Not high on inspiration: Ontario Cannabis Store logo derided as boring

The Ontario government announced the name and branding for its cannabis agency Friday, and those looking for the wacky, colourful branding that has been a staple of the underground marijuana industry might be disappointed.

Branding, marketing related to marketing the OCS cost approximately $650K, LCBO says

The Ontario government's branding for the Ontario Cannabis Store has drawn strong reaction online and from industry professionals. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
The Ontario government announced the name and branding for its cannabis agency Friday, and those looking for the wacky, colourful branding that has been a staple of the underground marijuana industry might be disappointed. 

Ontario's provincial outlet for cannabis sales will be the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), the government said, and Ontario also revealed its dead simple logo, which consists only of three letters in a circle.

Reaction to the logo and name has been strong and divisive, with some online slamming it as lazy but others praising it.

Industry professionals also had mixed reactions to the logo.

Tomasz Borowicz, the creative director and owner of Logo Made Easy, has assisted with the branding for new marijuana company Indiva, and says he understands why the government almost had no choice but to go with a really simple logo for OCS.  

"The government's objective is to be the responsible governing body of distribution of cannabis in Ontario. Their legal position on cannabis is responsible use," he told CBC Toronto. "If this logo was in any way more creative or more catchy or more stylized that would kind of be a contradiction in terms almost of what government stands for when it comes to cannabis." 
Tomasz Borowicz, who has assisted with the branding for new marijuana company Indiva, says he understands why the government almost had no choice but to go with a really simple logo for OCS. (CBC)

Borowicz adds that he believes the goal for the logo is to get the public to remember the OCS by its letters, much like the already established Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).

But he also says that the logo needs a timeless quality to avoid a costly rebrand in the future.

"When the government invests in building let's say 100 stores, it would cost a lot of money to change the brand in the future," Borowicz said. "They want to make sure that it won't go out of style anytime soon because rebranding a huge corporation like this would cost millions and millions — much more than they paid for the logo right now."

Director of communications at cannabis company Eden Medicinal Society, Tyler James, says he was expecting the logo to be simple and that he likes it. However, he notes that the response from others in industry isn't quite the same.

"The cannabis community has really been driven by creatives, so a lot of people feel that it is lacking and are hoping there will be an opportunity for that creativity to transcend into the aspects of marketing and advertising of brands," he said. 
Tyler James, director of communications at cannabis company Eden Medicinal Society, says he likes the OCS's logo. While, owner of The Hotbox, Abi Roach, says the logo is too simple. (CBC)

Owner of The Hotbox Abi Roach said her business recently underwent a rebranding process to be compliant ahead of legalization but also says the OCS logo is too simple.

"I think their whole notion is public health, so they don't really want to make it fun and exciting, and they don't really want you to come in. They just want you to buy your cannabis and maybe not smoke it," she added. "I understand not wanting people to consume cannabis, but you also have to entice them to not go out on the street and purchase their cannabis from other sources, so there has to be a balance between business and public health." 

Criticism toward the logo has also been directed at the cost. The LCBO, which is overseeing the OCS, said in an emailed statement that all brand and marketing related to OCS from advertising company Leo Burnett cost approximately $650,000.

According to the province, the OCS's name was chosen to convey a safe, simple and approachable environment for consumers.

With files from Talia Ricci