Digital marketing in cannabis can be a headache. Between restrictions on traditional avenues such as Google Adwords and a lack of support from popular platforms like Instagram and Facebook resulting in many brands finding their accounts deleted, both plant-touching and ancillary businesses are finding more creative avenues to reach their target audiences.
Some are exploring the viral video service TikTok with moderate success, as long as they tread lightly when it comes to consumption. Others are leaning into more cannabis-friendly social media networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter. But there’s another unlikely company quietly gaining traction and delivering results.
Cameo, a video-sharing platform connecting people to their favorite actors, singers, athletes, and influencers, is quickly becoming a popular digital marketing tool for companies hoping to cash in on established fan bases. In fact, that’s precisely the Cameo for Business pitch: “Unlock the power of celebrity for high-performing creative solutions.”
For those unfamiliar with the service, Cameo allows users to request personalized videos from a diverse selection of established talent. Stars set their base rates — which can vary greatly — with added options like live video calls to entice potential customers. The service is extremely popular, achieving over $100 million in sales in 2020 while offering celebrities a simple and lucrative way to engage with their fans.
With over 45,000 celebs to leverage, Cameo For Business features a wide selection of names and varying degrees of clout. The platform offers services beyond just personalized videos, including events and cross-channel marketing where stars post on their own feeds. Almost size budget can be accommodated, with some creators charging a few hundred dollars for a short video. More high-profile celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner command tens of thousands.
While most people wouldn’t associate Cameo with digital marketing, especially in cannabis, it could soon take off thanks to an experimental approach that paid off in a surprising yet welcome way.
Celebrity “endorsement” brings big business
Multi-state operator Columbia Care recently announced it had achieved immense ROI after engaging with the platform, with homemade videos from celebrities including “The Office” star Kate Flannery and rapper Ice-T driving nearly $2 million in sales and 40,000 dispensary visits.
The numbers were indeed impressive and likely to raise many an eyebrow in an industry frustrated by the myriad of challenges working with other platforms.
A collaboration with canna-tech company Fyllo, the campaign targeted canna-curious consumers who were encouraged by stars to drop into dispensaries based on their locations. They were also invited to download an app that made personalized product recommendations available at select retail locations.
“We didn’t put crazy expectations on it, but it over-delivered,” Jesse Channon, chief growth officer at Columbia Care, said in an interview with Adweek. “And one of the keys to success was the diversity of talent that helped us show the dispensary as a welcoming, not an intimidating, experience.”
The unexpected success of the Cameo campaign will likely lead to more partnerships, according to Fyllo’s leadership. It’s almost guaranteed other cannabis companies will follow suit as the other major media platforms continue to censor their content.
It’s important to note that this specific campaign was the result of immense strategic and marketing savvy, something social media strategist and publicist Alice Moon believes is worth its weight in gold.
“I think that it’s important for brands to realize that it does require experts to be able to grow on these platforms — social media isn’t done by the intern,” she said. “They should definitely be investing money into social media because it’s so important for brand awareness.”
Is Cameo the next cannabis advertising platform?
The Columbia Care/Cameo collaboration is an interesting case study on the power of the platform as an alternative sales channel, but it’s too soon to tell if the video platform is going to become a leader in cannabis influencer marketing. Aside from the obvious ROI, the company’s seemingly cannabis-friendly attitude is certain to attract many a brand and content creator.
The censorship many of these accounts face has been beyond frustrating, especially for compliant companies operating in fully legal states. Even TikTok, which some believe is a better alternative to Instagram, has been facing scrutiny for its hardline stance on cannabis content. TikTok officially bans the “promotion, sale, solicitation of, or facilitation of access to illegal drugs, controlled drugs, prescriptive drugs, drugs for the purpose of recreation, homeopathy, enhancement, performance, including weight loss.”
“I found TikTok to be way worse than IG in terms of censorship — it’s literally absurd,” lamented Lindsay MaHarry, a cannabis writer and educator who hosts a popular Instagram review show called Hot Tokes. “I’m actually in the process of moving my show to YouTube and a newsletter because of this very reason.”
Companies that decide to engage with Cameo should look to stars that model their brand values and personify their target customer. Deciding how to get the content distributed is also key; a celebrity sharing a video on their feed may earn a boost in engagement but the results may not last. Intention and a longer-term plan will help ensure brands make the most of their celebrity endorsement.
“This application could go far beyond social media utilization as we now see brands taking advantage of the content and using it in other channels,” said Shayda Torabi, who has considered using Cameo to help promote her CBD business RESTART and popular To Be Blunt podcast. “It looks like it’s going to be a driving trend!”