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Why marketers should be thinking about cannabis even if they’re not selling it

young man eating chocolate bar
Written by
Anne Stubbert

Anne Stubbert

It seems that every day we’re hearing of new cannabis companies launching, using bigger and splashier stunts. Why so many so soon before legalization? Because the whole game changes as soon as October 17 hits and regulation for marketing will become stringent. But as for right now, we’re in the cannabis marketing wild west. But that regulation overwhelmingly applies to those operating within the cannabis space.

What only a handful have caught on to, is that there are a lot more options available for companies that don’t sell or distribute cannabis. So the only challenge, really, is whether or not you can find your own cannabis angle. And the beauty is that if you find that angle, you won’t have to pull the plug on legalization day.

Take Oh! Henry’s 4:25 bar for example. Hershey decided to create a bar “specifically formulated for the intense hunger that hits 5 minutes after 4:20” – nudge, nudge, wink, wink. While this product isn’t infused or made with cannabis (a reminder while recreational cannabis will be legal come October 17, edibles will not be), it certainly is inspired by it. It also hasn’t included any cannabis leaf imagery which was likely intentional, given Quebec's recent announcement banning sales of products featuring cannabis imagery (you can read the full bill here).

The product launched with a pop-up in Toronto’s Kensington Market, which Jackson Hitchon, senior director of marketing at The Hershey Company, said to Strategy Online, “helped us really understand the right tone and messaging and ensure we were going into the right space with Canadians.”

Oh! Henry 4:25 candy bar

Hitchon continues, “It wasn’t about piggybacking on legalization or forcing ourselves into this culture. It was an organic idea that came from our strategy and insights. In brainstorming about what’s important and getting into the insights about younger consumers, we realized there was a real unmet need that happened five minutes after 4:20 quite frequently. We recognized an opportunity to own that space and be relevant with these consumers.”

It's becoming increasingly clear that whether you think your industry is impacted by the legalization of recreational cannabis or not – odds are you are. As communicators and marketers, it’s our jobs to think as creatively as we can given the challenging regulations in place. Our other job is to be a close friend with the legal team to ensure our creative ideas still play by the rules!

If you want to figure out how you can embrace cannabis legalization so you can come out on top, reach out to our cannabis or content marketing team for help in finding your angle.

——— Anne Stubbert is a former Manager, Digital Strategy at NATIONAL Public Relations