As the cannabidiol (CBD) pet product market rapidly expands, retailers and manufacturers are often confronted with various tasks, from keeping up on regulations to consumer education. However, it’s the marketing of these products that have become a looming obstacle, according to industry insiders.
“There [is a] tremendous amount of challenges, everything from our payment processor online on our website to Amazon not carrying this kind of stuff to being able to advertise on social media,” said Larry Wright, president of Chicago-area manufacturer The Green Pet Shop. “Facebook and Instagram, for instance, will shut you down. You won’t find CBD ads on there.”
CBD is on Google Ads’ list of unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements, and while Facebook’s advertising policy does not explicitly address CBD, Facebook rejects advertisements for CBD products at its discretion, based on the platform’s policies on illegal products or services, drugs and unsafe supplements. These policies also govern advertising on Instagram, as Instagram is owned by Facebook.
A 2019 Facebook policy change allows companies to advertise topical CBD products but continues to prohibit ads that feature ingestible CBD products or direct users to landing pages that feature these products, according to reports from advertising agency PrograMetrix and digital marketing watchdog Digiday.
Because these policies are inconsistently enforced, some CBD marketers find themselves trying workarounds with varying degrees of success—such as removing CBD- and hemp-related keywords from their ads and opting instead for words like “natural” and “plant based,” removing CBD- and hemp-related terms from their websites and creating designated landing pages that do not mention these ingredients, and even creating separate web pages that are not connected to their main websites.
In the pet space, these restrictions can affect both manufacturers trying to reach national or international audiences and retailers targeting local pet owners.
The Green Pet Shop has turned to external advertising firms that specialize in this type of advertising in hopes of getting its CBD Pet Care Calming & Soothing Gel bumped up in Google’s search results.
“We’re doing what we can as far as trying to gain as much traction as possible,” Wright said. “We have firms that we’re hiring that are in the process of trying to get us on the first page, so they know how to work the algorithms and that kind of thing, but you cannot purchase Google ads for CBD at this point.”
Collecting payment for CBD products can come with more problems.
“The majority of processors will not process CBD products through their system,” said Randy Klein, owner of Whiskers Holistic Petcare, which has two stores in New York. “Cash or check or Venmo are the only payment methods we accept for CBD products.”
CBD marketing isn’t all doom and gloom, though. Both Treatibles, a manufacturer in Nashville, Tenn., and Austin and Kat, a manufacturer in Seattle, have had success with the Astro Loyalty program, which offers various deals, coupons and rewards for customers. It also provides retailers with materials like shelf-talkers that are co-branded with Astro and the manufacturer.
“I sometimes will go into pet stores incognito, and they’ll see me in a certain section of the store, and you’ll hear the retailers say, ‘Oh! There’s an Astro promo on that this week,’” said Kat Donatello, CEO and founder of Austin and Kat. “So it’s good to hear the retailers utilizing that sales tool.”
Marissa Heflin contributed to this report.