IONIC (the Power of a Brand): Helping Consumers Define Themselves

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(IONIC is one of the companies featured in The Power of a Brand: Lessons From 20 Top Cannabis Companies, in the June issue of mg Magazine.)

When IONIC launched in 2012, cannabis was still mostly hiding behind the wall of medicinal treatment. The company intended to reframe the discussion by creating a brand specifically aimed at respectable professionals with families and jobs who also use cannabis. “We were one of the first companies in cannabis to market a brand as a legitimate and socially acceptable product for recreational use by responsible adults,” said Chief Executive Officer John Gorst.

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The challenge was creating a corporate persona that celebrated recreational use and demanded to be taken seriously—and convincing target consumers they could adopt the same attitude. “We wanted to bring cannabis out of the dark and reset the bar,” said Gorst. “The IONIC brand was created with a clarity of purpose.”

Back then the company’s most effective tool was understanding the consumer experience—which they did, because IONIC’s founders were exactly the type of consumers they wanted to attract. Education played an important role in the process, and still does. Gorst said the company will continue to invest significant resources in hosting educational in-store activations for consumers and special events for budtenders.

He also said IONIC understood early on the importance of developing a unique voice in an industry dominated by what the company’s founders perceived as sameness and outdated stereotypes. Gorst and his crew avoided the iconography and verbiage often associated with cannabis at the time. “We don’t feature pot-leaf imagery or use insider nomenclature like 420 or dank or canna-anything,” he said. “We try to avoid things that will instantly, even if subliminally, trigger those deeply rooted stigmas and previously held prejudices generally associated with cannabis.”

The team also insisted the company’s image evoke quality, class, and elegance. The brand sees itself as aspirational: bespoke packaging and timeless design elements reflect Gorst’s view that products make statements about those who use them. “Our products are designed to fit seamlessly into the discerning consumer’s life,” he said. “They don’t feel out of place. Our products aren’t something to hide; rather they are meant to be something one can be proud of and share.”

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