Destigmatising and building brands in the Cannabis industry – how HEXO are changing the face of Cannabis culture.

Ahead of their appearance at Cannes Lions this year, HEXO unveil the truth behind the changing face of Cannabis. Dismantling the stereotype and unearthing hidden insights about Cannabis have been core to their work in building a reputable drug brand. Here HEXO explains its approach to breaking the mold...

The Devil’s Weed. Reefer Madness. Wacky Tobaccy.

No doubt about it – the stigma surrounding cannabis goes back decades and, egged along by the notorious 4/20 stoner culture dating back to the 70s, it hasn’t really let up. Comedies just love an inept dope smoking dropout. Just ask Cheech and Chong.

It’s a massive stigma for the legal Canadian cannabis industry to overcome. And we must overcome it while working with some of the strictest advertising regulations going, a blend of those governing tobacco, alcohol and prescription medication, as if the first two weren’t strict enough.

So how do you advertise in such an environment, much less advertise against a deep-rooted stigma?

Find the truth and champion it.

"For a culture obsessed with productivity, it turns out cannabis consumers are not the couch-potatoes they’re painted to be."
Adam Miron, Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer, HEXO

As the co-founder of HEXO Corp, the $2 billion cannabis company I started in 2013 with my brother-in-law, Sebastien St-Louis, the 4/20 stoner culture didn’t really mesh with the cannabis consumers I saw around me daily. They were smart, focused, successful, creative and grounded. They were not underachievers. They were highly successful colleagues and friends, lawyers and athletes, teachers and parents.

To learn more about them, HEXO dug deep into cultural, brand, industry and consumer truths about cannabis. Our research showed that compared to cannabis rejectors, cannabis consumers are more nurturing, socially more active, better educated, earn more and are more likely to travel that cannabis rejectors. For a culture obsessed with productivity, it turns out cannabis consumers are not the couch-potatoes they’re painted to be.

And so, we built HEXO, a cannabis brand for active, curious and social explorers. And then we built an exciting, multi-channel and highly creative cultural tour that spoke to their passions in food, music, art and culture. The Never Jaded Tour crossed Canada, featured legendary musicians like the Wu Tang Clan and artists like Tristan Eaton. We offered our cannabis consumers a place where stigma did not exist.

Make no mistake – this three month-long, cultural whirlwind was a marketing campaign aimed at building brand awareness.

But it did more than that. It put us in front of our audience in a very clever way and created meaningful connections with them. It broke new ground on how to capture awareness, affinity and loyalty on a global scale, in a completely greenfield industry. And it became a new gold standard for marketing the unmarketable. But, as we say at HEXO…this is just the beginning.

HEXO are one of 100 brands speaking at Cannes Lions this year. Catch their talk ‘Fighting Stigma to Build a Global Cannabis Brand’ on Thursday, June 20,Audi A, Palais I at 11.15am.