Why cannabis companies see huge potential in marketing to women

Eve & Co Incorporated, a licensed cannabis producer west of London, Ont., is one of the few operators who is marketing their wares as a female health and wellness product.

After years of study, marketers see vast potential in an array of cannabis products aimed at women

Melinda Rombouts is the CEO of Eve & Co Incorporated, a cannabis company west of London that aims its products specifically at women. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Eve & Co Incorporated CEO Melinda Rombouts used to grow flowers for a living. Maybe that's why she can see the vast potential of a blossoming industry where some others don't. 

"We were in seasonal flowers," she said, noting one cold May too many convinced her to get out of the flower business altogether.

"The weather was really hurting us and that's where we really decided we had to get into something different."

So Rombouts did her research and after about six months, she not only saw a future in cannabis, but saw the potential in marketing it specifically to women.  

"We really wanted to bring a genuine perspective and women can do that for women," she said. 

"When legalization happens, [we want] a woman to feel comfortable walking into a cannabis store and feel comfortable with using cannabis as a natural product to address their needs," she said. 

'Because it's 2015'

This cannabis company west of London, Ont. has its sights set on women 1:10

Rombouts is one of the few female CEOs in Canada's budding cannabis industry. An irony, if you consider the fact the legal sale and production of cannabis was made possible by Justin Trudeau, an unabashedly feminist prime minister who once proudly declared his cabinet would be half women "because it's 2015."

"It's something we've been discussing, how to promote women getting into this space," Rombouts said, noting the United States has had far more success, despite the fact its federal government has been dragging its heels on decriminalization.  

"They have almost 50 per cent women leaders in the cannabis industry," she said. "Here, we're sitting at about five per cent." 

"I think because the financial industry has really stepped in and got involved early on," she said. "You saw the financial industry kind of take over, which is dominated by men." 

'This is tailored to me'

A two-metre tall marijuana plant stretches towards the ceiling in the flowering room of Natural MedCo's licensed growing facility, west of London. (Colin Butler/CBC News)
"I think that the cannabis space has been dominated by men," said Bridget​ Hoffer, a co-founder of Oakville, Ont.-based Marigold Marketing and Public Relations.
Bridget Hoffer is a co-founder of Marigold Marketing and Public Relations. (Marigold PR)

Hoffer's firm has a number of cannabis clients who market to women and said there is vast opportunity within what's already a rapidly growing industry to attract a certain clientele.

"I think post-legalization you will see more brands like Eve geared towards the women's market as well as some that may be more gender neutral as well,"  she said. 

Already, Hoffer said there is a vast, yet subtle male-female divide when it comes to marketing cannabis products. 

"Now there's products emerging that women are saying 'this is more tailored to me,'" she said. "It's not unlike in wine and spirits where you see some retailers creating wine that's marketed toward women specifically as well." 

'Like Fit Bit for cannabis'

Toronto-based Strainprint tracks hundreds of thousands of medical cannabis users through its free app, which tries to optimize user experience through matching people with strains and tracking how they feel after each medication session. (Strainprint.ca)

In fact, marketers have already started dialling in to the differences in what men and women want when it comes to cannabis and they've been doing it by tracking user experiences through apps like Toronto-based Strainprint.  

It's like Fit Bit for cannabis.- Jessica Moran

The free app uses crowd-sourced data, harvested from users who are looking to optimize their cannabis experience by finding specific strains that work for them.

"These are not anecdotal reviews like 'dank nugs got me high' these are true data points that we're prompting from people," said Jessica Moran, the company's director of marketing and communications.

"It's like Fit Bit for cannabis," she said. "We are now the largest longitudinal cannabis study in all of North America with over 700,000 tracked medical sessions and seven million data points."

Women really like to 'track'

The app launched two and a half years ago and since then, the company has collected what Moran calls "a whole shwack-a-doodle of data" that can be parsed in a multitude of ways, including emerging trends."

Top symptoms women report using cannabis for, according to the Strainprint app: 

  • Muscle Pain
  • Joint Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Recreational
  • Insomnia
  • General Discomfort
  • Inflammation
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Stress

"We're able to drill down and see what are women using," she said, noting that while there's a 50-50 balance when it comes to male and female users of Strainprint, it's the women who take better notes. 

"We have a 50-50 split between males and females, but females are constantly tracking," she said, noting the app will prompt a user to record how they feel after each medication session. 

What the app has found is that not only are women more diligent in recording data, they're also using cannabis to treat a host of health issues. 

"Women are treating for a wealth of women's health issues that frankly don't impact men," Moran said, noting some of the conditions include PMS and endometriosis. 

"It really runs the gamut, but there's a huge movement for using cannabis for women's health issues." 

Moran said that while there are a large number of cannabis products for women, such as vaginal suppositories or facial cream made with CBD, or cannabidiol, consumers will likely only see the number grow once the federal government legalizes marijuana on Oct. 17. 

"What you'll actually see is that in addition to treating women's health issues, there will also be a women's wellness movement as well," she said. "I think women are very into using it as a whole wellness routine."  

Time of day when women are medicating, according to Strainprint:

  • Morning (6 a.m. - 11:59 a.m.) 36 per cent
  • Afternoon (12 p.m. - 4:59 p.m.) 44 per cent
  • Night (5 p.m. - 11:59 p.m.) 9 per cent
  • Overnight (12 a.m. - 5:59 a.m.) 11 per cent
 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca