Irisa uses VR to deliver a cannabis experience

Cannabis brand Irisa is using virtual reality to help potential customers understand how they might feel after using its product.

The Irisa VR experience uses Oculus headset and can include scented oils so that users can see, hear and smell a representation of Irisa’s four oral oils: Moon, Stars, Earth and Sun.

The idea for VR sprang from a common lament of cannabis marketers: strict restrictions on how they can communicate with consumers about their products. One of the many challenges is that retail employees (the budtenders) can’t talk about the intended effects of any product or strain they are selling, said Preety Keith, brand manager for Irisa.

“We were getting a lot of feedback from shoppers that it was a frustrating experience to purchase cannabis without understanding how that particular strain will make you feel,” said Keith. “It is unfortunate that the licensed producers are so limited in how they can educate consumers on these products.”

Virtual reality lets Irisa show shoppers how the cannabis is intended to make them feel without actually describing it. “With VR you can immerse someone in this world and you don’t have to say much or verbalize much, you just give this experience that transports them to a different world.”

For the “Moon” oil, Irisa’s highest THC product and one intended to help with sleeping, the virtual reality experience takes wearers into the night sky, complete with shooting stars. “It’s definitely more of an entertaining experience versus purely educational, but we wanted to create that effect using sight and sound to mimic how that oil will make you feel,” said Keith. “It’s kind of a cheeky way to get around the legal rules.”

The VR experience was developed by Toronto agency Scratch. The creative team at Irisa provided direction about how they wanted each product to feel and what each product experience should be, said Scratch digital director Razi Saju.

“Because the mood boards and the definitions of the creative feel for each product is so ingrained in each of the products… it helped us to develop these worlds fairly easily,” he said.

Each experience is about 30 seconds long, and the in-store VR kit includes a stool for users to sit on in case they got dizzy but still rotates to enable them to take in the full 360-degree experience.

The in-store activations are in 10 stores now: three in B.C. (one in Victoria, three in Vancouver), two in Winnipeg, and four more in Ontario (London, Niagara Falls, Hamilton and Burlington), with nine more coming to Alberta soon. While in-store staff are trained on the goggles, and brand ambassadors will be in the stores some of the time, it is designed to be a free-standing experience that shoppers can use on their own. Irisa is a brand of High Park Company, which is part of Tilray.

David Brown