A recent poll of 3,000 Canadians showed that cannabis brand awareness in the Great White North is low, resulting in confused consumers suffering from decision fatigue. The survey was conducted by Brightfield Group, a cannabis data collection firm based in Chicago.
The study found that 2 of every 5 respondents were familiar with Tweed — one of the leading brands in Canada produced by Canopy Growth — with a number of other brands like Aurora and Tokyo Smoke quickly trailing off into relative obscurity. The research showed that consumers have been left to make choices based on price and THC as opposed to brand recognition and reviews.
“The studies, reports, and evidence that is out there points to [low brand recognition],” said Matt Maurer, Co-Chair of the Cannabis Law Group at Torkin Manes, in an interview with Green Flower. “Talking to people that I know personally, they would probably tend to agree with that. [They are] struggling to identify with a particular strain, or brand, or trying to navigate themselves around what products they want to buy.”
Maurer does believe that consumer ignorance around specific brands and strains could certainly be a result of the strict regulations imposed by Health Canada, but also due to the simple fact that the legal cannabis industry is still in its infancy. “In any industry that’s brand new, there’s some time to get up to speed on brand recognition. But even if you’re going to put some of the fault on that, the heavier restrictions on the promotion, packaging, and labeling is certainly not helping and probably a significant contributing factor,” he said.
Further to this point, Maurer discussed the California market as an example of far fewer restrictions in its cannabis branding and advertising regulations. “They’ve certainly been at it longer than we have, and their marketing, promotion, labeling, and packaging is much less restrictive,” he said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when you promote and have advertisements, people associate with brands and become loyal to brands.”
Despite the seemingly dismal numbers for cannabis brand knowledge among consumers in Canada, there is still hope and expectation that looser marketing regulations will happen sooner or later. “[The Canadian government] said early on it’s easier and better for them to start more restrictive and loosen as time goes on and they see things are okay.” Maurer added that there is an incentive for restrictions on items such as marketing to relax slightly because the legal market is still trying to stamp out the black market.
“We’ve got the three pillars of policy objectives when it comes to legalization, which is public health and safety, protecting youth, and eliminating the illicit market. Restrictive packaging regulations arguably helps protect youth, it arguably helps protect public health and safety, but it certainly does nothing to combat the illicit market.”