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How S.H.A.F.T. Brands Can (Compliantly) Send SMS
SMS Marketing 101

How S.H.A.F.T. Brands Can (Compliantly) Send SMS

The key to compliantly sending SMS messages for S.H.A.F.T. brands is to use proper age and geography gating. The goal of age and geography gating is to prevent anyone underage or in an area with different laws from receiving messages about illegal products.

July 27, 2022

We’ve covered the truth about SMS for S.H.A.F.T. brands on the Voyage blog in the past, but it’s still a question we see frequently. So we wanted to dive into the details a bit more.

We’ll get the most important things out of the way first: 

  • S.H.A.F.T. is an abbreviation for Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco. 
  • S.H.A.F.T. brands selling federally illegal items such as cannabis are NOT allowed to send SMS. 
  • Any entities designated as promoting Hate are always prohibited from sending SMS.
  • Any content that has, or promotes adult or sexual content, alcohol, firearms, ammunition/firearms accessories, or tobacco can use SMS. However, companies need to create an age gate that includes a birthdate to ensure that the users who receive and view the message meet the age requirements. 
  • If your brand falls into a S.H.A.F.T. category, Voyage can help you compliantly run your SMS channel with proper age-gating and content guidelines. And for brands that don’t fall into this category but are in a gray zone, like cannabis vaporizers, Voyage can help.

Now that we’ve got the high-level overview out of the way, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. 

Marketing Challenges as a S.H.A.F.T. Brand 

Unfortunately, as a S.H.A.F.T. brand, your marketing team is probably used to dealing with regulations and/or ban. You may already know X, formerly known as Twitter, has an age screening that requires users to provide their date of birth in order to follow an alcohol brand. TikTok has a list of prohibited industries for branded content which includes sexual products and services, alcohol, cigarettes/tobacco products, and weapons, and so on. 

It doesn’t just stop at social platforms. Most popular SMS platforms have a blanket ban on working with all S.H.A.F.T. brands, which cuts off S.H.A.F.T. brands further from marketing opportunities.

Voyage believes that many S.H.A.F.T. brands should have the tools and resources to compliantly send SMS messages to their customers. It's a win-win for both the customer and the brand, mitigating any sketchy practices or illegal activity. We believe that great marketers like yourself, even in a less conventional industry, can take advantage of SMS and see incredible results. 

S.H.A.F.T. Regulations for SMS

All brands using SMS to communicate with customers and shoppers need to stay compliant, but S.H.A.F.T. brands have extra complications. The CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) is a trade association for wireless carriers and mobile operators. Although not a government organization, telemarketers must abide by CTIA regulations to avoid issues with carriers. 

In North America, the CTIA's S.H.A.F.T. regulations cover prohibited SMS content, categorizing content based on moral and legal issues. S.H.A.F.T. regulations also restrict any message that includes depictions of violence, profanity, hate, or discriminatory speech.

Companies need to make sure that the users who see and receive the messages meet age requirements. Some companies use several layers of gatekeeping to cover sensitive content (e.g., geographical location) to ensure that the content meets both local laws and federal communication guidelines.

The FCC requires mobile carriers to be responsible gatekeepers and distributors of text message content and requires text message opt-in language in all messages. Every mobile carrier may have its own guidelines, but it is always best to follow what the FCC has outlined to prevent penalties.  

💡Check out more info on SMS compliance for FCC, TCPA, and CTIA regulations here. 

S.H.A.F.T. SMS No-Gos 

There are a few areas of S.H.A.F.T. that are just a “no” when it comes to SMS. The first one is hate. The goal of SMS marketing is to connect with your audience and spread delight, so this should be an easy one to avoid. 

Another SMS no-go is cannabis. According to Twilio’s messaging policy, even though some states have legalized it, messages related to cannabis are not allowed in the United States as federal laws prohibit its sale. Twilio defines a cannabis message as any message which relates to the marketing or sale of a cannabis product, regardless of whether or not those messages explicitly contain cannabis terms, images, or links to cannabis websites. This enforcement includes CBD. Although cannabis isn’t allowed for SMS, cannabis-adjacent brands can still use SMS marketing. 

For example, a cannabis vaporizer brand can still use SMS for marketing because they are not directly selling cannabis. These “gray zone” brands still need to be cautious of S.H.A.F.T. regulations in their marketing language. Continuing with the cannabis vaporizer example, they would want to avoid using words like weed, cannabis, kush, mary jane, etc. But who doesn’t like a bit of a challenge, right? With a little copywriting magic, you are set up for success with SMS. 

Other prohibited content includes prescription medication that can not be purchased over-the-counter, fraudulent messages, and malicious content. If your brand doesn’t fall into one of the categories we listed in this section, you should be able to use SMS marketing with no problem. 

How to Age and Geography Gate SMS for S.H.A.F.T. Brands 

The key to compliantly sending SMS messages for S.H.A.F.T. brands is to use proper age and geography gating. The goal of age and geography gating is to prevent anyone underage or in an area with different laws from receiving messages about illegal products. 

Voyage’s custom opt-in modals and welcome messages make it easy to gate SMS subscribers. 

How to Age and Geography Gate Modals 

A Modal is a pop-up window that asks customers for their email and/or phone number to opt-in to marketing communications. It is common practice for e-commerce brands to have a welcome Modal on their website for new visitors, including a discount or special offer to incentivize them to subscribe to a marketing list. 

Similar to age-gating a website, S.H.A.F.T. brands can add an age verification on the modal only allowing the customer to subscribe if they meet the age requirement. 

For geography, it would be the same process but asking customers for their zip code or state. 

How to Use Age and Geography Gates In Welcome Texts 

For welcome series messages, S.H.A.F.T. brands will want to ask subscribers to respond to the welcome text with their birthday. A welcome SMS could read along the lines of “reply with your birthday (MM/DD/YYYY) to verify your age and get exclusive offers and hear about future secret sales."

Again, verifying geography would be the same process, but instead asking customers for their zip code or state. 

SMS for S.H.A.F.T. Brands

SMS marketing for many S.H.A.F.T. brands is possible with the right SMS platform. At Voyage, we have built our platform to be flexible, compliant, and rapidly innovative to make sure all our customers have the tools to succeed. 

Schedule a demo today to learn how Voyage can make SMS easy for your brand.

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