Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the proliferation of crypto and cannabis companies. It feels like a gold rush where only a few companies are building picks and axes. As more of these companies pop up, more compete to gain market share and eventually this leads to more competitive acquisition techniques.
Online advertising has been a particularly interesting spectacle since January. Facebook banned all crypto-related advertising at the start of the year, claiming, “This policy is intentionally broad while we work to better detect deceptive and misleading advertising practices,” wrote Rob Leathern, one of Facebook’s ad tech directors. Google and Twitter were a bit slower in their moves to ban crypto ads. They made announcements in June and after Facebook made good on its promise to revamp its policies to include crypto and allow users to purchase only certain types of crypto-related ads.
Similar to crypto, cannabis companies have a complicated relationship with the major online platforms such as Google and Facebook. Today, under Section 5 (Drugs & Drug-Related Products) of its prohibited content, Facebook does not allow people to purchase ads related to cannabis. Facebook will actually go as far to shut down cannabis-related pages as well. Tangentially, you can bet that since Instagram is owned by Facebook, it has similar policies. In 2016, Vice reported that Instagram shut down two cannabis pages operated by Canadian companies.
With all this being said, cannabis and crypto are big, fast-growing industries that aren’t going anywhere. So teams have cleverly devised an array of customer acquisition techniques that are not as scalable as programmatic buys but are sometimes just as effective.
Influencer marketing is one of the most effective techniques that teams have navigated to. In discussing this topic with others, I’ve made the Wild West analogy a couple of times. It’s an ode to the American Frontier, but this is really where you can see the fringe economy taking advantage of opportunities to bypass regulations. Crypto and cannabis marketing teams have grown rapidly to support influencer programs and seem to be paying dividends. A recent query of “crypto influencers” on Google trends shows rapid internet interest in these topics, and similarly so for “cannabis influencers.” But the data does show volatility since everyone is still trying to figure these industries out.
From my work at Dovetale, I’ve personally seen a lot of cannabis and crypto companies navigate to these forms of distribution to fill ICO’s, capture interest in specific applications and much more. The hard part for many teams is hiring the appropriate relationship managers to coordinate these programs and keep a steady stream of conversation going.
In addition to influencer marketing, crypto and cannabis companies have prioritized advertising spend on vertical-specific publications and search engines. Many new publishers are popping up that solve the advertising problems these companies face, so they are simply buying ads from sites like High Times Magazine, Herb, CoinDesk and CCN. Search engines like Leafly, Weedmaps and CoinMarketCap are also great destinations to get attention due to their focused nature.
Naturally, you might be wondering where all of this goes? Clearly, platforms like Google and Facebook don’t like when users arbitrate their core business through influencer marketing. Furthermore, they probably really dislike companies breaching their terms of service. In the Wild West, there is no Johnny Law, but we all know how that story ended.
Cannabis companies are expected to increase their spend on influencer marketing, and one would imagine that crypto companies will follow suit. It may seem like companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are competing forces in the war on banned ads. However, there is an optimistic view. Today, there are scammers, uncertainty and regulations that live outside the realm of these tech companies that need to be figured out before we have proper regulation on the platforms. Once that is clearly communicated, we can programmatically build processes for influencer marketing. This is an ecosystem that is at its genesis in the grand scheme, and fringe industries that are blocked out will push the boundaries due to their entrepreneurial nature.