Written by Donna Hui on February 27, 2018
in Advertising, Brand Strategy, Creative, Customer Experience, Digital Marketing, Strategic Marketing

With so much buzz around the recreational cannabis market in Canada, we wanted to better understand what Canadians think about their weed…their perceptions and behaviour. Thanks to all who participated in the survey!

Here’s a snapshot of what we have learned:

  1. Friends are ultimately the ‘dealer’ or source for the consumer
    • The majority of individuals (59%) are getting cannabis from friends while dispensaries are becoming a popular choice (35%). This is not to say that all friends are professional dealers, but there’s probably a few within the network of friends that are the go-to source.
  1. Canadians are looking for convenience
    • What are the top reasons individuals like their current method of obtaining cannabis? It’s easy to get (63%), they know who they’re buying it from (59%) and there’s confidence in the quality (50%). Not surprisingly, there seems to be a great deal of trust and reputation built on the relationship with the existing friend or dealer.
  2. Consumers rely on others to help them choose (there are way too many choices!)
    • Aside from price, the critical factors in brand selection are: peer recommendations (86%), product reviews (82%) and budtender recommendations (64%).

So what does this all mean when prohibition is finally lifted in Canada?

For the consumer who has never set foot inside a dispensary, their first experience will be like a kid in a candy store. There’s so much choice. But there’s also plenty to learn. That brand and product education has to come from somewhere – not just from the retail menu and conversation with the budtenders, or even from Google.

It’s going to be tough job for the marketer.

For the licensed producers and their marketing partners, the cannabis landscape will be a crowded one. The big challenge will ultimately be how to differentiate and showcase their new brand. In Ontario, there will be 40 stores set up by 2018, and double that in 2019, all catering to cannabis clientele. And each store will be offering dozens of potential brands, and even more products.

Some leading examples of brands to watch? Tokyo Smoke, the popular coffee shop, has gotten a head start and has integrated themselves into the community. Their hipster, urban-centric brand offers everything from yoga classes to education on the various strains. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Eaze has been called out as the ‘Uber’ of marijuana, providing an ease, convenience and customer experience that treats the cannabis user like a King or Queen.

So come summertime, when recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, it will be critical for brands to build a distinct, differentiated position in the market. And to truly be successful, a brand needs to establish a new relationship with consumers to take the place of the ‘trusted friend/dealer’ while competing with multitudes of other cannabis brands popping up to do the same.

Got questions about the cannabis market and/or how to launch a brand? Contact Dave Stevenson (Creative Director) at dstevenson@ariad.ca or Donna Hui (Sr Account Director) at dhui@ariad.ca

Ariad Health Survey taken from February 22 to 23rd of 130 total responders.

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