A brand that breaks all the rules

Last week the winners of the APG Creative Strategy Awards were announced. These awards are designed to recognise the contribution that great strategy makes to brand comms development.

We always look forward with great excitement to the results, especially as we sponsor the prize for Best Brand Development.

This year we handed the award over to a case study for brand launch like no other that we had come across. Indeed, the new brand whose development we were celebrating would be totally illegal in the UK.

The prize went to Anomaly New York and the brand is Dosist. The reason that it’s illegal….it’s cannabis.

We could hardly wait to read the submission and it makes a fascinating case study. You’d think the fact that it is a cannabis product in a newly legalised category would be intriguing enough. But it is so much more than that.

The story of Dosist shows how exemplary strategic and creative thinking across product, pack, pricing and comms exploited the opportunities this brand new market provides to the full and that there is mileage to be gained by doing the exact opposite of what everyone else in the market is doing.

Exploring the history of the hemp plant and the science of how cannabis interacts with the body’s receptors and you find that cannabis plays a part in all kinds of bodily functions: appetite (munchies anyone?), sleep, energy balance, metabolism, stress response, immune function, muscle spasticity, reproduction, neurogenesis and pain.

From its origins in central Asia cannabis spread around the world via the Silk Road and then later to Western Europe (with a little help from the Napoleonic armies). In Africa it was used to treat sleep disorders, in China the immune system. Getting high is clearly just one benefit out of many.

Put like this there are huge opportunities for newly legalised cannabis to enter into a wide range of lucrative health markets: pain management, sleep, libido, anxiety, energy.

And this was where Dosist wanted to position itself. Not a brand for people wanting to get high, but one for those seeking control. The product dosage was fixed at 2.25 milligrams – the exact amount you need to feel better without getting stoned.

With this Dosist became the first precise dosage-controlled cannabis device on the market and was named one of Time’s Top 25 best Inventions of 2016, poised to make the most of the legalisation of cannabis in California in November of that year.

Other cannabis brands go big on the hippy origins of the plant, or rely on their celebrity links (Snoop Dogg, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Tyson, Willie Nelson).  Not Dosist.  The packaging is exactly the opposite of what you would expect. It is sleek and elegant – looking for all the world what Apple would do if it entered this market.

Dosist has also taken a different approach to brand activation events. Other cannabis products celebrate 4/20 but Dosist uses the opportunity to put its own take on stoners’ special day. For Dosist 20 April is transformed it into a National Day of Health; with the brand positioning itself as the healthy alternative to other medicines with its ‘Plants over Pills’ campaign.

When Canada legalised cannabis the new regulations excluded concentrates and vaporisers. Dosist‘s response? The ‘Not Available in Canada’ campaign pushing for extending legalisation.

Working within such an atypical category resulted in some intriguing pack / pricing developments. Dosist’s 200 Dose pen retails at $100, but this is tricky if you wish to put your purchase on your credit card. Cannabis is only legal in the US on a state by state basis, meaning that what is legal on a in one state will be illegal over the border. Credit cards need to steer clear of illegal purchases.

Hence cannabis products tend to be bought with cash, but a price point as high as $100 tends to limit impulse purchases. Instead of trying to persuade the punter to visit the ATM before the dispensary, Dosist launched a 50 Dose pen retailing at $40 making a vaporiser much more accessible.

We’d like to congratulate Gareth Goodall, Tara Goutermont and Jason Deland at Anomaly New York and the whole of the Dosist team for a terrific example of the value of turning the conventions of a category on its (pot) head.

Lucy Banister