Cannabis in Canada: Planning a wise communication strategy

Cannabis is just a few months away from being legal for recreational use in Canada which means companies and brands will soon have to consider how it might interact with their current line of products and services.

Would incorporating cannabis be perceived as a natural extension of your existing products, a SKU that customers would be pleased or grateful to access? Would it be seen as a secondary extension that consumers might be open to considering if the deal was sweet enough? Or, worst case scenario, would it be seen as offensive and cause customers to switch to a different brand?

Cannabis package test

A company working towards future success would be wise to have a better understanding of how their customers view a controversial product that is certain to be a high growth market – IF, they can properly build cannabis into their product line.

In 2012, nearly 50% of Canadian men and 36% of Canadian women aged 15 and over had used cannabis at some point in their lifetime (Statistics Canada). The rate was slightly higher for people aged 25 to 44 (~54%) and much lower for people aged 65 and older (~13%). This suggests that any products targeted for men aged 25 to 44 will be met with reasonable levels of acceptance and communications with those consumers can focus on products and features. On the other hand, products targeted for older people might require more refined testing and strategizing to ensure the communications take into consideration their unique set of concerns.

Given that cannabis is technically only legal in Canada for medical use, it’s highly unlikely that all of these reported uses were strictly legal. They are, however, likely to be a highly reliable measure of people’s general openness and willingness to experiment with the drug at least to a limited degree.

About 12% of adult Canadians indicated that they had used cannabis in the past 12 months. This group of individuals is likely encouraged by the upcoming legal status of cannabis and is much more likely to be open to trying any Cannabis products or services that meet their needs and desires. Communications with these people can likely focus more on product differentiation rather than giving them reasons to consider trying the product.

Though many people are more familiar with cannabis as simply a recreational drug or as a pain reliever, researchers are taking the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other uses of the drug. In fact, as reported by Van der Pop just a few months ago, 60% of women across North American are interested to learn whether cannabis might have skin care benefits, while others are also interested to learn whether it can enhance their sex lives. The willingness to experiment continues to grow.

As more countries around the world legalize the recreational use of cannabis, health benefits may be accidentally discovered. Some research has already suggested that it may help reduce the eye pressure of Glaucoma, control epileptic seizures, decrease anxiety, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and alleviate or improve the symptoms of variety of other ailments. Other researchers are less certain that there are any health benefits to using cannabis. In fact, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse suggests that cannabis has many negative impacts, particularly in terms of mental and physical health, cognitive functioning, and the development of children born to those who use cannabis.

With potential health risks (and benefits) in mind, any brands willing to brave this new Canadian world must also be prepared to deal with any adverse outcomes that may arise. Both known and unknown. Is your brand ready to take that risk, particularly for outcomes that may not be known for five or ten years to come?

If you’re ready to learn how consumers might view your brand in terms of a potential expansion into Cannabis, we’d love to help you with your next project. Whether you need focus groups to mull over ideas or individual interviews to dig deep into personal perceptions, we can help you recruit the right people and generate a successful outcome. Please get in touch with us!

 

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