Ep. 68: How To Get First Time Users & Sports Partnerships with Ken Cohn

In each episode of The Playbook presented by FanFood, host Rob Cressy discusses how leaders are modernizing today’s customer experience through technology in sports, entertainment and hospitality. We invite industry veterans to talk about how customer expectation have changed in today’s world, and how businesses need to change accordingly for greater operational efficiency and better guest experience.

Ep. 68: How To Get First Time Users & Sports Partnerships with Ken Cohn
Ken Cohn, CMO of cbdMD, joins Rob Cressy to talk about first-time customer engagement and sports partnerships. How do you get users to try your product for the first time? How have they used sports partnerships with Bubba Watson, Lolo Jones, and Daniel Cormier to elevate the customer experience? Why is it important to think of your users as a community? How do you differentiate yourself in an industry of sameness? To see how your restaurant, establishment, or venue can benefit from FanFood’s platform please get in touch here. 

Listen to the Gameday Playbook on:

  • Ep. 68: How To Get First Time Users & Sports Partnerships with Ken Cohn
  • Ep. 68: How To Get First Time Users & Sports Partnerships with Ken Cohn
  • Ep. 68: How To Get First Time Users & Sports Partnerships with Ken Cohn
  • Ep. 68: How To Get First Time Users & Sports Partnerships with Ken Cohn
  • Ep. 68: How To Get First Time Users & Sports Partnerships with Ken Cohn

 


Rob Cressy: (00:08)Welcome to The Playbook presented by FanFood. A discussion around how leaders are modernizing today’s customer experience through technology in sports, entertainment, and hospitality. I’m your host, Rob Cressy. And joining me today is Ken Cohn, CMO of cbdMD. Ken, great to have you on the show.  Ken Cohn: (00:30)Thanks for having me on, Rob. Rob Cressy: (00:32)Can you give a quick overview of who you are and what you do? Ken Cohn: (00:37)Sure. It’s pretty simple. I’m the CMO of cbdMD. So, anything marketing-wise, advertising, data, and analytics specific to the brand and how we go to market, that’s what I handle. Rob Cressy: (00:49)One of the things that really stood out to me about what you do. One, I love the uniqueness of the company, and any time things are unique there are challenges. And when you’ve got challenges, there are unique ways to innovate. And number two, that you guys were built on sports marketing and you’ve got some incredible athlete partnerships, Bubba Watson, Lolo Jones, Daniel Cormier. So, let’s start on the sports marketing partnership side of things. Why did you decide to go down the sports marketing route and how has that helped you elevate your customer experience? Ken Cohn: (01:23)Yeah, sure. So, a good place to start would be December of 2018. The was signed on December 20th actually of 2018, which descheduled and permanently removed it from the Controlled Substances Act. And so the good news is there were about a thousand companies involved in CBD. The bad news is, a thousand companies involved in CBD. And so, what do we do to innovate and separate ourselves? What do we do to build the brand? And so I specifically said a thousand companies cause there are not a thousand brands, but we’re focused on building a brand. And so if you look at a product like CBD and try to separate yourselves from all the category clutter, what do you do to breakthrough? And so with CBD, we can’t make claims, but we want to attach it to those that are focused on health and wellness. Why not sports, right? Why not use sports and fitness as a real halo for the brand and as a category separator. Rob Cressy: (02:28)I really liked that. So, how did you come to the athletes that you decided to work with? Because you’ve got some very high profile names right there, all of which I love by the way. Ken Cohn: (02:40)Yeah. Each one’s really rooted in authenticity and credibility. It’s not simply a phone call. How’d you like to endorse our product is all rooted in a credible and authentic usage of the product. And because of the unique nature of CBD, it’s not like Tylenol and it’s not like Advil where you take CBD for something that’s ailing you and 20 minutes later you feel the impact. That’s not how this works. Because of the unique nature of CBD, it has to be in your system for at least three to four weeks for you to feel some kind of impact. So, for instance, with Bubba Watson, we were in talks with his physician Dr. Ara who’s well-known on the PGA tour. He actually used it himself for four or five weeks called us back and said okay, I get it. You guys are different. Your stuff works. I’m going to now suggest Bubba try this. He then took it for four or five weeks. He felt the impact in particular recovery and sleep. Those are two things that are important to him as an athlete. We met down at the Masters with his agent and lo and behold we announced it at the beginning of May. We had them down at the New York Stock Exchange and away we went.Click me
