This week, the corporate branding for Ontario’s soon-to-be legal marijuana stores was unveiled by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) will be the brand name of Ontario’s cannabis agency, including its stores and online channel.
The name is supposed to convey a safe, simple and approachable environment for consumers in a clear and easily understood manner. However, those looking for the wacky, colourful branding that has been a staple of the underground marijuana industry might be disappointed.
The new branding for OCS has been described as everything from “stripped down“ to “intentionally drab.” In fact, most saw fit to make fun of it at first, calling out OCS and its simple logo as something a child could design. Industry professionals also had mixed reactions to the logo. Tomasz Borowicz, owner and Creative Director of Logo Made Easy, had assisted with the branding for another marijuana company says he understands why the government almost had no choice but to go with a really simple logo for OCS.
“If this logo was in any way more creative, catchy, or more stylized, that would kind of be a contradiction in terms of what [the] government stands for when it comes to cannabis.”
pleased to debut my proposal for the new ontario cannabis store logo pic.twitter.com/N6ZPRCue1U
— seb foxallen (@purpledocket) March 9, 2018
As part of a national plan to legalize recreational marijuana this summer, individual provinces were tasked with organizing how they’d sell the product. For example, British Columbia proposed a mix of public and private stores, while Alberta will be issuing licenses on a case-by-case basis to cannabis stores and dispensaries. In Ontario, the government run LCBO will manage and operate the distribution of cannabis in the province.
And because the OCS will be government run, they apparently have lots of money to spend on “safe, simple” branding. The LCBO confirmed that it would pay about CDN$650,000 to advertising agency Leo Burnett for development of the name, logo and brand guidelines.
“The name and logo are only one piece of the overall work from Leo Burnett,” said an LCBO spokesperson. It also included “the development of the overall brand strategy.”
Still, CDN$650,000 is no small amount of money. And people outside the world of marketing and design were blown away by how much was spent.
Unbelievable for $650,000. My grandson could have drawn that. They should have made it a university contest to draw a logo
— Grace Johnston (@drum999) March 11, 2018
Regardless, the first 40 stores will begin operating later this summer in 14 communities across Ontario. Both in-store and online sales will be run using Shopify, the Ottawa-based commerce platform in use around the world.
“Shopify will provide a cloud-based retail solution for both on and offline sales, so consumers can have a reliable and integrated shopping experience across desktop, mobile and in-store points-of-sale,” the LCBO said.
What are your thoughts on this simple branding? Do you think it’s worth the high cost? Or if you’re just looking for marijuana products, try pot-laced pizza, or check out the beer being made by Heineken.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.