OCS shows its cannabis credentials with ‘Trailblazers’ campaign

Who: Ontario Cannabis Store, with Cleansheet Communications for strategy and creative; Bestlight for production; Initiative Media for media.

What: “Trailblazers,” a campaign showcasing some of the licensed producers and authorized retailers working with OCS, including several whose involvement with cannabis pre-dates legalization.

When & Where: The campaign launches on Oct. 3, roughly timed to coincide with the five year-anniversary of legalization in Canada. It runs for eight weeks, with a second flight scheduled for February. The campaign consists of more than 200 pieces of media running across age-gated environments.

It includes a 60-second spot running in Cineplex’s VIP locations (which are restricted to people aged 19+), as well as a 30-second and various shorter cutdowns. There are also five long-form videos on a dedicated “Trailblazers” section of the OCS website.

Why: OCS continues to try and make inroads with the province’s recreational cannabis users and blunt the impact of the still-thriving black market. The CBC reported earlier this  year that the illegal market still makes up 40% of all cannabis sales in Ontario.

Internal OCS data shows that the heaviest cannabis consumers—a segment known internally as “steady flames”—still moves “fairly fluidly” between the legal and illegal markets, said Dave Rewak, senior director of marketing and consumer insights.

This is a group highly familiar with cannabis and is comfortable in the space, so the goal is to show how the legal market can be “additive” for them, he said.

While acknowledging that OCS wasn’t meeting the needs of experienced consumers at the beginning, Rewak said it has evolved in the in the five years since legalization. “Fundamentally, [the campaign goal] is to get these consumers  to choose legal more often,” he said. “Ultimately, we’d like to get them to buy exclusively legal, but it’s steps on a path to get them to experience it for themselves.”

How: The campaign features in-depth interviews with producers and retailers talking about their personal history with cannabis, their belief in growing a superior product, and what they’re bringing to OCS. All of their stories conclude with the message “If you love the trail they’re blazing, you’ll love what’s happening in legal cannabis.”

The participants were found through a call asking OCS partners if they’d be willing to share their story. Many of the featured participants had a degree of involvement in the industry prior to legalization, whether as cannabis consumers or growers.

“We’re looking to showcase some of the benefits of legal cannabis, and we wanted to do that through our peers,” said Rewak. “What’s making [OCS] products so compelling for consumers is the licensed producers and retailers we work with, and that’s why we wanted to really humanize them and show that it’s not a cold, sterile environment. These are real people growing real cannabis with real passion.”

And we quote: “Legacy cannabis customers may not realize that legal brands are grown, curated and sold by people who truly care about the consumers’ cannabis experience. It opens the door for people to see what’s going on in legal cannabis, as not everyone gets to see where it grows or understand the personalities behind them.” — Scott Shymko, creative director, Cleansheet Communications


Chris Powell