What’s in a Name? Canadians Ignoring Cannabis Branding, Survey Finds

Article by David George-Cosh, BNN Bloomberg

MARIJUANA 19h ago What's in a name? Canadians ignoring pot branding, survey finds By David George-Cosh

It’s been almost two years since Canada legalized cannabis and pot producers have spent millions of dollars marketing their wares in the hope that consumers would know their Tweeds from their Trailblazers.

Most of that money may have been completely wasted, according to a new survey that looks at how well Canadians can identify some of the brands available at legal pot shops across the country.

The survey, published by Brightfield Group, polled 3,000 Canadians in the first quarter of the year. It found that brand awareness remains low, which is confusing consumers and resulting in “decision fatigue.” Roughly two out of every five respondents said they were aware of Canopy Growth Corp.’s Tweed brand, while 17 different brands had less than 20 per cent name awareness.

It’s a scenario where consumers are often left to decide their purchases by price and not by brand name, packaging, or a review from a friend, Brightfield’s survey found.

“The cannabis market is still pretty nascent,” said Bethany Gomez, managing director of the Brightfield Group, in a phone interview. “Brands haven’t moved up the ladder from functional marketing to building a connection with consumers.”

Compared to alcohol and tobacco products, the legal cannabis market is still in its infancy. As a newly regulated product, cannabis brands need to abide by strict rules that limit how they are designed and named, a decision the government made to curtail youth consumption.

Producers also have to contend with a still-thriving illicit market, which doesn’t abide by government restrictions and brazenly markets their products without any warning logos or labeling. Additional restrictions include limits on marketing cannabis products online and inside retailers. Consumers also have to contend with a confusing list of cannabis strain names that are often different than what they were familiar with before legalization.

“My managers tell me all the time that the number one question we get asked is: ‘What is your highest THC product?’ not ‘What brand is it?’ That’s what moves first,” said Michael Serruya, who runs Serruya Private Equity Inc. and owns six stores in the Toronto area.

Despite their best efforts, the survey shows that Canadian pot producers haven’t spent those marketing dollars wisely. That’s caused some major companies to revisit their marketing plans.

Last month, Aphria Inc. laid off its chief marketing officer amid a recent push to restructure its brand portfolio. In an investor presentation earlier this month. Canopy Growth outlined its plan to reduce the total number of items it sells to help avoid consumer confusion, while showing a glimpse of new market research the company will use to better target its products to customers.

“We previously built a strategy where we were first to market. We’re now trying to deliver consumer expectations,” said David Klein, Canopy’s chief executive officer, in a phone interview.

With nearly two years of sales under their belts, major cannabis producers now have to fight for shelf space with smaller, more agile players who have waited on the sidelines and avoided some of the early mistakes seen during the first days of legalization, Brightfield’s Gomez said.

Read the full article here.

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