For years, beer drinkers in Ontario bought their 12-packs and two-fours (24-pack) at an outlet called Brewers Retail. Unofficially, people called it “the beer store,” and The Beer Store it officially became in a 1985 rebranding.
Then the Government of Canada legalized cannabis. Each province could decide how they wanted to sell the product, and Ontario assigned that task to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). The LCBO planned to open a sub-chain of stores where cannabis products could be purchased, and needed a name and logo.
Say hello to the Ontario Cannabis Store.
The public isn’t shy about sharing their thoughts
As an article in Yahoo Finance said, “Twitter is having a field day with the new name and logo.” People joked about the drab, boring look and suggested that actually using the product might have helped the creative team.
More likely, the team was told to stifle their creativity. Ad agency Leo Burnett came up with the name and logo, and promised a full case study in the summer. In the meantime, we can guess at their instruction by this comment on the LCBO’s Cannabis Updates website: the name is “designed to convey a safe, simple and approachable environment for consumers, and agency employees, in a clear and easily understood manner.” (Italics are mine.)
Global News quoted John Fowler, CEO and Founder of Supreme Cannabis, a licensed producer, as saying the simplicity of the logo is important. He said it implies a different brand than the illicit cannabis market, which uses bright colours and wild lettering.
The LCBO confirmed that it expected to pay Leo Burnett about $650,000 for all the brand and marketing related to the logo. Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? But “The name and logo are only one piece of the overall work from Leo Burnett, which included the development of the overall brand strategy, brand guidelines and, eventually, the development of the logo and brand name,” the LCBO told the Ottawa Citizen.
What do my communicator friends think?
I found the name and logo a little underwhelming, and asked members of my IABC indie group for their thoughts.
Graphic designer Deana De Ciccio thinks the logo is a good one. “It’s well thought out and deliberately simplistic. It definitely meets the objective of a safe and approachable brand.”
Cathy Ledden, a Registered Graphic Designer, said a logo acts as a visual anchor. “It needs to be scalable and instantly recognizable and distinct to what is all about. I believe this new OCS logo does that. The focus is not on the selling of cannabis, but the control by the Ontario government. The circle containing the letters OCS suggests control, and the large O is similar in style to the typography of the O in Ontario, which all has a distinct government connection. All on target.”
A typographer in a past life, John Bromley said there are many variables involved when creating a logo. “I like it. This is a clean airy font and the kerning is perfect. The eye just flows through it. This would have taken quite some time to create.”
Others lamented the boring design but recognized “Maybe that’s the point,” as Donna Papacosta said. Bill Smith agreed, “I think part of the creative brief was to make the logo as uncool as possible.” Janice Sutton called the logo forgettable, and noted it “doesn’t represent what it is intended to market (which is perhaps the point).” “‘Forgettable/forgetful’ is on brand,” joked Nathalie Noël. “Based on what I imagine the creative brief was, I imagine this met the requirements perfectly,” said Betsy Chaly.
Still, a little personality wouldn’t be out of place, don’t you think? CTV News staff called the store’s logo “a major departure” from the LCBO’s design approach, “which includes a whimsical curlicue [on the B] and, at one time, was superimposed over a picture of a grapevine.” Similarly, a branding campaign for The Beer Store in 2013 put a topper on the B suggesting foam on a glass of beer.
Betsy called both the LCBO and Beer Store logos “simple with a bit of life” and felt the OCS logo could have added a bit of personality, too. Jane Langille suggested, “How about a little colour, like green, for example?” and Janice, “Maybe a single leaf somehow incorporated into it?”
As for the cost, Deana and Cathy thought $650K is a fair market price.
“To put it in context, the Yukon government just spent $500K on their new visual identity,” Deana pointed out. “LCBO spent the same on a brand refresh in 2014. When broken down, there’s a lot of work to cover: brand strategy, market research, development of the name, logo and brand guidelines. The overall brand strategy would have included aligning all the key stakeholders – imagine how many hours in developing the name alone!”
Cathy agreed, “Imagine all the people involved, the organizing, the researching, most likely focus and group testing. The complete brand guidelines include how the logo is applied, typography, colour palette and more – it’s similar to designing a new home and probably takes the same time to complete.”
Despite all that effort, don’t you still expect to hear people say, “I’m going to the weed store”?