Strategy’s most read of 2018: Cannabis

The stories our readers were most interested in the lead-up to a brand new industry.


It’s that time of year, when strategy runs down the list of stories our readers were most interested in over the previous year as a way to look back at the trends that shaped the industry. Today, we are looking at the most-read cannabis stories from the last 12 months, as the marketing world prepared itself for the debut of a brand new industry. Once you’re done, read up on the most read stories from the Strategy Tech newsletter, and check back in the days ahead to see the rest of the news that turned heads in 2018.

Health Canada’s strict guidelines for cannabis packaging

Many licensed producers that had already developed meticulously designed packaging for their recreational products were likely disappointed in March, when Health Canada unveiled its rules around cannabis packaging. Developed in consultation with both the public and stakeholders in the industry, all products would be required to be in child-resistant packaging, with labels that devoted most of their space to information about the product and only a small spot for branding and logos. What LPs ended up developing within the strict guidelines weren’t as dull as the sample images provided by Health Canada, however, with many brands using things like the colour of the packaging and the position of logos to full advantage.

Oh Henry! makes the perfect snack for 4:25

It hasn’t just been growers and retailers looking to get in on the opportunities in cannabis. Hershey’s Oh Henry! brand released its limited edition 4:25 bar, taking an established brand positioning around satisfying hunger and bringing it to people who might be feeling the munchies. It was also an example of brands being a bit more direct about referencing use of a previously illegal substance, with the name referencing when cravings might hit – five minutes after 4:20 – and creative and activations drawing clear connections with cannabis culture.

San Rafael gets a head start

San Rafael 71 OOH Billboard 420_English

As the Cannabis Act made its way through revisions in the House and Senate, it meant cannabis advertising rules were left up in the air for much of 2018. That didn’t stop MedReleaf from getting the word out about its recreational brand, San Rafael ’71, back in February. Not only did cheeky ads referencing cannabis and cannabis culture appear, the LP struck a partnership with Amsterdam Brewery to created a limited edition craft beer – also called San Rafael ’71 – to give the LP an actual product to advertise to consumers, further driving awareness for the young brand.

Solei aims to demystify cannabis

Many licensed producers in Canada made their name in the medical cannabis space, motivating them to create entirely new brands that would appeal more to recreational consumers. Aphria was no exception, having first revealed its Solei brand in the spring. While Aphria would add several other brands to its portfolio as the year went on, Solei was an early example of a trend that would become very popular in the category: finding ways to guide inexperienced cannabis consumers through its product offering by focusing on occasions where it would best be consumed, or the way it would make a user feel, instead of things like strain names and THC levels.

An inside view of preparing for legalization

beigeman2The cover story of strategy’s summer issue was an inside look at how licensed producers had been preparing for legalization.

It covered things from the early consumer insights that were shaping decisions to the importance of CSR, and how to establish a brand’s values within tight regulations.

It also covered how LPs crafted strategies when rules and regulations were still subject to revision, which was a fitting subject, given that the initial legalization date of July 1 was pushed to Oct. 17 as the story was still being written.