Marketing pot: hip company Tokyo Smoke brings ‘lifestyle’ branding to medical marijuana

credit:Ottawa Citizen

Would you like to indulge in an exhilarating burst of energy and creativity while enjoying an uplifting experience?

That is what is in store for medical marijuana users purchasing a new strain called Tokyo Smoke Go, according to the Canadian “lifestyle” company that unveiled the product on Thursday.

It’s also perhaps a peek into the future as cannabis companies scramble to create brands that will be attractive to millions of potential customers when recreational pot is legal.

Tokyo Smoke, which sells cannabis accessories, coffee and clothing, has teamed up with Aphria, one of Canada’s largest medical marijuana growers, to sell four new strains with catchy names: Go, Relax, Relief and Balance.

The “beautiful cannabis experience” offered by the Tokyo Smoke-branded marijuana comes in an introductory kit that sells for $250. It includes a five-gram sample of each of the strains, “custom crafted black jars” and “welcome accessories.”

For $500, customers can buy a kit that also includes a limited edition, Tokyo Smoke PAX 3 portable vaporizer. The PAX vaporizer company also has partnerships with musician The Weeknd and Odin, a hip menswear shop in New York.

Tokyo Smoke has partnered with PAX to create a limited edition portable vaporizer. DAVID PIKE“Contemporary customers deserve to have a cannabis experience that aligns with the rest of their lifestyle,” said Alan Gertner, CEO of Tokyo Smoke, in a press release.

Connecting products with a desirable lifestyle is nothing new: it sells everything from coffee to cars. But as Canada moves to legalize recreational pot, the rules that will govern advertising are in flux.

The federal government’s cannabis bill now before Parliament bans advertising that includes cartoon characters, testimonials and endorsements, is appealing to young people or associates cannabis with a lifestyle that includes “glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”

More details will be spelled out in regulations.

In the meantime, cannabis companies are trying to create brands that will help them carve a place in the market. And they are lobbying for advertising rules similar to those governing alcohol rather than the heavy restrictions imposed on tobacco products.

“It will be interesting to see how it plays out,” says Ottawa lawyer Trina Fraser, a specialist in cannabis law. “The industry is going wild right now over branding.”

Health advocates and the federal government’s task force of experts that studied legalization recommended strict controls on advertising and plain packaging to discourage consumption of marijuana.

Cannabis producers say they need branding to lure customers away from black-market pot.

Under the current rules, medical growers are not supposed to promote their products or make medical claims about them. But Health Canada has allowed companies to name products, similar to the “branding” by Tokyo Smoke, says Fraser.

“(Health Canada) will have to give some guidance at some point. Until they say ‘no, you can’t do that,’ the industry will continue to push the limits and test the boundaries.”