my list and a few quick tips on how to avoid them. 

“It’s not pot!”

For years, CBD brands tried to convince customers that their hemp-derived CBD products were something completely different from marijuana. Marketing their products as “pure CBD,” “THC-free,” and “broad spectrum,” these brands positioned themselves to reach consumers who are afraid of THC, or afraid of failing a drug test.

This was a mistake because both these customer segments are rapidly shrinking. One major CBD brand has recently pivoted away from THC-free marketing to promote the “super chill vibes” of their new full spectrum products, which contain THC. Imagine if Coca-Cola announced that they were adding sugar to Diet Coke—that’s the same kind of head-snapping course correction that’s happening here. 

“It cures everything!”

Numerous CBD brands make outrageous medical claims about their products, without any apparent regard for how the Food and Drug Administration enforces rules about making such claims. If a CBD brand needs to say on their website that their products cure Alzheimers, cancer, or COVID-19, they deserve an FDA warning letter and our collective scorn.

The vast majority of consumers are using CBD products for three primary reasons: pain, anxiety and sleep. Marketing that promotes CBD products for more serious conditions carries the whiff of desperation. The way to avoid this mistake is to not do it. 

“Don’t click our ‘About’ page!”

With any startup ecommerce company, potential customers want to know who the founders are and what the brand’s origin story is. Every CBD brand falls into this category and yet many CBD brands choose to remain anonymous. That’s why so many CBD websites are just filled with stock photos and empty “About” pages.

Why are these founders afraid of their own customers? The simple way to fix this marketing mistake is to be honest with the public about who you are. Is that so hard? Who are these people? Literally, who are they? 

“Flavored with mint chocolate!”

This error starts in the supply chain, well before it gets to the marketing department. Some brands are making such low-quality products that it requires them to add flavors to hide the bitter, grassy taste. Then, these companies hand over these bad-tasting products to their marketing teams like a flaming bag of you-know-what. As consumers become more educated on how CBD products are made, it will be increasingly difficult to market products with cover flavors, even when they are jazzed up as “mint chocolate” or “cookies and cream” or “strawberry margarita” which are all real options in the CBD world today.

Who wants CBD oil that tastes like a margarita? Is there salt on the rim? Marketers can avoid this mistake by not working for companies that sell flavored products, because there’s no way to put a good spin on a bad-tasting product. 

“Check out our celebrity endorsements!”

No one cares. CBD brands are shelling out good money for retired athletes, aging movie stars, and “influencers” to hawk their products. That might result in a few sales bumps, but there’s no CBD brand in the top tier that’s driven by celebrity name recognition.

A few celebrity brands have flamed out in spectacular fashion, and a few more seem to be circling the drain. Consumers want CBD products that they can trust, and while celebrities bring name recognition—they also bring baggage. 

The best way to avoid making these sorts of marketing mistakes in the CBD industry is to start with quality products. Authenticity and customer service are in very short supply in the CBD space, and that’s what creates return customers. 

CBD marketing isn’t rocket science. It’s pretty straightforward: make a good product, tell your customers why it’s a good product and stand behind it by putting your headshot on your “About” page. It’s not that difficult if you start from the right place.