Article by David George-Cosh, BNN Bloomberg
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.