October 28, 2022

“Trust us, we’re experts!” Selling science to scientists is hard work

When the largest cannabis grower, processor and retailer in North America knocks on your agency’s door and asks you to build a pet brand from scratch, you assemble a team. Fast.

Born from Canopy Growth Corporation, Canopy Animal Health (CAH) is a brand built from the ground up by DMH. From brand platform to messaging to expression, DMH propelled this well-funded start-up into the nearly $20 Billion animal health category. With Martha Stewart as a spokesperson and co-brand, the earned media opportunities were plentiful but managing the message and maintaining scientific credibility were the real challenge. There are hundreds of pet CBD products on the market, but CAH wanted to take on Big Pharma as the real competition.

Insert record scratch. Let’s back up to the real work: The part in between creating a kick-ass brand and Martha Stewart peddling our product. According to 74% of all pet owners in America, their veterinarian stands between us and selling them anything with the words CBD, cannabis or cannabinoid. So, our first job was to sell the science, or more appropriately in our case, the pursuit of science, to veterinarians. DMH has a very long history and client roster in the animal health field, but this was truly our most difficult assignment. Here’s what we learned:

  1. Vets are scared to so much as talk about CBD. Because it’s basically illegal for a veterinarian to recommend CBD to a pet parent in most states, there’s some built-in resistance to adoption. The exact inverse of cannabis on the human front, CBD is actually legal on the federal level but it’s up to each state to legalize or not.
  2. There are some early adopters out there, but they have been burned already. Vets who support CBD use in pets are extremely cautious because of what we call Canna-Crooks, an unseemly bunch that outnumbers the legitimate manufacturers of pet cannabinoid products. False claims, irresponsible advertising to consumers and circumventing vets are among their many sins.
  3. CBD for pets is highly unregulated and manufacturing practices vary greatly. There are some attempts to “certify” and “guarantee” the quality of ingredients and verify the amount of CBD in products, but many manufacturers purposefully make it confusing and difficult to pinpoint.
  4. Research wins, but not all research is credible. There are 26 vet schools in the United States and you better be partnering with at least one to test and validate your product, hear what’s being said in vet schools about CBD and build a relationship with a highly influential group of scientists. Relying on independent trials with limited numbers of dogs (or cats) will not hold water with your local vet.
  5. Plan for the long haul. Our campaign “Research First. Product Second.” lasted more than a year. That’s a year of KOL meetings, editorial outreach, university partnership and lots and lots of data. Vets don’t do anything fast and the adoption of CBD as an accepted therapy is no exception. Do the work, show the work and make these scientists your allies.

We had to convince our clients that they shouldn’t launch a product. Instead, launch research initiatives, build relationships with key opinion leaders and veterinarians, and, finally, do it all while wearing a ’white hat.’ Let the other guys trot out untested formulations and dubious claims. Let the other guys build category skepticism instead of brand loyalty. Then, when the research is complete, the data is in, and your product is proven safe and effective, that’s when you launch your products.

See the brand and learn more about exactly how we did it.

< Back to News + Articles