There are dozens of new products and brands being launched every month in the Canadian cannabis space. Each of these product launches requires a few key creative assets to effectively communicate with consumers and list with provincial boards.

This article will take you through a step-by-step guide to launching a cannabis product campaign in Canada. Examples and explanations for each step and piece of creative will be provided.

Step #1: Consumer Insight

Cannabis Product Consumer Insight

The first step to launching a product in any CPG category is to understand your target consumer. Who are they? What do they do? What do they think? What other brands do they buy? It is important to go past simple demographics and deeply understand the psychographics of your target. When ideating on a new product, it can be valuable to identify truths about your target consumer that your competition hasn’t fully appreciated. This key insight should then act as a springboard for your product formulation and marketing materials. 

One example of a potential insight is “my target consumer wants to buy mid-tier cannabis at an affordable price in convenient formats because they are busy people”. Your entire brand messaging and imagery can then be built around the value proposition of convenience and accessibility. Extensive consumer market research is required before launching any successful product.

Step #2: Product Idea

Cannabis Product Idea

Before launching anything into the market, it is important to clearly define your product idea and value proposition. You need to consider logistical concerns including financial, supply, and operational realities. Work with cross-functional teams to understand packaging and storage options. Decide and discover what the product will look, smell and taste like, what effect it will produce, what price tier it will be placed in, etc. and use these pillars in your marketing strategy and creative assets.

Step #3: Marketing Strategy

Cannabis Product Marketing Strategy

Before you move on to creating the visual and physical assets, first create a clear and concise holistic marketing strategy. What is your product? Who is it for? What is its selling proposition? What are the key reasons that support the selling proposition? Answering these fundamental questions will help you create the foundation for all of the future marketing communications, naming, and design.

Step #4: Product Concept

Cannabis Product Concept

After your initial brainstorming and decision-making process is complete, it is time to put your product concept down on paper. To get buy-in from internal stakeholders and your target, create a pre-production rendering and description of your product that can be shared. This concept, which can be presented as a Powerpoint or other digital presentation, should represent the culmination of the best of your brainstorming.

Step #5: Product Name

Cannabis Product Name

Just like any other CPG category, the name of a cannabis product is incredibly important. We recently published an extensive guide on how to name a dried flower cannabis product. 

Some keys points are:

  • You must decide if you want to use the genetic name (i.e. Sour Diesel) or a new name that can be owned (usually intent-based such as “Dream” or “Rise”). 
  • Do not infringe on another brand’s intellectual property and do not violate Health Canada’s marketing regulations (nothing that appeals to children, no celebrity names, etc) 
  • Is in line with, and ideally perfectly encapsulates, the product’s value proposition. Examples: If the product tastes like strawberries, consider calling it “Strawberry Fire”. If your product is a high THC, high linalool Indica-dominant strain marketed at cannabis newcomers, consider calling it “Rest” or “Relaxation”.

Step #6: Product Description

Cannabis Product Description

Product descriptions are essential for both marketing purposes and for provincial board listings. 

Create one description for the provincial boards and one for marketing communications. For the board version, simply deliver the facts (aroma, taste, potency) in a way that presents your product in a positive light. For marketing purposes, create a description that takes more creative liberties while still remaining compliant. For the marketing description, try to communicate the important aspects of your product and why a consumer would enjoy purchasing and consuming it. It is helpful to create short and long versions of each of these descriptions (~150 characters and ~500 characters).

Step #7: Label Artwork

Cannabis Product Label Artwork

Health Canada-compliant label artwork must be created for the product and to submit to provincial boards. This will depend on the type of packaging and product you decide upon. Account for appropriate variable printing fields such as potency, lot number, date, etc.

Step #8: Product Photos and Renders

Cannabis Product Photos and Renders

You will need two types of images taken and rendered, one for provincial board listings and one for marketing communications. 

The board listings have some very specific requirements that vary by province. Most boards require production labels on white or transparent backgrounds and each province has different specific sizing requirements.

For marketing purposes – it is valuable to prepare photorealistic 3D renders with simplified label art that still resembles the actual compliant packaging. These renders can be used in a variety of graphics for a variety of purposes (digital and physical marketing).

Step #9: The Product Card

Cannabis Product Card

The product card is essential for retail shopper marketing and for your website. These cards are frequently displayed inside of cannabis retail stores to help educate consumers. This card should include a combination of all of the relevant factual information such as terpenes and cannabinoids and marketing consumer-facing messaging about why your product is so great. Most brands and products will want to include info on aroma/taste, visual appeal, lineage, and/or intended effect (within regulations). Be sure to include all of the benefits of your product and give reasons for your potential customer to believe in these benefits. 

Design this creative asset so that it works as both a small-format printable handout and as a website product page. These assets should be easily repurposable for other digital initiatives including social media and email marketing.

Step #10: The Product Poster

Cannabis Product Poster

The product poster is similar to the product card but is more visually-focused with less text and more images. This “poster” should include your flagship visuals and messaging about your product. 

We recommend developing both static and motion graphic versions that are “media-agnostic” so they can be easily shared across all communication channels. These product posters are perfect for social media, email marketing, and larger in-store installations.

Launching Your Next Cannabis Product

This article was authored by Colin Bambury (founder of ADCANN) in collaboration with Matt Coulson, founder and chief consultant at Profound Cannabis Design and Marketing.

Matt Coulson is a communication professional that specializes in cannabis product marketing. Working both agency and client-side, Matt has led the creation of multiple successful cannabis brands and products including Tilray High Park’s disruptive value-portfolio “The Batch”, and VIVO Cannabis “Fireside”, “Lumina”, and “Beacon Medical” brands. Matt also led the development of several successful cannabis products including Canaca’s THC distillate vapes, Northern Dew, White Widow Haze, and The Batch’s Quints.

Profound is a virtually-based, contactless, creative services company aimed at helping Canadian cannabis innovation and marketing teams unlock sales and revenue growth with more inspired product innovation and more persuasive product marketing communication.

You can learn more about Profound and their services at www.profoundcannabisdesign.com and you can contact Matt at matt@profoundcannabisdesign.com.

Colin Bambury

Colin Bambury

Colin Bambury is the founder and head editor of ADCANN. With roots in the industry since 2016, Colin has lead marketing initiatives at some of the world’s largest cannabis media companies, retailers and producers. His work has been published in a variety of digital and print publications and he continues to be the primary content creator for ADCANN. Colin prides himself on breaking stories and exploring lesser-known, niche topics related to cannabis marketing.