Meet the brand that hopes to ‘normalize’ CBD by becoming the leader in its category


Cannabidiol, or CBD, had its first big wave of attention in 2019 – but interest has waned somewhat since. While the US market is estimated at around $ 10 billion, in the UK it is still only valued at £ 300 million.

However, CBD and prescription cannabis wellness brand Cannaray believes the category is due to a “second wave” and is on a mission to establish itself as the best-known brand in the market.

CBD is derived from the Cannabid sativa plant, also known as hemp or marijuana. It is a naturally occurring substance that is used in products like oils to impart a feeling of relaxation and calm, as well as pain relief, but most importantly is not a psychoactive and does not calm or calm down. ‘alters the mind.

The challenge around the initial ‘big buzz’ in 2019 was that the CBD market was not yet regulated, meaning there was still an element of doubt among consumers, says Cannaray Marketing Director Tim Clarke .

“When you were buying products, you weren’t sure what you were getting,” he says. “People were still wondering if it’s legal, is it safe, how do they take it and what do they use it for? “

We are trying to take the brand away from the cannabis subculture. So everything we do within the brand is about making things easier and removing the stigma.

Tim Clarke, Cannaray

Much has changed in the past 18 months. The CBD market is now regulated by the government’s Food Standards Agency, which means consumers can be confident that what they are getting is legitimate and safe.

It also means that retailers are entering the category for the first time. While Cannaray was previously stocked in Tesco’s in-store pharmacy, earlier this year the supermarket moved CBD to its vitamin section. According to Clarke, this was “a very big step towards standardizing the category.”

“It’s a pretty big move. CBD is no longer a health food specialty and an e-commerce game to become more mainstream, ”he says. “We’re at the start of the second wave, which is a regulated market and retailers coming in, and also the movement towards branding.”

The founders of Cannaray in the UK and the US believe the brand will become the most important differentiator on the well-being side of the business. Clarke was recruited in the summer of 2020, bringing with him over 20 years of experience at brands such as Reckitt (then Reckitt Benckiser), Bacardi and Innocent Drinks, where he served as Marketing Director from 2015 to 2019.

Bringing the revolution to television

In an effort to quickly take the lead, Cannaray launched the UK’s first major CBD TV campaign today (23 August) with a new commercial, starring Strictly Come Dancing co-host Claudia Winkleman .

Created by independent agency BigSmall – who also developed Cannaray’s visual identity, packaging design and exterior posters – the ad shows Winkleman explaining how she thought leading the CBD revolution would mean “walking through a forest, wearing a silly outfit “and yelling” CBD for the people “.

Instead, Cannaray just wants people to try the product for the first time.

A photo from Cannaray’s new TV campaign.

The 30-second spot follows on from Cannaray’s “Join the CBD Revolution” campaign, which launched in July with high-profile outdoor performances. The campaign, planned by media agency Goodstuff, saw online sales double in four weeks.

One of the “hardest” parts of creating the campaign was deciding how best to communicate what the product does, Clarke says, because supplement terms require the brand not to do anything. ‘medicinal claims.

“People want to know how to use CBD, but I can’t tell them because it’s not regulated for these things,” he explains. “So my approach is to show, not to say. [The campaign] This is to demonstrate that CBD is now normal, popular, common and trustworthy.

Winkleman was specifically chosen as the Ambassador because she is well known, trustworthy, and can speak with authority as an existing CBD lawyer.

Unlike the strategies of some other brands in the market, Cannaray does not use any cannabis-related cues, such as images of its leaves.

“The goal of the campaign is to start normalizing CBD,” says Clarke. “We are trying to take the brand away from the cannabis subculture. So everything we do through the brand is all about making things easier and removing the stigma. “

By undertaking consumer research prior to the campaign, Clarke wanted to make the emotional connection to CBD, studying how chronic health conditions make people feel. Much of the language used was “dark” and “cumbersome”.

“It contributed a lot to the sparkle of the campaign. People wanted a brand that was going to be optimistic and that had values ​​of freedom, ”he explains.

These values ​​are also reflected in the sun in its logo and in the Cannaray ‘ray’, he adds: “We have introduced a very positive revolution by thinking about what consumers want.

People seem slow to play and realize that this is a branded market like any other part of FMCG. This is why we are stepping in to take the leadership of the brand.

Tim Clarke, Cannaray

However, Clarke remains cautious and doesn’t make “excessive promises” as CBD is a dietary supplement and not a miracle cure for major health problems.

“Sometimes it’s very tempting as a marketer to promise the world,” he reflects. “We didn’t do that. We really calibrated it for what people want. And we haven’t tried to explain too much and go into a million reasons why you should buy CBD – it’s not a tough sales campaign that way. It’s really just showing that the category has arrived, so jump on board.

It is somewhat unusual for a relatively new, small brand to jump straight into mainstream advertising, with most opting to launch through digital channels. However, CBD advertising on platforms such as Facebook and Google is severely restricted due to US policies.

Regardless, Clarke continues to believe that the time has come for a TV campaign to build awareness of both the brand and the category, especially as the distribution of its products becomes more widespread and more easily accessible.

Brand vs quality

Meanwhile, the rest of the CBD market is lacking when it comes to major players.

“It’s not a very well-marked market,” Clarke notes. This is mainly because brands previously focused on differentiating their product based on quality, he explains, but with the now regulated market, quality is a given.

Media spend for the whole of 2020 across the category totaled less than £ 1million and as such no UK brand of CBD can claim more than 10% incentive awareness.

“That’s why it’s important for brands to scale up,” says Clarke. “People seem slow to play and slow to realize that this is a branded market like any other part of FMCG. This is why we are stepping in to take the leadership of the brand and build the category.

Over the next 12 months, Cannaray will spend £ 3million on media, three times the category’s spending last year.

The aim of the brand is to attract more people to the market and subsequently trigger sales. Cannaray’s target audience are those over 40 who are more likely to have health problems related to chronic pain, inflammation and sleep, as well as 20-30 year olds, who experience high levels of anxiety. higher.

Marketer on the challenge of having 7 million reluctant customers

Not only will it be important to differentiate the brand to attract consumers, but retailers are also looking for a company to step up and lead the category, Clarke explains.

“We think that because it is now a regulated market, we are going to start to see consolidation and so we want to make sure that we are at the heart of this consolidation,” he explains.

“But we recognize that we have both category and brand responsibility. Personally, I’m not interested in a bigger slice of a small pie. I would much prefer to lead the charge to make the category huge. “

That said, Clarke admits that it would be “fantastic” if two or three other brands also committed to growing the market. He believes that categories thrive when they have strong competition and multiple brands develop the category together.

For Clarke, entering the CBD market has been an interesting challenge, as there is no “road map” for Cannaray to follow.

“I’ve found in my career that some marketers really struggle with a lack of structure and a lack of model,” he recalls. “Don’t be intimidated by the blank sheet of paper. Go create the roadmap yourself.

To do this, it’s important to always come back to understanding consumer motivation and putting it at the heart of your strategy, advises Clarke. Ultimately, Cannaray’s goal is to become both the largest wellness CBD company in Europe and its largest prescription cannabis company.

“I am determined to lead this revolution,” adds Clarke. “It’s not just a consumer revolution, it’s a whole category and a company.”


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