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Millennials tend to share their experiences on social media

Brands need to find ways to stand out in a restrictive advertising environment

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Marketers' one advantage right now is a captive audience

Cannabis companies are coming up with creative ways to target millennials, their most promising demographic, despite strict rules that limit how they can display brands and advertise to consumers.

From memorable brand names such as Tweed and Fireside, to appearances at gyms and events, and supporting social movements, marketers are aiming to promote their brands as an experience to this critical consumer group in their 20s and 30s.

Millennials aren’t just important as a massive demographic with more discretionary spending (given many don’t yet have kids and mortgages), they’re also big on spending money on experiences and sharing them on social media, which helps brands broaden their reach. Millennials also have the biggest long-term customer potential, given their age and stage in life.

“It’s a very attractive group and, obviously, if you’re a brand and can find a way to get millennials liking what you offer – they have decades ahead to be your consumer,” says marketing consultant Tony Chapman.

Millennials are also a very captive audience right now, a historical moment in Canadian history with the legalization of recreational cannabis, and are hungry to learn more about the different products on the market. The opportunity, and challenge, for brands is standing out given the advertising restrictions and plethora of cannabis products – from weed to oil and capsules – that hit the market last week. “Consumers aren’t just needing information, they’re starving for it,” says Mr. Chapman.

He recommends brands “fly fish” their target audience, whether it’s the gym rat looking to enhance his or her performance or the Netflix binge watcher wanting to chill out on the couch, through social media and events such as pop-up stores and festivals.

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An example is a recent spin class in downtown Vancouver where representatives from Tokyo Smoke dropped in to talk about their pop-up shop opening nearby and handed out free kombucha and brochures featuring “higher learning” about how to “cultivate the best cannabis experience.”

Mr. Chapman says targeting consumers through their personal interests is a key marketing strategy today, particularly when it comes to millennials, but the experience has to be captivating and authentic.

“Millennials are so demanding, they want everything to be as good as Amazon online, or Apple in retail. The way to go about that is to deliver a very granular, personalized experience,” Mr. Chapman says.

One example is Fireside, a Vivo Cannabis Inc. brand catering to millennials that, as the name suggests, is intended to stir up an image or feeling of sitting around a campfire with friends.

“It’s important for us to create that moment that millennials can relate to. That’s why we picked Fireside, a brand name that is very self-explanatory,” says Sherry Feng, director of marketing for adult-use brands at Vivo. “You get the sense of it even before we explain it.”

The Fireside recreational brand is for consumers looking to “enjoy the moment,” while its Beacon medical brand is for improving health and its Lumina brand is marketed as a way to “calm the mind," the company said in a recent investor presentation.

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Vivo states that Fireside “brings friends together with a high-quality line of premium cannabis that is geared towards groups,” and consumers can tailor their purchases based on group size. For example, large groups can purchase high-potency Fireside Black, while smaller groups and couples may opt for its Fireside Gold option.

Fireside is also marketed as a premium, craft product, which Ms. Feng says is another way the company caters to the millennial market. Millennials are known to veer towards craft breweries and premium products ranging from ice cream to pizza.

Emblem Corp.’s Symbl brand also targets millennials, with a focus on those looking to learn more about cannabis with the “Get Curious” campaign.

Maria Guest, Emblem’s chief marketing officer, says the aim is to make Symbl “a trusted go-to source” for brand and product education.

“We know that, time and again, millennials are turning to brand they can trust,” Ms. Guest says. “The key is finding where they are, by understanding what interests them and being there in an authentic way.”

Now is also the right opportunity to attract millennials given their mass market at a turning point in history, Ms. Guest says.

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“They don’t want to be just talked to, they want to be part of something, and they want to be part of this,” Ms. Guest says. “[Cannabis legalization]... is a huge moment for them to be a part of and I think that’s something we can really tap into with the brand.”

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