Tokyo Smoke makes its accessories part of your cannabis routine

New educational videos go beyond the plant to answer consumer demand for guidance in figuring out their consumption preferences.
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Education is a pillar of cannabis marketing, but Tokyo Smoke is going beyond THC levels and use cases to help Canadians discover how they might want to actually consume it.

A series of videos on the brand’s online hub focus on the benefits of products like its Heirloom Stack pipe or joint-rolling multi-tool, as well as how to use them. All of the videos take a vintage creative approach, using retro aesthetics and educational video tropes to be both stylish and, at times, humourous.

“Education has this weird, negative association,” says Josh Lyon, VP of marketing for Tokyo Smoke. “It’s boring and dry and you’re being talked down to. Education doesn’t have to be like that, though. These videos were a way to showcase that education could be interesting… and something you want to participate in.”

Many of the marketing efforts by cannabis brands in the lead-up to and in the early days of legalization were heavily focused on education, giving consumers in a new product category information about things like the difference between indica and sativa, different THC levels and potential use cases. Lyon says that will continue to be a resource that Tokyo Smoke offers. However, he says that as consumers have become more comfortable with the plant itself, their questions have shifted towards other products as they look to figure out their routine and consumption preferences.

“We wanted to fill out our educational roster of information,” Lyon says. “People still ask a ton of questions about the plant, but as they are curating and deciding on their own routine, questions have moved a bit more towards helping them build out the other products they use, whether it’s products they purchase for their home or helping them decide if they are joint rollers, or how they store their cannabis. For us, it came from listening to the questions coming in, ensuring the ’101′ is still there, but also answering some of the new questions that have started to arise.”

Focusing on accessories is also a fit with the Tokyo Smoke brand, which was one of the first to take a “premium” approach to the category by focusing on high-end, design-focused accessories prior to legalization. Lyon says that while legalization has opened up possibilities for being more detailed about how to use its products and when to use them, engaging people with accessories help put the Tokyo Smoke brand at the centre of conversations Canadians might be having about cannabis.

“There’s a lot of regulation, so you somewhat rely on consumers to help amplify your brand and spread the message,” Lyon says. “Our accessories were designed so people felt good about leaving them out because they look nice. When you have something that looks good when it’s out, it’s also a conversation piece. We’re not only creating beautiful things, but things that are what gets people talking about cannabis out in the open.”

Per marketing regulations in the Cannabis Act, any promotional material related to cannabis or cannabis brands can only be shown in areas accessible to people above the legal age of consumption. To that end, the videos will appear on Tokyo Smoke’s age-gated website, as well as during the pre-show in Cineplex VIP theatres, which are only accessible to those of legal age. Lyon says the brand is also exploring the possibility of showing the videos in its cannabis retail locations, as well as deterministic digital ad targeting that could drive people above the legal age to its website, though it isn’t using those methods yet.

“If I had to make an educated hypothesis, I would say for the majority of Canadians, brands don’t yet have have clear pillars that consumers can identify,” Lyon says. “There might be some name recognition, but they aren’t recognizing what a brand stands for or their values. That’s the next step. When you’re dealing in an industry where consumers, for the most part, are uncertain about their purchases and how to integrate them into their lives, they need to trust us to provide products, formats and experiences they are looking for.”

The videos were developed by Berkeley Poole, VP of creative for Tokyo Smoke Brands, and made by Common Good.

Tokyo Smoke currently operates four cannabis retail locations in Manitoba, as well as a licensed third-party store in downtown Toronto. Another licensed store is set to open under the Tokyo Smoke banner soon in Oshawa, after it was revealed this week it had reached a deal with another of Ontario’s cannabis retail license holders.