How are CBD brands marketing during COVID-19?

Virginia Lee

While the coronavirus pandemic has reduced consumer store visits and limited live sports and other events, CBD companies have risen to the challenge of marketing during a pandemic by leveraging digital advertising, social media, podcasts, and partnerships. Despite the lifting of shelter-in-place orders, a resurgence of COVID-19 in the Sunbelt states and beyond, combined with continuing worries of contracting the coronavirus are keeping many consumers at home.

Pre-COVID, CBD companies had been using a wide variety of marketing vehicles to promote their brands including athlete ambassadors, influencers, event marketing, educational workshops, billboards, digital marketing, and social media. Following the outbreak, CBD companies were forced to shift completely to online marketing initiatives. Companies such as cbdMD, Recess, CBDistillery, and Veritas Farms are using their digital marketing strategies to capture shopper attention and dollars when many consumers are shopping from home. E-commerce is poised to benefit as nearly half (45%) of CBD consumers have moved their CBD purchases from brick and mortar stores to online as a result of the coronavirus crisis according to Brightfield's CBD Consumer Insights. In turn, the online channel is projected to garner 39% of CBD retail sales in 2020 as the largest channel.



With fewer leisure options available during the coronavirus pandemic, podcasts have emerged as a popular way for consumers to entertain themselves and for CBD companies to reach CBD consumers. According to podcast measurement company, Podtrac, US weekly podcast download growth for the comedy and sports categories was up 45% and 35%, respectively, for the 52-week period from August 19, 2019 to August 23, 2020. cbdMD has been a sponsor of leading podcasts – “The Joe Rogan Experience”, Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert”, and “Your Mom's House with Tom Segura and Christina Pazsitzky” since October 2019. In its August 12, 2020 earnings call, the company stated that the podcast vertical led to a 45% uptick in revenue in the quarter ended June 30, 2020 as data allowed them to identify the podcasts that drive web traffic and e-commerce conversion. For cbdMD, popular sports commentator and comedian Joe Rogan is able to reach men who are interested in sports and are likely to use topical CBD products for post-exercise relief.


CBD Movement podcastSponsoring podcasts where the host reads a commercial about a CBD brand along with a promotional code is not the only way to take advantage of podcasts. On June 10, Balanced Health Botanicals, owner of the CBDistillery brand, introduced its “The CBD Movement Podcast” as the latest extension of its #CBDMovement that aims to provide education about CBD and accessibility to fairly priced, high quality CBD products. The CBD Movement Podcast featuring in-house experts Emily Loss (Manager of Influencer Relations and Sponsored Athletes) and Majid Boroujerdi (Vice President of Brand and Consumer Insights) interviewing scientists, cultivators, government officials, and CBD pioneers provides another way for CBDistillery to educate listeners and create brand loyalty. Additionally, the company introduced a rebrand for CBDistillery in May 2020 with an updated design to the brand website and consumer-friendly packaging to new educational and consumer-friendly packaging to provide better education about the benefits of CBD.


Instagram and Influencers

With in-person events on pause for the foreseeable future, Instagram allows CBD companies to provide fashion and flair and access to live events. Recess received extensive press coverage of its February 2019 opening of Recess IRL pop-up where New Yorkers could chill out and try a new CBD drink. Recess IRL (In Real Life) brought creatives together for cocktails, mingling, and workshops in a pastel, Instagram worthy space while allowing the company to gain brand awareness in spite of advertising restrictions on Facebook and Google.



During the pandemic, Recess continues to use its Instagram page to promote the brand’s narrative of offering an antidote to modern times through surrealist imagery where cans of Recess are personified using memes and cultural reference points. The addition of three new flavors (Black Cherry, Blood Orange, and Coconut Lime) in May 2020 are providing more flavor personalities for the company’s fans to interact with. Its May 2020 launch of a Realitywear line of comfortable t-shirts and sweatshirts allows the company to offer both physical and digital experiences, injected fashion into the company’s marketing, and encourages the brand’s biggest fans to spread the Calm, Cool, Collected message.


Prior to COVID-19, Veritas Farms had been using event marketing such as sponsoring Miami Art Week 2019 with live music, art, and Veritas Farms CBD-infused cocktails to promote its brand among affluent, health-conscious consumers along with a billboard campaign in New York City’s Times Square that ran from November 11, 2019 to January 5, 2020. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the company decided to emphasize e-commerce and content marketing including initiatives such as Yoga Flow Sessions on the Veritas Farms Instagram Live channel and partnerships with influencers. The Saturday Yoga Flow Sessions with Miami yoga teacher India Turkell allowed Veritas Farms to reach out to yoga devotees who were unable to attend in-person yoga studios. Working with influencers such as Morgan Alexa (in a paid partnership) and Lizzy Dela (affiliate marketing) who represent active glamour allows the company to leverage these women’s social media followings. By using a multi-prong digital strategy leveraging multiple channels including Instagram, executing retargeting campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ad Words; launching an affiliate channel, and upgrading website content and layout to improve site speed, Veritas Farms was able to achieve online revenue growth of over 150% from January 2020 to April 2020, according to its 10-Q filed on August 18, 2020.


With the e-comm poised to be the largest channel for CBD purchases and 45% of CBD consumers switching to online channels to buy CBD, it is crucial for CBD companies to prioritize digital marketing initiatives to reach consumers where they are spending their time. Whether it is partnering with podcast hosts or influencers, focusing on content marketing to provide a stream of updated content on Instagram, podcasts, and blogs; or upgrading a website to increase session time on the site; investing in digital marketing can help companies to increase number of website visitors, conversion rates, and brand loyalty among CBD consumers.


Last Updated: 8/27/20