CBD companies have had to adapt marketing strategies as the COVID-19  pandemic has developed. The pandemic and the associated practice of social distancing have overtaken today, 20th April or 4/20, the biggest promotional day for cannabis, which also affects pure CBD companies.

In this time of lockdown, companies have had to modify their plans to promote their business and product.

“420”, traditionally considered cannabis’s unofficial holiday, is a focal point for crowd consumption of cannabis and cannabis-derived products. Often, celebrations have included large gatherings and aggressive marketing.

“Our promotions and advertising for 420 is going to be a lot more subdued,” Darren Bondar, president and CEO of cannabius store chain Spiritleaf, told CBD-Intel.

In lieu of a large festival, the company is offering artwork, playlists, and movie suggestions, through collaboration with online magazines, to help customers through isolation. Bondar also emphasised that his firm is donating masks, gloves, and hand sanitiser to hospitals.

“For us it is really about appreciating the cannabis plant and how that is genuinely essential during this challenging time,” Bondar said. “I think we’re going to be tighter and stronger as a community and have a greater bond with our customers.”

Etienne Fontan, director of the Berkeley Patients Group, which claims to be one of the oldest operating dispensaries in the US, said: “We’re still doing a large celebration. We’re just not doing it with people.”


Ethical marketing


Fontan, whose company is based in California, where lockdown measures have been implemented, is involved in organizing “The Great American Sesh In”, one response to 420 during the crisis. It is a “telethon-style event”, organised by several dispensaries, which will raise funds for the humanitarian aid organisation Direct Relief (COVID-19 relief).

Companies must also develop ethical marketing practices, according to Asa Waldstein, chair of the Cannabis Committee for the American Herbal Products Association.

To avoid inviting action by the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CBD marketing should scrupulously avoid giving the impression in any way that products can help with COVID, argued Waldstein.

This means companies should resist the urge to “educate” consumers on the coronavirus, Waldstein told CBD-Intel. They should steer well clear of implying that CBD products can prevent the virus or be used for symptomatic support, he advised.

Since the FDA) and the FTC have made it clear that they want to avoid raising false hopes around COVID-19, advertising that mentions “supporting the immune system” could incur warning letters or class action lawsuits.

If companies must discuss anything related to health during this period, they should concentrate solely on areas related to wellness rather than anything that could be construed as medicinal, Waldstein said.

“The purpose of your messaging should be to support your customer’s balanced state of mind and a good quality of life,” he told CBD-Intel.


What This Means: To avoid inviting action from the FTC or FDA, CBD marketing should scrupulously avoid giving the impression in any way that these products can help with COVID-19. Meanwhile, companies can do more than simply offer an online discount by concentrating on promotional activities that emphasise isolation activities rather than the more typical 4/20 celebrations that would be celebrated in a more normal year.

Daniel Mollenkamp CBD-Intel contributing writer

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