Rob Cressy: (03:53)So, with that, it’s great to have someone who is a testimonial that is actually using it. But now let’s relate this to the customer experience in growing the brand. Because now we’ve got Bubba who says, Hey, I use this. This works, but now we’ve got to translate that into people who want to follow the brand on social media. Who then wants to convert and actually start using it. So, talk to us about how you guys think about using the athletes and then the transition to the next part of the marketing process. Ken Cohn: (04:25)Sure, sure. So, whether it’s Bubba, whether it’s Lolo Jones, whether it’s Daniel Cormier, we think that they bring a tremendous amount of credibility to the brand. You might see them on their social media. You might see them on our social media. Heck, you might see them inside of a lifetime, one of our other corporate partners. They’re a fitness resort with 150 locations across the country, in some of the creative. We think they bring a lot of credibility and authenticity, but we surround that with our superior broad-spectrum product. Third-Party tested a hundred percent US grown, GMP certified. We’re a New York Stock Exchange company. So, there’s a lot of different points of difference that we bring to the table to catch the attention of the current consumer, potential consumer, but an important point of difference for a customer, especially as it relates to a connection with an athlete is the fact that our products are non THC. That’s important for the factory worker. That’s important for a professional athlete and everybody in between. Rob Cressy: (05:33)I’m curious about user adoption. So, so often when we talk about forward-thinking whether it’s in marketing or technology, one of the challenges can be even when a product is amazing and delivers great value for the end-user. Sometimes there is a challenge to get someone to try for the first time and or to repeatedly do it. And certainly, in the world of CBD, it’s something where a lot of people have probably heard of CBD. I would say a large majority of them have not tried it and, or do not know a ton about it. So, what can you do to take someone who might have limited knowledge about it and then convert them? Because I believe this is something that’s going to be applicable not just to CBD, but sort of universally because a lot of companies out there have a product or a service that they want to introduce to the market. And you say, Hey, you’ve never used this before. How can we get you to use this for the first time? Ken Cohn: (06:33)It’s actually the number one question. And the number one topic we have to be thinking about every day. So, I mentioned that the Farm Bill passed in December of 18. So, we’re coming up on two years, but even today while a good portion of the country is aware of CBD, a higher percentage doesn’t really know what to do, where to start, how much to take. Tell me the difference between topicals versus ingestible versus your sleep product, whatever it is there’s so much education. And that’s really what it comes down to. When you engage with us on our social, our website, through our athletes, you name it, it’s all about education. Now it gets tricky because we can’t make claims, right? We can’t say take CBD and XYZ is going to occur. So, spend time on our website, spend time engaging with us, and we’re going to educate you. A hundred percent satisfaction guarantee. So, if you’re not satisfied with our product, send it back. We give you every reason in the world to try it. And if it’s simply doesn’t work, we’ll take care of you. The biggest thing that we’re fighting is all the other brands in our space that don’t provide a good customer experience. They don’t provide a non THC product. They don’t provide COA so they’re not third-party tested. It can turn off a consumer. We’re trying to give consumers the best experience they can get in the category. Rob Cressy: (08:02)So, you said something that really stood out to me is to spend time engaging with us. And while I love that, I always think about the consumer side of things. And is it consumer willing to spend time to engage with the brand? So, really the onus gets put on you to say, all right, we want to engage with them and we need to give them that opportunity. So, what does that opportunity like? Because I preach customer engagement from the mountaintops nonstop, ask as many questions, do as much as you can from a value perspective, but it’s unique to each company. So, I’m curious how you do it to open that gateway to say, listen, this is a conversation that we’re having, and it’s just not one way. Ken Cohn: (08:44)No, not at all. Not at all. That’s where the athletes come in. That’s where our sponsorships, in particular, come in. And I think you get a sense of our brand personality. You understand, especially through the use of quite a bit of video content that we have from our athletes, I think you get a sense of, we bring the barriers down and the barriers to entry down the barriers to purchase down, separate from the fact that our products are among the least expensive in the category but the highest value, we try to lower as many barriers as we can to entry. Off we go in terms of that back and forth engagement with our customer base. Rob Cressy: (09:26)One thing I’m curious about because you talked about the brand and we’re talking about engagement and we’re talking about user experience would be the role that non-sports marketing athletes have in the building of your brand. So, it’s called user-generated content. Take someone like me, I’m not Bubba Watson. But if all of a sudden I start using it and I’m like, wow, Ken. This stuff is pretty amazing where people who are seeing the effects of it, I think about any brand. When people like what a brand does and they treat you well and you build it like it’s a community, all of a sudden, I want to let other people know about it. How do you guys, if at all, use user-generated content or testimonials from non-athletes to help support and build the brand? Ken Cohn: (10:13)Rob, I’m so