Vivo takes a simple approach to premium cannabis

The producer formerly known as ABCann has built its Fireside brand around a natural link to the social ease of a campfire.

Licensed cannabis producer Vivo is hoping to make its premium brand a natural fit with the social needs of consumers.

Fireside Cannabis was officially launched earlier this month, complete with a new microsite, social push, presence at events like the Toronto Festival of Beer and a “brand essence” video that captures the kind of relaxed, social gatherings the brand is trying to enhance with its products. Vivo developed Fireside, as well as its other brands, with agency Virtue, which handled strategy, consumer research, design, social content and the website.

Vivo was previously known as ABCann, until the licensed producer announced its rebranding earlier this month. Sung Kang, the company’s CMO, says that besides consumer confusion around the previous name’s pronunciation or what the “AB” referred to, it also didn’t reflect any of the producer’s values or what it stood for.

“When we made that change, we thought of what we are about,” he says. “Regardless of whether customers are coming to us for recreational or medical, they are using cannabis to have an impact on their lives in some way, whether it’s for medical reasons or social reasons. So let’s have a name that reflects something around ‘life,’ which is the direct Latin translation of the name.”

The other benefit of “Vivo” is its simplicity, which is something that is baked into the Fireside brand. Instead of going with a range of products with different combinations of THC and CBD levels, Fireside is going to market with three: Fireside Black, Fireside Red and Fireside Gold, with Black having a high THC content, Red having medium content and Gold striking more of a balance between THC and CBD.

“Depending on which research you go by, there’s roughly four million people in Canada experienced with using the black market, but it’s not the case that all of them are experts in cannabis,” Kang says. “If you had a guy and he tells you he had a thing in his bag and how much he wants for it, you might not understand a word he is saying. And you might not care because it’s a price you like and you know how it makes you feel. There’s all these people walking around not knowing what strains are, and other producers are putting all this jargon on the page around that. We said, let’s take that off and create a brand that has a really simple way to navigate.”

During its consumer research, Vivo found there were three main “need states” for cannabis consumers. Two of these states were individual: managing symptoms like pain and calming the mind, which gave rise to its Beacon medical and Lumina Wellness recreational brands. But the third was more social, enjoying life with others and helping people who aren’t natural extroverts feel more calm and lower their inhibitions in gatherings and parties, which is where the concept for Fireside came about.

“Passing a joint around tends to be in a circle, and it happens at nighttime, just because most active social events happen at night,” Kang says. “That’s just like having a campfire. It’s just as mesmerizing and intimate. For some reason, the campfire is what everyone loves most about camping, and that’s when peoples’ guards come down and the best stories come out, and we saw a natural link between that and what cannabis can do in social settings.”

Many cannabis brands have focused their efforts on consumer education and helping them navigate what products are best suited to a given situation. But Kang says the approach with Fireside does away with some of the “airs and artifice” other recreational cannabis brands have still been imposing on would-be consumers.

“All the brands out there are made up,” Kang says. “We could have made up a brand name and made it really funky, but we’re trying to say there is a phenomenon around campfires which is already like what you want to do when you consume cannabis with your friends. That’s the only connection we’re going to draw for you. It’s not about the cannabis, it’s about the people you’re with and enhancing that.”

Kang says that, at the outset of legalization, it’s going to be a game of name recognition and consumers simply recognizing one brand over another when they go to buy cannabis. He admits that brands like Tweed, which have been putting large pushes behind getting their brands in front of consumers, will have a leg up in that regard. Not until regulations around edibles and extracts are opened up next year will brands really start to differentiate their product offerings, he adds. In the meantime, Vivo is attempting to create very clear and simple spaces for its brands to operate in.

“A lot of brands that have come out are, quite frankly, really silly,” he continues. “Some of them are obviously manufactured without any human insight. Some of them are okay, but they seem half-hearted or that you’re manufacturing ‘cool’ in some cases. We’re all making the same stuff, and we can talk about how different our buds are all we want, but at the end of the day, we’re selling the experience. I’m not trying to tell anyone that they should love us because we’re super cool, I’m saying they should love us because we understand the emotional state you want to get into when you’re with your friends.”