CBD’s popularity shot through the roof in 2019 and into 2020, with many commentators comparing its rise to a gold-rush like atmosphere. There is no question that CBD has become wildly popular, with 1 in 7 Americans trying the substance in 2019. This has occurred for many reasons, including an increase in scientific evidence that demonstrates CBD’s potential to help alleviate numerous illnesses, as well as a slew of personal stories that have shown people’s positive experiences with the compound.
However, one of the items which cannot be overlooked in the rise of CBD’s popularity has been the role of social media influencers educating the general public. “Influencers,” defined here as celebrities with a massive social media presence, have been very aggressive in terms of their CBD endorsements this year, being paid large sums of money to endorse specific CBD products. At the same time, this has contributed to a rise in popularity of the CBD market and had an impact that general news reports or other broad-based advertising have failed to make.
If you have an Instagram feed and follow any major celebrities odds are at least half-way decent that you have seen one of them make a sponsored post in which they endorsed a CBD product. For example, Kylie Jenner has publicly endorsed the CBD Brand Happy Tea, and Kim Kardashian publicly threw a CBD-themed baby shower.
There are a variety of other Influencers who have gotten in on the CBD act. These include people like Joelene Goring, Michael J. Fox, Montell Williams, Dr. Rachna Patel, and others have extolled CBD’s various benefits. In many cases, these influencers are directly affiliated with a CBD company, but being paid to leverage their celebrity and help generate business for a CBD brand.
As the hashtag of #ad or #sponsored indicates, these Influencers aren’t doing this for free. These celebrities are being paid extensively for their endorsement, sometimes receiving as much as six-figures for an Instagram post.
If you are old enough to have been a kid in the 80s or 90s, odds are good you remember these commercials: Milk, it does a body good. These commercials are adorable and a staple of youth for many. Of course, their purpose wasn’t just to inspire nostalgia and make you feel good – they were to sell milk. That they did: They are credited with a massive sales spike in the milk and dairy industry, making milk more popular than ever before.
There are other famous examples, too, including the Plastics Make It Possible campaign and Nike’s Just Do It effort. These marketing programs were designed to do more than just sell products: They were attempting to raise brand awareness and turn these products into household names.
What’s the connection here? Well, think about it. Social media advertising has become the new way in which brands build awareness. And taking advantage of these trends has been part of the way that CBD has become so popular. For example, if the Milk campaign was out today, it would be so much more than a commercial or two: It would probably feature countless celebrities, posting pictures of themselves to their Instagram pages while wearing the famous milk mustache.
In that sense, influencers are playing a critical role. They are normalizing CBD and building brand awareness for the product as a whole, in addition to the obvious benefits of advertising a specific CBD brand.
Influencers have clearly done a great job of building general awareness about CBD and helping to make the substance more popular.
That being said, the industry is still evolving, and different approaches are needed in the long-run to better and more accurately inform the public about what CBD can and cannot do. The United States’ Food & Drug Administration has been very clear about what can and cannot be said in terms of CBD marketing. Marketers are free to advertise the potential scientific benefits of CBD, discuss individual success stories and ways in which CBD may be helpful at alleviating specific problems. However, all of this marketing must be couched in a very specific way, and CBD marketers cannot make specific, definitive medical claims when it comes to CBD. Unfortunately, many irresponsible vendors have repeatedly done just that, leading to repeated warning notices from the FDA.
What does this mean? As an industry, CBD will have to continue to evolve. Brand awareness campaigns (such as the milk example noted above) have benefitted from a broad marketing effort that invested millions of dollars in explaining the benefits of a substance to the public. While Influencers and other celebrities have done a great job at building CBD brand awareness, they haven’t necessarily gone into what, exactly, CBD does.
For that, more marketing is needed. As such, the CBD industry will need to work together to create a comprehensive campaign that educates the public. Such a campaign should include:
Such a campaign, when combined with already ongoing efforts, will benefit the CBD industry as a whole. More importantly, it will lead to increased awareness, knowledge and education of the public as a whole. This, of course, will likely lead to more CBD use among the general public.