Hemp marketing hews to fine line

But it also is important to avoid making any unsubstantiated medical claims.

That is the advice of marketing and advertising professionals who have an eye on the burgeoning industry.

And it’s the approach being adopted by Elevate Hemp, a company based in Telford that manufactures products with hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD. The products, which are distributed to about 1,600 stores throughout the U.S., include creams, liquids, sprays and drops designed to provide pain and anxiety relief and promote overall wellness.

Elevate Hemp runs blog posts on its website to educate consumers about what hemp does for the body and what its products can offer.

To boost awareness, the company partnered in 2018 with Spartan Race, an organization that conducts obstacle-course races throughout the world. The collaboration is expected to help Elevate Hemp reach a global audience and raise its profile.

The partnership provides education through a website and blog posts about what Elevate Hemp describes as CBD’s benefits for people in Spartan Race’s digital community.

The products are not performance enhancers but rather provide overall wellness and muscle recovery, said Justin Finck, vice president of business development for Elevate Hemp. He views the products as a non-pharmaceutical solution to pain relief.

Athletes have been early adopters of the company’s products, and it was important to connect to that community through the partnership, he said.

“I just felt as an emerging brand, we wanted to look at wellness, weekend warriors, and find an anchor there,” Finck said.

Companies that pitch their hemp products as solutions to pain relief or as methods for enhancing well-being or reducing stress can make their products more appealing to the general consumer, said Scott Byers, managing director and founding partner of Lehigh Mining & Navigation, a marketing agency in Allentown.

And hemp also could benefit from being portrayed as a healthy alternative to products from major pharmaceutical firms, said Denis Aumiller, managing director and founding partner of Lehigh Mining & Navigation.

However, hemp firms also must avoid making any unsubstantiated medical claims, he added.

If companies over-promise on health or other benefits, they may have the Food and Drug Administration on their backs, he said. According to U.S. News & World Report, the FDA recently sent warning letters to companies it says are making “egregious and unfounded” claims about the benefits of products made with CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

“This limits the marketing effort of the hemp and CBD business; it’s a challenge,” Aumiller said.

For hemp products, though, the marketing and advertising is likely to start with education.

“It’s a complex issue and we feel consumer education should be a big part of this,” Aumiller said.

Educational content can take the form of blogs, video, animation or other design-heavy media, said Jason Mastroianni, head of strategy for Liquid Interactive, a marketing firm in Upper Macungie Township.

Beyond that, he said, hemp companies can lean on the same practices as companies with more mainstream products, such as blogging and search-engine marketing. But Aumiller advised them to steer clear of stereotypes associated with its more controversial cousin.

“We would recommend people stay away from marijuana leaf imagery and psychedelic colors because of any negative connotations,” Aumiller said.

Brian Pedersen
Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108.

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