You may have seen my previous post about celebrities active in the cannabis world. A new A-list (and Canadian) celeb has officially joined this list: Drake.
You can call it Drake turning his love of weed into a business, but as likely he and his savvy advisors look at this partnership with Canopy Growth as another channel for the marketing of his brand, and vice versa – it is also a good strategic move by Canopy.
Early cannabis sales, including Canopy’s, have not met expectations – due in large part to restrictive regulations on marketing and limited distribution – so this sort partnership brings some much-needed attention to the industry in general, and Canopy in particular. The industry has seen the seemingly endless and easy access to cash dry up. But Canopy has a war chest (thanks Constellation!) that enables it to make these long-term deals, while the competition cuts costs across the board. In this partnership the Grammy-award winner will own 60 per cent of the More Life Growth Company, named after his 2017 project More Life. Based in Toronto, the licensed producer will sell recreational cannabis and accessories in Canada and abroad. According to Canopy’s press release, the brand will centre around wellness, discovery and overall personal growth with the hope of facilitating connections and shared experiences across the globe. In addition to cannabis, they will sell things like dried plants, herb teas and clothing products.
Using the power of celebrity, broadly termed as “influencer marketing,” is one way to circumvent some of the restrictive cannabis marketing regulations in place. Leveraging the power of a celebrity’s social influence and purported ‘expertise’ boosts brand awareness and credibility. It’s common in other industries like travel and CPG – recreational cannabis may be the next wave. Other celebrity influencers like Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg have already joined Canopy in one way or another.
Canopy has exclusive rights to distribute More Life products in Canada, and Drake has granted More Life the exclusive rights to certain intellectual property and brands in Canada and internationally. This opens more doors and channels in the marketing world to build all his brands. Google Ads, Facebook advertising and other paid social media platforms remain on the sidelines, so licensed producers must be cleverer about the promotion of their cannabis products.
Using influencers to collaborate on messaging and organic content is a viable option. The threat of having the social media account deactivated is real, but there are ways to operate that seemingly don’t break any rules, or at least are in the regulatory grey zone that is ever evolving. The partnership between Drake and Canopy looks to be a good match – both Canadian and both innovative – so it will be interesting to see how they go to market and how aggressive they are from an influencer marketing standpoint.
If you look at the list of celebrities who are promoting cannabis, most of them have had a strong affinity to weed for a while as it’s still risky to be associated with a product that is illegal in much of the USA. This makes their promotion seemingly more personal and therefore more powerful, so I think we’ll see the influencer marketing channel continue to play a vital role in any LP’s marketing plan.