glad you brought this up because it’s tricky. We would love to have a website, a social media play, an email that is loaded with user-generated content, reviews, and testimonials. But because of the category that we’re in, we can only use so much of it. We can use very little. The reason being, we get them all the time, a customer that will reach out to us and they’ll say Hey, I tried your product and X, Y, Z happened. And we just can’t do that. We can’t share that information unfortunately because of where the category is that with the FDA. We’ve gotta be very, very careful even if a customer says it, it’s as if we’re saying it in terms of what has happened from the use of the product, we’re on the hook. If a customer says something that makes the claim that we can’t say. Same thing with the athlete. They’ve gotta be very careful on our behalf saying, kind of how it works for them, what the impact is. We’ve just gotta be very careful with the language. We’re just in a different spot than cereal and shampoo and soda and beer. We’re just in a different category. So, we’ve got to treat a review from a customer as if we’re saying it. Rob Cressy: (11:32)So, when I see that, I believe that actually gives you a gigantic opportunity. And you know what that opportunity is? To actually engage that customer. And even though we’re not going to be magnifying this across the board on all of our different social, I think one area where a lot of brands miss the boat on customer experience is when I send over that testimonial, what happens? Does it just go into the sea of nothingness or does cbdMD say you know what, Rob? Thank you so very much for this and start the conversation with me personally. Because guess what I’m likely to do? Use my mouth. And I think word of mouth right now is such a powerful yet overlooked marketing tool for customer experience because, how are we most likely to find new products? What we’re going to talk to our friends about. So, for the same reason why you want to use Bubba Watson and Daniel Cormier and Lolo to help promote what you’re doing, the same can be done on a micro-influencer level and really your brand being able to speak to the customer and let them know, wait a second. I’m here with you, because how many brands do not respond back to their customer when they’re saying, I love what you do.

Click me

Ken Cohn: (12:48)Yeah. And they hear from us and we call them our brand promoters and brand promoters to their family, to their friends. And when you join our community certainly you’re becoming part of our database and we’ll segment-specific messaging, specific content, specific education based on what we hear from the customer. There are customers that enjoy our adjustable, our topicals, our sleep product, and they’ll get content sent out to them specific to what we know is important to them and the products that they use. Rob Cressy: (13:22)You said three very important words to me that made me smile, join our community. Because I believe there is a gigantic difference when a company thinks of its audience as a community, as opposed to just a transaction. Can you talk a little bit more about that mindset? Because it is one that I wish I could give to everyone because when you think about marketing from a community standpoint, a community is always there. And certainly, in the times, we’re living in right now where we’re very digital and there’s a lot of uncertainty. The thing that you can always fall back on is your community. And certainly when you can buy anything, from anyone, at any time where there’s not a lot of differentiation, but you can always differentiate yourself when you build a community. Ken Cohn: (14:12)Yeah, It’s critical. And here’s an interesting statistic and you would rarely see this statistic in most other mature businesses. And I think that this is going to happen in CBD in 2021 and 2022. But right now the top 20 companies, again we’re all about building the number one brand, and by most metrics we’re number two or number three right now, we’ve done a heck of a job in a year and a half, but the top 20 companies equate to 17% market share in the category. Normally the top 20 would account for 83%. It’s flipped right now because there’s so companies involved in the business. Again, what we think it will flip in 2021, or start to flip in 2021. But the community is critical. So, as we continue to break through the clutter and become the number one brand, we want you to feel like you’re part of our community. And when you’re part of our community, you’re part of Baba’s community and Lolo’s community and Daniel Cormier’s community and the Lifetime community and our Bellator. We’ve got a Bellator partnership. You’re part of the Bellator community. We have 26 to 30 right now team cbdMD ambassadors. You’re becoming a part of their community. And there’s a lot of things that we offer to you that our competitors can’t offer. Rob Cressy: (15:33)Let’s talk about MMA for a second. So, you talked about Bellator and you talked about Daniel Cormier and it’s a unique category, but it’s one that makes complete sense for what you do from certainly from the benefits standpoint, but also I’m someone who is an MMA fan, and MMA was always seen as on the fringe or a little bit different. And this is a little bit different in a good way. So, can you talk about the marriage and why you identified the mixed martial arts world in the type of ways that you can engage their community? Ken Cohn: (16:07)Again, when you think about athletes who need to train, they need to perform. They need to recover. They need to sleep. It’s an absolute, no brainer for CBD. Now, were we the innovators in the space? Absolutely. Have other brands tried to put a stake in MMA? Absolutely. But that’s happened to us every step of the way. It seems like no matter where we’ve innovated in terms of our team cbdMD athletes, what we do with podcasts like Barstool and Joe Rogan, a little ode to MMA, no matter where we’ve turned our competitors have tried to copy us. That space makes a ton of sense for us. Golf, for the very same reason and Bubba, rest and recovery. Track and field with LoLo, It doesn’t really matter. If there’s a space that makes sense for rest, recovery, sleep, we’re going to want to check it out. Yeah, and I suspect that we’re just going to continue to invest more of our time and resources against MMA. It just makes all the sense in the world, right? Rob Cressy: (17:22)Of course. And you know who has been incredibly successful during the last six months in this pandemic MMA, because of the way that the UFC and Dana White have certainly led on their end to say, there was not a lot of sports going on in the world and he found a way to make things happen. And what do I love about that is I felt for me as the fan that MMA said we want to make sure that ours is here one way or another. It was almost a fan first for the community. And I know from a mixed martial arts standpoint, they are so community-driven because if you’ve ever been to an MMA event, whether it’s Bellator, UFC, or any of them, it’s so unique in its so community-driven. And you talked about Barstool and Joe Rogan, and the first thing that comes to my mind with both of those they’re so community-driven. Golf, it’s a community. Track and field, it’s a community. And when you can speak to the niches, that’s where the gold is. Ken Cohn: (18:20)You named it. Listen, every one of us can relate to a certain condition for which CBD can provide relief and recovery. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Barstool listener, you’re an MMA fan, you’re a golf fan, it really doesn’t matter. We can provide some kind of connection to you emotionally to bring you into our community. And each of these niches makes a ton of sense. And we’re seeing something similar going on now that we became the innovator really in the TV space for CBD. That just kicked off in the last four weeks. As we look to engage customers, we just kicked off our TV campaign. The spot is unique. You can find it on our website. And it’s interesting, it’s brought an entirely amplified niche of customers to our website. It’s leaning a little bit more female. It’s leaning a little bit older. Now, some of that might be attributed to the creative that we’re running, but when you look at the traffic and conversion that we’ve gotten out of the TV, it’s now taken us in a whole new area with a different niche. It’s a lot of fun. Rob Cressy: (19:37)What I like about sort of the blueprint that you’ve laid out is you’ve mentioned podcasting, and you’ve mentioned influencer marketing and sports marketing, and now TV. And I was curious about what’s on your mind from a forward-thinking perspective. And certainly, I think the TV side of things, it’s there, but I’m also interested in, what has your attention right now for what else are you looking for ways that you can engage fans and build a better customer experience? Ken Cohn: (20:06)I think that the category as it matures will become more mainstream. We’re not there yet, but I think we’re getting there. We’ve tried to be the innovator no matter what we do. The things that, Rob that you just mentioned, as much as we’ve entered television, we’ve just put our toe in the water. And what I mean by that is this is that we’re running our brand message in national cable, but the big boys haven’t yet opened the door to our category. And so whether it’s the ABC, the ESPN, the Fox, the NBC, et cetera, the kind of the big boys, that’s what’s next for us in terms of television is cracking the code and engaging with folks that are watching that programming. Number two, we’re going to put our toe in the water in terms of international direct to consumer. Direct to consumer online marketing for us now makes up 70% of our business. And so we’re going to start cracking the code internationally in that regard soon. So, we’ve got a lot of plans that we’re talking about each and every week. Rob Cressy: (21:11)I’m curious if you try and learn anything from what’s going on in sports betting right now. So, here’s a category that was very much taboo, yet very much part of the fabric of the way that sports fans engage with sports. And now we’re seeing it slowly be legalized across the United States to the point where now teams and leagues are partnering with sportsbook operators and they’re finding ways to engage fans. And there’s a very much a million different operators out there. I live in Chicago and it’s legal in Illinois. And you’re seeing DraftKings, and FanDuel, and PointsBet, and William Hill and Rivers Casino, and there are so many out there now. And it makes me think about what you talked about at the beginning where it’s hard to differentiate because there’s so many out there and oftentimes one or two bad apples out there can really bring down a category because we’re developing this new relationship because it’s an infant. So, trust is a very big thing, certainly in sports betting and certainly in your category. So, I’m curious if there’s anything that you’re watching or learning from