CBD Oil Bottle

Why CBD brands are getting more aspirational

When I first launched Ciao CBD, I searched online and found one of those ‘do it yourself’ logos for £18, built a very poor Squarespace site and put all the UK CBD brands I could find on the ‘shop products’ page.

Initially, I basked in the pride I felt at having done it all myself but a few months later, I took a long hard look at the site and realised how amateur it looked.

Given my intention was to create an aspirational brand that promoted the benefits of CBD as an essential part of a wellness regime, I wasn’t doing myself any favours with the way the site looked.

So I got some professional help, had a proper logo designed, gave the site a makeover and streamlined the ‘shop’ page so that it only featured quality brands.

I’m now on my third site revamp and when I think back to the way CBD oil brands looked when I first launched to what they look like now, it seems that we’ve all been on a similar journey.

When CBD oil first started hitting the headlines in the UK, the only High Street retailer to stock CBD oil was Holland & Barrett who should be congratulated for having had the guts to stock a product that was only just beginning to gain traction. Where they led, others followed and today you’ll find CBD in a lot of high street stores.

That said, it was a confusing experience. Yes, it was great being able to walk into a physical store to buy CBD products, trying to find the right one was difficult because the store staff couldn’t tell me which was the best brand and more importantly, why.

This was hardly surprising when you think that not only was CBD still very new but it was just one category of products on a shelf, in a store where there were hundreds.

Since those early days, the UK CBD wellness market has exploded and we know a lot more. The range of products has extended to include CBD beauty, CBD drinks and CBD skincare to name but a few.

However, what has been just as noticeable is the image transformation of CBD brands as they’ve got savvier in terms of the way they present themselves.

Single-minded branding, slick websites, premium packaging and a clear focus on educating consumers are all driving the CBD industry’s makeover.

CBD brands

From a single shelf to a retail experience

The arrival of standalone boutique-style stores has definitely helped and whilst sadly, it is no longer open, The Drug Store Marylebone branch was a case in point. Walking through their doors was like being transported into a high-end art gallery with paintings hung on walls and products displayed on plinths as if they really were priceless works of art.

It was a space that encouraged you to walk in with your head held high rather than slink in looking both ways first lest anyone see you walking into a place that sold, shock horror, products made from cannabis!

It was definitely premium but more importantly, it was also accessible with assistants who knew their stuff and were incredibly welcoming. The new Drug Store outlet in London’s Fenchurch Street has the same friendly helpful staff but I think it has more of a wellness vibe to it which is perfectly pitched, given a large part of its audience is likely to be stressed out city execs.

And then there are the Goodbody Wellness stores which you’ll find in Bristol, Somerset and Bath. These too are standalone stores dedicated to promoting the image of CBD as a credible addition to a wellness-based lifestyle.

One of the first specialist boutiques I visited was the LDN CBD wellness boutique which used to be was based in Camden but unfortunately, fell victim to the endless pandemics lockdowns. Whilst the store has now closed, their product range is still available online.

From the outset, they positioned themselves as a CBD wellness brand and what made my experience in their store so much better than the one I’d had at Holland & Barrett was their knowledge of CBD and its benefits. Moreover, they didn’t make any over the top claims nor did they try to sell me the most expensive product on offer which immediately created trust and reassurance. When it comes to CBD oil, they are still one of my preferred brands.

What the new CBD retail experience does so well is position CBD in the same way as premium beauty retailers position their products. Walk-in, browse, ask questions, choose your product from a tightly edited selection and then buy.

They’re spaces that offer expert advice and assistance for those looking to educate themselves on CBD oil so they can ensure they’re buying the right products for whatever their needs may be.

A more considered online experience

It’s not just the standalone retail stores that have and are changing the face of CBD oil, it’s the online brands too. They’re now being more single-minded about the experience they want to create – and it shows.

Now, when I visit a CBD online store, it’s easier to find what I need to know whether that’s a product’s benefits, what’s in it or where the CBD oil comes from. They’ve also got better at promoting their brand’s key selling points so we have a much clearer idea of why we should buy from them.

Sustainability is a case in point. It is a core part of the narrative for today’s CBD brands and is another way to reassure consumers, that they’re buying a product, which let’s not forget is ingested, that has a trackable footprint, from seed to bottle, verified by lab reports.

Another area that’s come on in leaps and bounds is product packaging. CBD is an expensive product but the early product packaging did the brands no favours. Frankly, they looked cheap.

Yes, we throw packaging away, but we also live in a visual society and if you’re going to spend money on a product and it comes with tacky packaging, you’re going to ask questions about its quality.

CBD brands

Take a look at the number of videos on YouTube about packaging and how many people film themselves unboxing things like mobile phones and you’ll understand why packaging is so important when it comes to creating the right impression.

Thankfully, today’s CBD brands get this and now when I buy something, the packaging is as much a representation of the brand, as the product. Take new brand Lady A and their beautifully designed products and packaging that you’re more than happy to display at home.

Preparing for the future

This brand makeover is reaping dividends as we are now seeing more mainstream retailers happy to stock CBD brands amongst their product lines.

And as we wait to see which way the regulation of the CBD oil industry will go, this emphasis on branding, both from a visual and positioning perspective, is a smart move for anyone in the business to be making.

At some point, the corporate brands who have been waiting on the sidelines will enter the market in a big way, launching a myriad of CBD infused products into what will become a very crowded market.

My belief is that a post-Covid world will look very different from the pre-Covid one. Big won’t always mean better and we can already see a shift towards smaller, local suppliers which give UK boutique CBD brands such as The London Botaniststs, Dr Ed, Kloris and the aforementioned Lady A, a priceless opportunity to cement their fast-growing reputations.

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