A lot of people may only be watching the efforts to legalize cannabis and the ever expanding industry peripherally. If a person was to take a quick moment to look into the fast growing sector, the very first company they would likely find is Canopy Growth Corporation out of Canada. Canopy is by far the largest cannabis company in the world, worth roughly $6 billion USD, over $2 billion more than their next closest competitor.
Canopy is much more than just a cultivator of cannabis. I had the opportunity to speak with Amy Wasserman, the Director for Marketing at Canopy Growth before she attended the O’Cannabiz Conference & Expo this past weekend. Her task of marketing for the company may be a more challenging endeavor than most marketers are probably willing to take on, but her energy makes it clear why Canopy selected her. As Canada moves closer and closer to the legalization of adult-use cannabis nationally, expected around September, Ms. Wasserman and Canopy are working hard to build brand visibility and prepare for what’s forecasted to be a tidal wave of demand. Let’s see what she has to say on the matter and find out about some of the changes that may be coming to Canopy.
Amy, can you tell us what the mission of Canopy Growth Corporation is?
I think first and foremost, we believe cannabis can be a force for good. What we recognize is that whether we put a store in Hamilton, Ontario or a facility in Germany, there is an economic impact that complements the social benefits of legalization. The other natural focus for our business is innovation. As the world rises out of prohibition, more money flows into the space and very smart and ambitious people continue to emerge and enter into the market. These resources drive new ideas, new discoveries, and new opportunities for growth in the sector. Canopy has a stake in it all – domestic and global medical and recreational markets, innovation, R&D, and probably most importantly, great, great people. Building a global business around a plant which for so many years was “on hold” requires that we look at it from all angles – and our acquisitions and brand builds have been about aligning that vision.
Can you tell us a bit more about the ancillary cannabis market?
While we have a strong focus on work that actually touches the plant, there is also a huge opportunity in ancillary business. The canna-tourism industry will be fascinating to watch, and the fact that this sector brings about a brand new category and revenue stream across hundreds of industries – from accounting and legal to tech and travel – means that a wide range of people, across almost all lines of business, will be able to benefit from the growth of our Category.
You are speaking at the O’Cannabiz Conference and Expo this weekend, what will you be talking about?
I have been in the industry for three years now which I guess makes me a veteran in the regulated cannabis space based on how fast the industry moves. I recently started reading “The 4-Hour Work Week” but couldn’t get through it because I’m here trying to figure out how to shove four hours into one. So with experience comes panel requests, which I am grateful to be a part of. I am speaking on a panel called, The Herb is the Word. It is about national branding and marketing in Canada. The panel should be fun. There will be some new businesses and US-based companies joining me, so it will be a set of very diverse perspectives. I come from a unique lens in that we have brands that exist already, which need to pivot from ACMPR (medical cannabis legalization) to C-45 (recreational legalization that has yet to be passed). We have to maintain a focus as a medicinal cannabis company while also planning for an adult-use market with value-based brands that consumers can truly believe in.
What can you tell us about pivoting from ACMPR to the new C-45 legislation in Canada?
As we enter into C-45 we have an entirely new set of regulations to follow, but the details are not yet final. We are planning for 500 creative scenarios and hoping that 2 of them net out as compliant, and then taking those 2 ideas, and recreating them another 498 different ways. It has been very interesting building a brand for products that many people are familiar with, but very few have ever shopped for. This is the hardest role I’ve ever been in, but this is the most rewarding career opportunity I’ll probably ever have. A lot of people think “who needs to market weed, weed is weed, and marketing cannabis is not allowed anyways.” I’m the luckiest marketer in the country, that’s for certain, to be able to bring this product in new and unique and compliant ways to legal adults across the country and beyond. We are being very strategic, very creative, and working in close collaboration with our legal team. There is a lot of pivoting, we are building good partnerships and staying adaptable. There is still lots to be determined but we are very excited about the end of prohibition and getting ready for launch day and beyond.
What are your thoughts on the very restrictive marketing regulations coming with C-45? What would you like to see change?
I actually look towards C-45 with gratitude because we are finally leaving prohibition and entering into a safe and accessible, adult-use market. We have a responsibility to start low and go slow – a mantra applied to using our products but equally as important to how we open up this market in Canada and serve as a positive example to the world. With education on the top of our list, we launched the “Ask Tweed” program, where people can ask us their cannabis questions to help prepare them for what’s to come when they walk into a cannabis retailer – whether it’s a Tweed store, or otherwise. The reality is that it’s a level playing field for all retailers and producers, but the opportunity exists for us to differentiate ourselves with the best creative applications, and come out on top, which I have no doubt we will.
Finally, there is a lot of talk here in the U.S. that cannabis should be treated just like alcohol. I know the massive alcohol company Constellations Brands bought nearly 10% of Canopy last year. Can you share your views about what may be a contradiction on how alcohol is regulated relative to cannabis from a marketing perspective?
I have a funny story about that. I was on a flight a couple weeks ago on a regional airline out of Toronto on my way to Ottawa. The airline is frequented by business professionals so there is always a chance of networking. There were 2 gentlemen sitting behind me that were talking about cannabis and legalization and what it will be like in Ontario. As the flight attendants began to serve alcohol, the conversation turned to cannabis beverages. Suddenly, after listening to them talk cannabis for about 10 minutes, one of them says “Well, if I was running marketing for one of these big companies, I would make sure that everyone knows that you can replace alcohol with cannabis and cut out the calories, the hangover and the liver damage”. I couldn’t help but turn around and let them know that I was the Director of Marketing for Canopy Growth. We had a good chuckle.
Anyways, to your point on alcohol marketing, I’ve never done it, but I can tell you that as a woman, I am marketed “at” all the time and it blows my mind just how normalized alcohol consumption is positioned to my demographic. I can’t scroll through instagram, or visit a gift shop without being bombarded with messages telling me that I can be a better friend, mother, or wife with the help of a glass of wine. It’s “absurd” to leave a bottle of wine unfinished, but a vape after a dinner party warrants judgemental glares. Many women, and mothers in particular, still feel stigmatized for choosing to consume cannabis and it blows my mind given how totally normal and expected it is for people to drink. But we are living in an interesting time right now where we expect more from brands and the products we choose to incorporate into our routines. People are conscious of ingredients, on clean labels, on social impact and transparency. Cannabis is clean, it has medical, therapeutic and wellness benefits (with more yet to be discovered), and also, it’s fun, safe and about to be accessible across the country to adults who choose to access our products. I can’t wait to be sitting at a dinner part two years from now to see just how much we’ve all progressed.
We want to thank Amy Wasserman, the Director of Marketing for Canopy Growth Corporation, for taking the time to speak with us and provide our followers with perspective of what is going on behind the scenes at the world’s largest cannabis company. With C-45 having now passed in the Canadian senate and nearing final passage, it will be very interesting to see how Canopy splits their time between being a medical marijuana company and now also an adult-use company. Their expansion into the EU will also be very interesting to watch develop. We look forward to bringing you many more interesting interviews from some of the largest cannabis companies in the world and getting their perspective on the developing cannabis industry and efforts towards marijuana legalization.