Over the past few years, there’s been a goldrush—a greenrush, if you will—of CBD companies seeking entrance into the market thanks to increasing demand and legislative changes. As a result, consumers are now overloaded with choices for CBD products in areas like wellness, beauty, and pet care. Now, with competition in practically every hub, brands must focus on gaining recognition and brand awareness or else be lost in the crowd.
Today, one of the best ways to differentiate your brand from the dozens of competitors is by taking a two-pronged approach that utilizes both public relations and influencer marketing. But how does that work?
Below, we’ll discuss the underlying marketing strategies and benefits to both of these lines of attack.
The Shifting Cannabis Market
Over the past decade, the Cannabis industry has grown exponentially, much in part to a shift in public sentiment of the plant towards acceptance, if not favorability. One of the primary reasons for this change in views is the result of the growing CBD market and all of the medicinal and therapeutic benefits seen therein, particularly in light of the opioid crisis.
Such beliefs were further entrenched by the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which completely reshaped the CBD game by making the following changes:
- Legalized hemp that contained less than .3% THC, which in turn made CBD legal so long as it followed those limits.
- Allowed the transfer of hemp-made products for personal or commercial reasons.
- Lifted restrictions on sale, possession, or transport of hemp-made products.
- Promoted wide-scale hemp cultivation.
Naturally, this was met with excitement by producers and consumers alike and changed forecasting for CBD’s market growth.
For years, experts have predicted that if the cannabis industry expands at its current rate, the American market will reach $20 billion by 2020. But it turns out that one market is spinning off into a mega-industry of its own: according to a new estimate from cannabis industry analysts the Brightfield Group, the hemp-CBD market alone could hit $22 billion by 2022.
Despite this legalization, CBD still operates in a relatively grey area, especially when it comes to advertising. This is why it’s crucial to focus on using influencers and PR to push and grow your brand.
How CBD Brands Can benefit From Influencer Marketing and Public Relations?
Public relations and influencer marketing are fantastic ways that you can help establish a voice for your CBD brand. Both of these channels seek to increase brand awareness and work very synergistically with one another.
As the lines between media and advertising have blurred, so to have the lines between marketing and PR. This has been especially true for PR and Influencer Marketing, particularly given the large role that PR agencies play in facilitating collaborations. The relationship has become close enough that many industry articles now refer to these strategies interchangeably, but this over-simplification can lead to confusion.
While both strategies aim to get the brand’s message out, each has its unique strengths, tactics, and goals. However, when used properly in conjunction they are ideal complements to one another.
The Influencer Approach
Influencers are uniquely positioned within the CBD space to skirt both advertising laws and undermine public mistrust in overt traditional advertising itself. This is particularly true for Millennials who have an innate wariness towards being sold something, unless it’s coming from a person they already follow and whose opinions they trust.
Digital personalities have become a part of a larger marketing strategy known as influencer marketing, and it is this type of marketing that Millennials accept and trust. Adweek published a study in which 57% of millennials state they are willing to view sponsored content from a brand as long as it includes authentic personalities and is entertaining and useful.
By enlisting an influencer to act as brand ambassador—whether short-term or long-term—you gain advantages that would never be found otherwise. This is largely due to the fact that influencers already have a built-in audience that is receptive to their ideas, especially those on products and brands they use. In addition, they have far higher engagement than traditional advertising.
A 2016 Tap Influencer study confirmed this sentiment with some incredible findings, including:
- “Influencer marketing content delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.
- Twitter users report a 5.2X increase in purchase intent when exposed to promotional content from influencers.
- 71% of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing.
- 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions.”
Depending on the size of the marketing budget, CBD brands can enlist the services of both larger influencers, as well as micro-influencers. For the latter, it can be quite effective to procure the voice of micro-influencers who are already tied into the CBD space in some shape or way. This can include those who are tangentially related by being in the health and wellness or food sectors, or those who are directly plugged into the Cannabis market itself.
