Up Cannabis offers investment advice, of sorts

Who: The Tragically Hip-backed Up Cannabis and OneMethod.

What: A new campaign on wild postings, digital and social channels. This is marketing for cannabis presented as bank advertising (if the creative team had smoked a lot of weed).

When & Where: Ontario and B.C. now, with Nova Scotia and Alberta coming April 15.

Why: A lot of Up’s brand awareness is rooted in its connection to The Tragically Hip. The goal for this campaign is to reach a younger, millennial audience and to promote the brand’s indica strains, including its newest strain, “Grace.”

What is indica? Generally speaking, indica strains of cannabis induce a more full-body, relaxing high for the user—indica will put you in da couch.

How does the campaign do that: Lots of double-entendre headlines that could be for a bank, but have a much funnier meaning in the context of cannabis. The visual cues of the piggy bank tied to a floating balloon and the URL IsThisReal.ca, cleverly reveal that this isn’t really for a bank, pulling people to the age-gated site. Once inside the site, Up can talk all they want about its product.

The message: The idea behind this campaign is that in stressful, hectic days, taking some time to relax and unwind is an an investment in yourself, says Alannah Della Vedova, brand manager for Up Cannabis.

The idea: “The spark was Eminem ads,” says Della Vedova. For the launch of his Revival album, the rapper ran faux pharma ads teasing the album name (“Get Revival. Don’t miss your chance to blow”). Up asked OneMethod if they could use that as inspiration for this campaign, getting some attention while still complying with rigid cannabis marketing rules.

The creative: “The idea of doing a misdirect campaign seemed like a natural fit: we can’t talk about cannabis so lets talk about something else,” says John Hotts, OneMethod’s associate creative director. “It was designed to feel a bit off, and weird, and build some of that intrigue,” he said. “If you took a second and read the poster you would understand there is no way this is from a bank.”

What about that tagline? Up Cannabis products are all inspired by Tragically Hip songs. “Feel fabulously rich” seems bank-y, but is adapted from the opening line of the song “Grace, Too.”

What’s it like marketing cannabis now? “I don’t feel like we would have done this six months ago,” says Della Vedova. When legalization happened Oct. 17 and the Cannabis Act rules went into full effect, most licensed producers felt they had to go totally dark. Now there is a better understanding of what can and can’t be done, and brands are coming up with ways to lawfully connect with consumers, she says. “I feel like LPs may have been a little scared at first… [but] people are becoming a little more comfortable with it.”



David Brown