It’s now been over a year since Canada made history becoming the largest federal jurisdiction on the planet to legalize cannabis consumption. This massive policy shift legitimized a Canadian industry estimated to be worth $5 billion by 2021, while it simultaneously launched strict promotional and packaging regulations.
On October 17th (the one-year anniversary of legalization) CPRS Vancouver brought members of the local PR community together for a behind-the-scenes look at marketing and branding strategies for cannabis and how BC entrepreneurs have been blazing trails in a high-constraint, industry.
There to lead the discussion were Co-Founder and CEO Barinder Rasode and CMO, Alex Troll of Grow Tech Labs - a company that is helping BC entrepreneurs enter the regulated market and bring true craft cannabis to Canadian consumers.
We’re in a unique situation, said Rasode. Cannabis is legal, but there hasn’t been enough education on the subject, leading to the risks being communicated instead of the benefits. People don’t understand the value, the wellness and medicinal components of the plant, which is why Canadians are very conservative in their approach.
The environment is uncertain and strategies need to be developed for effective marketing in the face of these promotional regulations. Currently, we don’t have the marketing tools to succeed in this industry, she added.
Troll further described the marketing challenges around cannabis.
Regulations have strictly laid out the things we can and can’t do as marketers, she said. To name a few, you can’t present any elements that glamorize cannabis, you can’t market or work with influencers outside of Canada, and you can’t provide health claims or testimonials.
These types of regulations force you to get creative, Troll added. Your ads can’t be about the product so they have to focus on your brand and your values.
Both Rasode and Troll spoke about how authenticity is essential for strong cannabis brands. You have to take the time to tell a story, be thought provoking and think outside of the box.