Under the historic 2018 Farm Bill, hemp companies should be able to advertise like other agricultural producers and manufacturers.
But many businesses say they still face hurdles, especially with digital marketing.
A good example is Evo Hemp, a Boulder, Colorado-based hemp food company.
“The Farm Bill is opening the doors to have the conversation with these people,” said Ari Sherman, president and co-founder of Evo Hemp. “It gives us a lot more room to stand on when we try legitimize ourselves and we try to convince people.”
Residents in the San Francisco Bay Area could soon see or hear ads telling them where they can buy Evo Hemp products, partly thanks to the Farm Bill.
The new law is making organizations more comfortable with featuring marketing materials from the hemp industry.
Sherman says he still must convince some places to run hemp ads.
And Evo Hemp and a wide variety of others in the industry are still struggling to advertise on “the big three” – Facebook, Google and Instagram.
“It’s always a constant game of trying to convince people that these are legal products; we sell these products all over the country, and the federal government just told us that they’re OK,” Sherman said.
Evo Hemp plans to spend about $1 million on advertising and marketing in 2019.
The company’s products already are sold in more than 4,000 retail outlets, but Evo Hemp is looking for more exposure for its 17 SKUs – including hemp protein bars, seeds and oils.
“We’re trying out more traditional marketing that is a little more locally focused so we can really target the stores where are products are in,” Sherman said.
Evo Hemp purchased bus and newspaper ads in the Bay Area. The company also plans to run sponsorships with an NPR affiliate in the Bay Area in February.
The company previously spent thousands of dollars trying to get people to sample its products in stores – a strategy Sherman called expensive and inefficient.
Companies should follow the policies set by Facebook and Google to avoid having their accounts shut down, said Cary Smith, senior vice president of social media at North 6th Agency, which works with cannabis companies in Colorado and New York to develop social media and content strategies.
“You can talk about cannabis. You can talk about your products. You just can’t make any claims about what the product will do,” Smith said.
He believes hemp and CBD companies will focus on marketing themselves as lifestyle brands, stealing from the playbooks of tobacco, alcohol and energy drinks.
“It won’t be, ‘Consume this cannabis product to feel this way," he said.
“It will be more like, ‘Here’s your active lifestyle. Here’s what you do. And here’s how cannabis can be a part of it."