Cannabis Legalization is here which means Ontario gets its first look at the much-anticipated Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) e-commerce website. We finally get to see the final work of the $650,000 branding price tag and the end result is underwhelming, to say the least. Despite our opinion on the look and effectiveness of the branding work by Leo Burnett Design (LBD), it is hard to swallow that the Ontario Government was able to justify such a large price tag for the work, especially from an American firm.
For a contextual comparison, the LCBO (parent company of the OCS) spent $500,000 on a comprehensive rebranding campaign, which according to their website, included print products and web design work. The LCBO has 650 retail locations, and the interiors had to be accounted for along with the signage. OCS on the other-hand, uses a recognizable Shopify theme for the site which uses minimal branding elements aside from the controversial logo and some custom product graphics.
LBD was also responsible for market research, branding guidelines, and plans for brand development for the OCS. It would be easy to see where the money had gone if a robust, appealing site was unveiled at midnight on October 17th, but instead not much had changed since the brand’s unveiling in March 2018.
Sometimes agencies decide to create their own font, ok… BUT, the font OCS used is far from custom. Take a look at our comparison between their brand’s “Ontario” (top) and the freely available Metropolis Light (Bottom):
Here is the OCS acronym overlapped with Metropolis Thin (in red):
While nitpicking a branding campaign in most cases is redundant, in this case it is surprising that a public institution is using shocking amounts of tax dollars on what could have been achieved with a high school design competition and even that doesn’t do justice to what some young talents are able to create these days.
We acknowledge that we may not be aware of print product design, the full extent of brand testing, and any other unknown factors, however, when all that is utilized on the finished product is a very simple logo, a basic Shopify site, and few custom branded elements, it is hard to NOT criticize some of the decisions.
So how much SHOULD have this cost?
Well, here are the facts:
- Shopify site (minimal custom design)
- Age verification “security” (easily bypassed with with typing in a “/success” into the URL)
- Custom product graphics (OK, we’ll give them that…)
- 700-800 pages indexed in Google (most are duplicate product pages)
- Cart limit calculator
If WebMarketers had been responsible with coming up with the same end result, we could have saved Ontario close to $620,000 of taxpayers’ money. This Shopify site just doesn’t justify a quote above $20,000, which would include the design, development & content production. (and maybe some added costs to recoup efforts invested into the RFP process)
And hey, if you like the branding, maybe they spent a week coming up with the OCS initials and contracting this guy to draw a perfect circle around them….
But even accounting for a generous $10,000 for branding, this project should not have cost any more than $30,000.
I’m sure nobody is sitting there “Shocked” that the government has wasted our money again, but let’s not let that become the norm.
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