Micro-influencers, with lower follower counts than big-time influencers but typically with higher engagement, have become the partner of choice for CBD companies. They are posting content gold, such as videos highlighting CBD products. Sometimes they temporarily add a link to the CBD company in their Instagram bio, boosting web traffic.
Ideally, you will want to work with micro-influencers that not only reach your target demographic but who believe in and have used the product to their benefit. Doing so will ensure that they speak authoritatively and passionately about how it has impacted their life for the better. Examples of ways to utilize their services include:
- Posting about the CBD brand on their Instagram channel.
- Making a video about the CBD product and how they use it.
- Tweeting deals, links, and offers.
The PR Approach
Your PR team can help you organically build your brand and get the word out. Their goal is to create a narrative, tell a story, and build up the excitement so that a buzz is created and then the media engages and writes about the CBD brand. In addition, your PR team can help you do the following:
- Educate consumers about CBD and its many benefits.
- Build up the CBD brand and create name recognition.
- Conduct a market analysis that helps you determine your place in the market.
- Create trust with consumers.
- Handle crisis, whether internal or external.
- Position your brand as experts.
Your PR team should be able to approach your CBD branding strategy from several angles since there are so many different potential opportunities and avenues to push CBD through. You need a team that will not only introduce your brand to the public, but that will be able to handle the resulting growth and then channel it into further success.
At the end of the day, the essence of their job is simple—to get the word out there. They can accomplish this in a variety of ways, including:
- SEO – By building up blog content using pointed search engine optimization strategies, your PR team can help you accomplish the following:
- Increase website traffic
- Establish a steady audience
- Build up authority and credibility
This is done by creating a content strategy and schedule that’s filled with an assortment of content mediums, including blog posts, videos, infographics, etc.
- Social Media – In a day and age where social media is king, far too many CBD brands fail to pay adequate attention to their social media content and campaigns. Your PR team can help you build a social media content strategy and calendar that utilizes several types of posts, including:
- Informational posts – “What is CBD?”
- Customer testimonials – “How CBD helped me get better sleep”
- Interactive posts – “How do you prefer to use CBD?”
- Controversial posts – “Health benefits of using CBD”
- Gift Guides – The PR team pitches the CBD product to known writers and bloggers responsible for all important gift guides, with whom they’ve previously established a relationship. Landing a spot on these is a fantastic way to expose the product to new audiences.
- Press Alerts/Press Events – Inviting the press and announcing something big and exciting relating to the CBD brand is an effective way of ensuring exposure to the public at large.
- Article Features – Your PR team can work with writers to pitch you as an article feature, thus establishing your credibility by making yourself known as an industry leader. If you have a new innovative process, a unique business strategy, or a compelling story, these can be channeled to help build that buzz and make customers take note.
The Two-Pronged Approach
As the CBD market continues to grow, CBD brands must be intentional in how they set themselves apart from their competition. This mission is best accomplished by utilizing both the right PR team and influencers to spread the word. Simply put, your 2020 slate hinges upon creating and sticking to a pointed strategy that gets the most out of these useful marketing avenues.
So, get out there and start marketing!
United States Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. 2018 Farm Bill. https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/2018-farm-bill
Rolling Stone. Exclusive: New Report Predicts CBD Market Will Hit $22 Billion by 2022. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/new-study-cbd-market-22-billion-2022-722852/
Business2Community. PR vs. Influencer Marketing: What’s the Difference, and Why Does It Matter? https://www.business2community.com/marketing/pr-vs-influencer-marketing-whats-difference-matter-01832766
Forbes. Millennials Hate Ads But 58% Of Them Wouldn’t Mind If It’s From Their Favorite Digital Stars. https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewarnold/2018/01/21/millennials-hate-ads-but-58-of-them-wouldnt-mind-if-its-from-their-favorite-digital-stars/#6538106d59ca
Tap Influence. The Rise of Digital Influence. https://www.tapinfluence.com/influencer-marketing-statistics/
Forbes. Four Lessons Marketers Can Learn From CBD Brands. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/01/29/four-lessons-marketers-can-learn-from-cbd-brands/#36082d315c7b