Cannabis goes classic

Some producers have been breaking convention to connect with "legacy" consumers. But others believe the best way to segment is not by experience with weed, but by product preference.
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This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of strategy.

In the spring, Tweed began promoting cannabis flower strains with names that so-called “legacy” consumers who previously used the illicit market (or those that still do) would recognize, including Afghan Kush, Skunk Haze and UK Cheese.

All of Tweed’s dried flower is now being sold under the name of its strain (no longer using monikers like Penelope, Houndstooth and Argyle), with an accompanying campaign in social and retail letting consumers know that Tweed has the “classic” strains they love.

It’s a big break in convention for recreational cannabis producers, nearly all of which refer to strains by a name they came up with. Part of the reason producers did that was so that they could create an ownable asset, driving consumer loyalty that has been hard to come by in the cannabis industry. For some brands, the name is also an educational tool, suggesting a usage occasion or desired effect to a consumer who’s new to the product.

Kelly Olsen, VP of the global flower business at parent company Canopy Growth, says “education is good for everyone, but we are [now] going to tie effects and occasions more directly to the flower itself.”

Tweed certainly wouldn’t be alone in shifting some of the focus from educating first-time cannabis buyers – the target most producers spoke to at legalization – to building connections to legacy buyers, an under-served segment that tends to over-index on interest in dried flower.

In March, a Flowr campaign told consumers they no longer had to keep cannabis stashed away in drawers or hidden in books. Hexo recently relaunched its UP brand with a campaign that responded directly to aficionados who would leave reviews on cannabis websites – many of which were not very flattering towards legal weed.

Olsen says “classic” strain names have some appeal to a legacy consumer, however price is still the biggest driver in converting consumers from the illicit market (which Tweed and other producers have witnessed with the rise in new value brands over the last year). She says that Tweed’s renaming strategy will mostly help eliminate the confusion the industry’s naming convention has caused.

“The importance of genetics has become way more evident lately for all flower customers,” she says, something that correlates more with product preference than experience level. “The flower consumer wants to know the lineage of the product. Simply putting it on the product directly speaks to what the consumer is after in a channel they still find confusing.”