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Clio Awards Signal the Relevance of Cannabis Culture

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How a grassroots brand wins global recognition, with AAXLL Brands Company

Cannabis has permeated popular culture. There’s a new renaissance happening where celebrities like Martha Stewart are joining the fray. Even conservative politicians have reversed course and are touting the benefits of cannabis and CBD. However, this sea change has brought an unforeseen obstacle.

Businesses looking to capitalize in these highly competitive times face strict marketing regulations that prevent brands from pursuing traditional advertising avenues. FTC regulations, social media policies, and public stigma put a stranglehold on traditional creative. Thankfully, creativity and cannabis go hand-in-hand.
This is a story of David vs. Goliath. It’s a story of how a legacy brand can compete with global juggernauts through grit, ingenuity, and creativity. It’s the story of AAXLL Brands Company and their journey to the Clio Awards.

What are the Clio Awards?

The Clio Awards are the Oscars for advertising. The Superbowl for originality. Founded in 1959, these are the preeminent awards for the creative field. Needless to say, it attracts the best of the best. This year, for the first time, the awards celebrate excellence in cannabis marketing and communications. The significance of these inaugural awards can’t be overstated.

It wasn’t too long ago that the only marketing for cannabis was back alley whispers. Today, there are videos directed by Oscar winners. This industry attracts top-level talent and billion-dollar investments, but the question remains, how does a brand stand out in such a highly regulated industry?

A jury of global cannabis leaders, marketing experts, and industry luminaries will decide exactly that.

The Jurors

To judge world-class talent, it takes world-class talent.

List of Respected Judges

  • Rebecca Brown
  • Founder & CEO
  • Crowns Agency
  • Lisa Buffo
  • Founder & CEO
  • Cannabis Marketing Association
  • Anne-Marie Dacyshyn
  • Chief Marketing Officer
  • GSW Creative Corp
  • Greg Dacyshyn
  • Co-Founder
  • Camp High
  • Evan Goldberg
  • Co-Founder
  • Houseplant
  • Elizabeth Hogan
  • Vice President of Brands
  • GCH Inc.
  • Olivia Mannix
  • Founder & CEO
  • Cannabrand
  • Tommy Means
  • Founder & Chief Creative Officer
  • Mekanism
  • Darren Romanelli
  • Founder
  • StreetVirus
  • Jason White
  • Chief Marketing Officer
  • Cura Partners

Who is AAXLL Brands Company?

AAXLL Brands Company originated as a legacy brand and is now a cannabis tech and brands company that utilizes artificial intelligence and leading-edge technology to drive user engagement. They have designed digital marketing, content, and design strategies for five world-class brands: Budderweeds, Balance CBD, Dani Pepper, Discreetly Baked, and BC Bud.

AAXLL is the intersection between creativity and technology in cannabis marketing. They’ve leveraged digital search to level the playing field against competitors with deep pockets. 80% of people who don’t know what to buy use Google to get some clarity. Of those people, 65% get directly influenced by those Google results in their purchasing decision. AAXLL brands show up more often on Google than competitor brands, which equates to more eyes on their products.

To be clear, this isn’t about Google ads. In fact, the tech giant prohibits “ads for substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise induce ‘highs.’’’ What this is about is commanding the digital ecosystem to influence the customer’s buying habits.

Consumers Google AAXLL brands more than the top Canadian recreational cannabis brands and several household American and British brands. AAXLL develops the customer journey first and then delivers products to consumers. In other words, AAXLL gets more monthly searches, which translates to higher brand visibility.

So, what do you do after you’ve captured people’s attention? That’s where AAXLL’s creative drives home the brand. From brand and product design to social media and film/video, AAXLL takes a grassroots approach to market its five core brands.

The Nominations

AAXLL brands are competing in 12 different categories, including Brand Design, Product Design, Digital Mobile, Film/Video, Social Media, and Social Good.

Brand Design

For the branding of luxury cannabis brand Discreetly Baked, we created a look that would feature bold, distinctive branding for a diverse line of cannabis products. As such, our designs were recognized by three of the top package design websites in the world: Packaging of the World, World Packaging Design, and The DieLine. We wove the brand name throughout the design; all elements come back to the core concepts of being “discreetly baked.” We started with the concept of classical, elegant elements to evoke the idea of an upscale party in a bag, with complementary patterns intended to connect the organic and chemical components of cannabis into one, seamless brand.

The eye at the centre of the identity draws consumers in with a provocative look, drawing on pop-art styles to imply a certain cool ambivalence while the eye, half-closed, gives the distinct impression of being “baked” in a way that’s handled discreetly. We surrounded the eye with hand-drawn geometric illustrations, calling upon the imagery of secret societies as an analogy for the central theme of “discretion.”

The grapes and flowers in the background of the CBD product line are inspired by the styles found in art nouveau illustrated advertisements, arousing an almost lascivious aesthetic — something exquisite lies within — while the organic matter speaks to the organic nature of the product. The geometric shapes in the THC products distort the organics, as though looking through a faceted lens — they abstract and simplify the forms, while the prismatic colours conjure a sense of psychedelics.

Film/Video

AAXLL stayed true to its grassroots approach when they produced their video for their flagship brand, Budderweeds, before Canadian cannabis legalization. The spine of the video is the tagline: we transform everyday situations into celebrations. As such, the tone is kept light and silly. Using family, friends, and staff, they took a comedic approach and created a parody of alcohol commercials while staying away from Canadian and stoner clichés. Where alcohol commercials often portray glamorous parties, AAXLL shows absurd situations. Cannabis is unlike alcohol, with the experiences being very different. Through their video, AAXLL showed just how different the experiences could be.

Social Media

AAXLL’s brand Dani Pepper is in the running for social media. The strategic approach for Dani Pepper’s Instagram account was simple – to convey a message about the health and sexual wellbeing of women in cannabis while staying true to the bold, fearless nature of the brand’s identity. The imagery selected for this feed is playful yet sexy, and also tells a visual story of fantasy and female erotic consciousness. Fun and informative, the captions relay facts about sexual health and aim at strengthening the target audience’s own sexual confidence within themselves.

Social Responsibility

The Amazon rainforests have been called the lungs of the planet, and their destruction is a global catastrophe. The Amazon plays a crucial role in reducing global warming, and over 906 thousand hectares have been burned. The fires threaten biodiversity, our climate, and the over 306,000 indigenous people who call the Amazon home. Social responsibility is woven into AAXLL’s ethos. They took immediate action and launched a September initiative donating 100% of the September profits of their best-selling product to the Earth Alliance Amazon Forest Fund created by Leonardo DiCaprio. They started this initiative to help indigenous people and those on the front-lines fight not only the fires but also preserve their culture. AAXLL was saddened that the G7 summit participating countries only committed 20 million dollars towards relief, so they decided to do their best to help make a difference.

The Final Word

Cannabis has been a boon for businesses around the world. In the US and Canada, new companies spring up every day, each facing the same challenge — how do you advertise in an industry that doesn’t allow it?

AAXLL has managed to create proprietary IP to position its brands in the most valuable online real estate in the cannabis industry. Having already captured a sizeable audience, AAXLL has taken the next step and fortified its brands with meaningful creative.

The inaugural Clio Cannabis Awards recognize top talent and quality works, amplifying the inspired efforts of cannabis brands from all over the world. In spite of its humble grassroots beginnings, AAXLL is now in the running for this prestigious award. Whether through social media or social good, AAXLL is grateful to be part of these inaugural awards.

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