Toronto, 15.11.2017

Half of Canadians favor cigarette-style “dark” marketing of legalized cannabis

New GfK Canada study reflects ambivalence about legalization; 45% of Canadians support marijuana sales in private stores

With recreational cannabis sales set to become legal in Canada, GfK has conducted a breakthrough study to define Canadian consumers’ feelings about where and how the drug should be sold.

Through interviews with 1,008 Canadians nationwide, GfK found that half (51%) favor a “dark” marketing approach similar to the one used with cigarettes – with no prominent brands or flashy advertising. Only 13% want “open” marketing, with brands and products free to promote and display within fairly minor restrictions.

The research, conducted from September 20 to 28, also found that Canadians are divided on how to distribute and sell the newly legalized substance. About 45% support a private sector approach, using existing stores (such as pharmacies or groceries) or newly created and licensed distributors. Almost one-third (30%) favor sales through public sector infrastructure, such as the LCBO and SAQ. And almost as many (28%) would prefer to not distribute marijuana at all. 

Researchers found that younger Canadians (18 to 35) were more likely to favour a more open approach to marketing cannabis than older Canadians. Perhaps not surprisingly, older Canadians are less likely to support cannabis distribution of any kind.

“Although consumers remain divided about legalization, this will be a watershed moment in Canadian retail and marketing – creating a new marketplace with many inexperienced players,” said Chris Thorne, vice president of GfK Canada. “Brands and outlets will need to move cautiously, keeping close watch on consumer sentiment and respecting the concerns of wary Canadians. PR and marketing blunders will be amplified by the charged environment – so the marketplace needs to consider its moves carefully while still nurturing this fledgling industry.”

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