the way that sports betting is coming across the United States. Ken Cohn: (22:23)Rob, of all the things you’ve said today, that is among the most astute that you had brought up you absolutely nailed it. The parallels are really interesting. I suspect that the comments that we got a year and a half ago, and we continue to get whether it was with podcast partners and now television broadcasters today, we’re probably not all that unlike what the bedding sites were facing a few years prior. And so we’re kind of going through that same category arc I suspect that they did. It’ll be interesting to see if things evolve for us like they did for them over the next 12 months because that’s exactly what we’re facing. Rob Cressy: (23:09)Do you see that there could be an opportunity to then speak to that niche? Because I think about if someone is sports betting then they’re more open and I think that’s a key thing is people who are open to exploring and trying new things. With the sports betting community, there’s a lot of just very new relationships. And when you’ve got a very new relationship, there is a lot of opportunities to grow that. And certainly, imagine this, some being a sports better, all of a sudden I’m watching a Bellator fight or an MMA fight that is being announced by Daniel Cormier. Ha, all of a sudden, here’s the sports better who sees cbdMD on the mat somewhere, or being represented on Daniel Cormier’s social. The connection there to somehow say, well listen, if you’re already in that area, well maybe we’ll speak the language of sports betting because I know once again, there’s going to be influencers, there’s going to be personalities. And there’s going to be opportunities to say, let’s make this better for you. Ken Cohn: (24:11)Yeah. I mean, again incredibly astute, Rob. Yeah, I mean that’s how we’re looking at things. Opportunities hopefully will emerge for us, not unlike how they emerged in that category. We’re in similar spaces that they were in and it’s interesting. It’s a topic that has come up when we’ve met with sports promoters, media companies, etc. It’s been very, very similar. We’re going to keep doing our role as the leader in the space to try to pry those doors open for the category. Rob Cressy: (24:48)And I’m really excited for you because I love forward-thinking companies because those that are willing to be different and stand out, and build a brand and build community are going to win. And the thing about building community is it’s not something where you can push a button and it happens overnight. And that’s actually one of the areas where a lot of companies trip up is they’re so focused on the day-to-day ROI of one thing without realizing, you know what? It might take a little bit of time to build a relationship with me, to get them into our community, to get them to be a lifetime customer. And the more that you think from a forward-thinking perspective in MMA, in golf, in sports betting and Barstool and Joe Rogan, those things are all relevant to me and so many other people in the world. And that’s how you start to build credibility is, I believe it takes on average between seven and 11 times for someone to see something before they engage with it. Well, if all of a sudden I’m watching The Masters in there as Buba, and I’m watching MMA and there’s Daniel Cormier, and then you’re watching the Olympics and Lolo Jones comes up and you’re like, man, I just keep seeing this thing everywhere. Eventually that drip, and then you’re going to go, Oh, by the way, let’s engage in conversation on social media. To me, I think that’s the recipe for how this is going to be successful. Ken Cohn: (26:08)Rob, have you been reading our playbook? Because it’s interesting, you’re spot on. Along this journey with this community it’s interesting, the different insights that we’re seeing the 25 to 35 demographic versus the 55 plus 65 plus demographic. The younger demographic, they find us in some form or fashion. They convert a little bit quicker. They’re not as loyal. They’re not as loyal as the older audience. The older audience takes a little bit longer to engage with. They do a little bit more homework. Not surprising, right? In our category, they’re more used to over the counter medications or prescription solutions. With us, they take a little bit more time. They talk to their doctor, they do their research, but once they’re in our funnel and they’re part of our community their average order value is higher. And their propensity to repeat buy is higher. It’s just there are so many interesting insights that we’ve gained and data that we’ve gained over the last year and a half. But it sounds like you’ve been reading the playbook. Rob Cressy: (27:14)Well, the good news is the name of this podcast is The Playbook by FanFood. So, we might know a thing or two about building playbooks. Ken, really enjoyed this conversation with you. It is very refreshing for me because I love talking to people who get it, and certainly you and cbdMD, you get it. Where can everybody connect with you? Ken Cohn: (27:38)Just find cbdmd.com and you’ll learn all you want about our brand.  Rob Cressy: (27:44)And we want to hear from you. I’m curious, where does CBD come on your radar? Have you heard of it at all? Do you know anything about it? Have you actually used it or have you seen other influencers who are using it? You can hit up FanFood on Twitter @FanFoodondemand. On Instagram @FanFoodapp or on LinkedIn. And as always you can hit me up on all social media platforms @RobCressy.
Click me