Cannabis branding: Marketing an industry from the ground up
Later this year Canadians will be able to legally use cannabis recreationally for the first time in almost a century, creating an unprecedented opportunity for businesses. But, with many companies entering this fledgling market, cannabis branding will be key to grabbing the attention of consumers. Lucy Ingham finds out more.
One such company taking on the challenges of cannabis branding is Canadian cannabis company CannTrust. However, in recognition of wide variation in consumer knowledge, interests and uses, CannTrust has created not one brand, but three.
“On October 17th, Canadians of the legal age will have the opportunity to legally enter the brand new cannabis market,” says Kayla Rochkin, brand manager for CannTrust.
“Consumers, however, have different tastes and will be looking for different things from their cannabis experiences, so we have created three distinct brands – liiv, Synr.g and Xscape – to meet different needs.”
The importance of cannabis branding
While many may assume there is no major difference between one cannabis product or another, CannTrust sees cannabis branding as vital to its success.
“It’s just as important in this sector as it is in any other,” says Rochkin.
“It’s crucially important to establish a clear sense of our brands with consumers – what they represent in terms of quality and consistency, and what they deliver in terms of flavour and experience.
“That’s our focus from now to October 17th and beyond – we want Canadian consumers to think of our brands first.”
Taking inspiration from consumer branding
The Canadian cannabis industry is in the relatively unparalleled position of creating – and branding – a whole new category of consumer goods. However, while the situation is somewhat unique, there are significant lessons to be learned from other consumer products.
“Just as there are a range of choices available to consumers of alcohol, or snack foods or breakfast cereals, the same holds true when it comes to cannabis: we want to give people a range of choices, and we’re working hard to help them understand what each of our brands and strains offers,” says Rochkin.
As part of its branding efforts, CannTrust hired experts from a range of related industries, including traditional consumer packed goods and alcohol.
“We leveraged their deep knowledge in their fields to build our brands,” explains Rochkin.
Cannabis branding for the entire market
CannTrust’s three brands are targeted at three different consumer segments, allowing the company to appeal to a diverse range of customers.
“Cannabis is not a one-size-fits-all product. People have different tastes, different preferences and they want choices for different experiences and occasions,” she says.
“Our brands each target a different adult consumer, including the frequent user who looks to cannabis to enhance everyday activities, the social smoker and first-time or curious users.”
liiv, for example, is targeted at the experienced user who enjoys cannabis as part of day-to-day activities.
“We selected strains that are popular with this knowledgeable consumer to help them make the most out of their day. This brand comes in both dried flower and pre-rolled joints, as well as oils and capsules,” says Rochkin.
Synr.g, by contrast, is for social users, and is available both as pre-rolled joints and dried flowers.
“The Synr.g collection was curated for social occasions and consumers who are passionate about taste and aroma. Whether it’s date night, a dinner party or something else entirely, the Synr.g strains have been crafted to enrich every gathering,” she adds.
Finally, Xscape is designed for occasion-specific use, making it more appealing to less experienced users.
“The Xscape brand is perfect for occasion-based users with strains curated to make the most out of every moment. We make it simple for people to navigate the cannabis category,” she says.
Tapping into experiences
Xscape in particular taps into a wider trend in brand marketing, particularly among brands focused on millennials: the idea that experiences and the memories they create are more important than long-lasting possessions.
“We know that consumers look to pair cannabis products with certain occasions, from spending time with friends to being out in nature,” says Rochkin.
“Xscape is all about simplifying the decision making so consumers know exactly what strain to choose for some of their most common occasions.
“Flix n Chill is a great example of how we make the choice really easy. The name says it all in terms of the kind of occasion it’s best for, even if you’re not experienced with cannabis.”
The moment of truth
Whether CannTrust’s efforts prove to be successful will ultimately be seen when cannabis becomes legal. However, it’s clear the company needs to keep working to appeal to its user groups beyond the date of launch.
“We feel unbelievably lucky to be a part of building this industry from the ground up. It’s pretty unique to be branding and marketing a product which, until October 17th, remains illegal!” says Rochkin.
“We are working hard to share our brands, liiv, Xscape and Synr.g, as well as educate consumers about cannabis in general.
“We’re going to continue to paint the picture for Canadians, to connect the experienced consumer with familiar reference points with respect to our brands and strains, as well as helping the newbies navigate the wide range of choices before them.”
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