Although recreational cannabis is on the horizon for Canadians, we’re still a few months out from being able to legally sell marijuana from retail stores. While the federal government continues to work on legalizing cannabis, it’s important to keep an eye on what rules will be put into place regarding packaging of cannabis products.
Recreational cannabis rules are expected to be less severe than those of medical marijuana, but the federal government has already proposed strict advertising restrictions that are similar to those placed on tobacco. This means that Canadian cannabis companies won’t be able to rely on eye-grabbing pay-per-click ads, social media campaigns, billboards, TV spots, or unique packaging that are often used to introduce and promote new products.
In particular, the packaging and labelling restrictions on cannabis products are quite severe! This is a list of the rules you need to be aware of (so far) and some tips to help you start your cannabis brand off strong.
Cannabis Packaging Rules: What We Know So Far
In a recent report released by Health Canada, cannabis packaging rules dictate the following:
- Packaging for cannabis products must use a single, uniform colour (fluorescent or metallic colours are prohibited) with a standardized font style.
- Producers will be allowed to use their brand name and logo on the packaging, but are subject to size limitations and can only be used once.
- If a logo is used, it cannot be larger than the standardized cannabis symbol, and if a slogan is used, it must be one uniform colour, and the text cannot be larger than that of the health warning messages.
- Other graphics, images or changes to the packaging (such as metallic foils, embossing, packaging inserts, texture, or die-cuts) will be prohibited.
- The size, shape and material used in the packaging will not be standardized.
- However, proposed cannabis regulations would prescribe a maximum amount of cannabis that could be in a single package.
- All packaging must be child resistant
- The packaging material can be opaque or translucent.
- Packaging must include the name and contact information of the processor, product description, THC and CBD content, and potential allergens.
- Packaging must include the statement “Keep out of reach of children.”
- Packaging must include this “universal symbol” signifying that it is a cannabis product:
- Packaging must feature a health warning message inside a yellow box printed in the largest font on the label (similar to cigarette packaging).
- Suggested warnings include: “Cannabis smoke is harmful,” “Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding” and “Regular use of cannabis can increase the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia.”
- The use of a person, character or animal, real or fictional, in any manner that could be seen as appealing to young people is forbidden from cannabis packaging and marketing materials.
The Bottom Line: Brand Smarter
When it comes to branding your cannabis business and products, you need to keep these packaging restrictions in mind. Here are some tips for starting your cannabis brand:
1. Don’t choose a super long brand name.
The proposed regulations state that “your brand name and logo are subject to size limitations”, which means the longer the name, the smaller the font size.
2. Don’t choose fluorescent or metallic colours as your brand colours.
You’re not allowed to use materials or ink on your packaging in these colours, so future-proof your brand by avoiding these altogether in your visual identity.
3. However, your brand colours are important!
The packaging itself must be one solid colour — which single colour is going to represent your brand? Although you’ll be able to have a more robust colour palette for your brand overall (i.e. to use on your website, for instore decor, etc.), one colour must reign supreme for your packaging — what will your colour be?
4. Your logo needs to stand out
The proposed regulations “generously” allow you to include your logo on your product labelling — does yours demand attention? Does it look too similar to the THC universal symbol that has to be on the packaging? Is it legible at a small size? Does it function well on both packaging and as your Instagram profile pic? Important things that you need to consider!
5. Be inventive!
Just because the packaging rules are strict doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for creativity. For example, the possible applications for augmented reality with your packaging are pretty open — using the camera on a smartphone, potential customers could tap on different elements of the package to access more information, videos, or downloads.
6. Your marketing strategy will need to focus on more than just packaging
Obviously, with restrictions placed on how your product will look on the shelf, you’re going to need to develop a well-rounded marketing strategy that looks past product labelling.
How will you get your existing customers to talk about and share your product with potential customers? If plan to open a retail store, what will the interior design be like? What will your approach to social media be? What will your website look like? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself when planning your brand — if you’re ready for advice to help you start making an impact with your cannabis brand right away, get in touch.
Plan for the Future
The recreational cannabis industry is in its infancy in Canada, which means there are bound to be changes to the packaging and advertising rules as the government figures out what works and what doesn’t. Put your business in the best possible position for success by designing a brand that not only works within the current boundaries (and stands out from your competitors!), but also has the flexibility to change as the industry matures.
You can read (and download) Health Canada’s entire Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis here.