In the rapidly growing and increasingly competitive cannabis industry, effective branding can be everything. It can literally mean the difference between success and failure.
As business leaders in many different facets of the cannabis space work to build their companies, the vital importance of compelling brand identity becomes increasingly apparent. As well as a name that communicates its products and services, a company’s brand requires memorable graphics that transcend various product lines and packaging for a cohesive overall image. A brand needs to set a company apart from its competition, while an increasing number of enterprises emerge and compete for market share.
Hard work sometimes isn’t enough for a startup company to survive. As well as a cohesive business plan and the implementation of industry best practices, an alluring brand is imperative. To remain competitive, a cannabis company must continue to remain cognizant of industry trends and evolve to remain competitive. Contrary to what some people may say, marijuana does not sell itself.
Cannabis enthusiasts and connoisseurs can be a fickle group that has a plenty of choices. The days of limited access to high-grade product is over, and buyers are reluctant to pledge allegiance to any specific company. In order to build a solid customer or client base, a brand must produce consistent quality to gain brand trust, which in turn translates to brand loyalty.
With so many cannabis startup companies still emerging to compete for their share of the industry pie, unique and engaging branding is more important than ever. All of them need strategic branding to set themselves apart. To gain perspective about what defines a successful cannabis brand, the Cannabis Training University recently spoke with Wendy Rall of Budd Branding, a cannabis-specific branding company. In this interview, Rall shares candid insights into the challenges facing cannabis businesses and what sets a successfully branded company apart from its competition.
What inspired you to create Budd Branding?
Wendy Rall: In 2013, I saw the medical cannabis industry growing rapidly. I also saw the need for a more professional image to be brought to the cannabis industry overall. I have been working as a professional designer of branding, advertising, and package design for decades.
My desire was to help new cannabis companies create a brand identity that would represent their products with a clear, impactful, memorable visual brand identity. I was also inspired to help established companies elevate their current images through rebranding, in order to increase revenue.
Do cannabis-industry companies provide any unique challenges or limitations regarding branding?
Rall: Yes! The most current challenge that I face is fitting all of the legal requirements onto the labels and packages. I work to stay informed on the current laws that are constantly changing. There is required verbiage, minimal type point-size requirements, and symbols, which all vary from state to state. Many cannabis products are packaged in small jars, bags, or tubes, where it is sometimes impossible to fit the state’s legal requirements. These products are now going into additional outer packaging where there is more room to place the text and symbols. For example, jars with small labels now are placed into a box.
Another challenge is creating a cannabis leaf that’s original. There has been a shift in the industry, and the use of the leaf is diminishing to a degree; however, when a client desires a leaf in their logo design, I strive to create a unique image.
What are the essential components of successful brand identity?
Rall: A successful brand has many essential components, and brand identity is an extremely important part of every good brand. Let me take a moment to speak to the visual aspect of successful brand identity. When working on creating its brand, you need to know what the company has to offer and what audience it is targeting. Secondly, you want to convey your message very clearly, in a style that is attractive to your target audience. Keeping your logo simple is extremely important. You’ll want your logo to be clean, incorporating a font that is easy to read, using colors conducive to your message, and the inclusion of an icon will help your brand be recognized and remembered more easily.
Consistency is extremely important as well. From your business card to your advertising, and everything in-between, you will have the best result when all marketing materials have a consistent look to them. Everything does not need to look the same, yet it should look similar On the Budd Branding website, we have some examples of brand consistency that your readers may find interesting and worth considering for their own brand or future branding efforts.
Have you been involved in any cannabis-industry rebranding?
Rall: Yes, I’ve worked on several rebranding projects. After we completed the rebranding of “The Good Stuff Kombucha,” sales increased by 300 percent! This rebranding came about because the company realized that their original brand identity was not designed to attract their target audience. After consulting with us, we redesigned the labels for the product line as well as all marketing efforts, and the impact was significant! You can see the before-and-after images for packaging and marketing on our website. As a graphic-design professional, I’m quick to realize the visual impact of branding as opposed to explaining it. Seeing “The Good Stuff Kombucha” rebranding does a better job of communicating this significant rebranding effort than explaining it [laughs].
Many of our clients who came to us for rebranding had created logos on their own when they started, or had used an economy-based designer. As they grew, they realized that it was time to step up their game and have a professional image developed. If the brand was well established we worked to retain recognition while simultaneously strengthening the image. The work we did on Awakened Topicals is a good example of this.
In some cases, our clients felt that a very different image would serve them better, and what they were using was not well-known enough to retain, so we provided a fresh a new image. The Mermaid Wizdom rebranding is one such example. We have other examples of Budd Branding rebranding work on our website.
When do you think rebranding is necessary?
Rall: There are various times to rebrand. If you realize that your brand identity is not attracting your target audience, it’s time to rebrand. If you have a kind of “stoner” image, it’s time to rebrand in order to be taken seriously. If it’s been a decade or more since you started, you may want to evaluate your style to see if it feels timeless or outdated. If it feels outdated, it’s time to rebrand.
Many clients are beginning to take out the cannabis leaf, and that requires rebranding. And if you have a great product, but it’s not selling, that is a huge clue that you may need to rebrand.
Can you share examples of your successful cannabis branding?
Rall: One of our most successful brands is Pharm Aide Pharms. They are licensed in both Colorado and California. They came to us looking for a friendly family-farm image. The brand is extremely successful in both states, and they have developed a merchandising line featuring the logo. We created a line of T-shirt designs, featuring elements from the logo, which is available in various retail stores and online. The package design for their product bag is complementary to the advertising designs, website, and marketing materials we developed, yielding a consistent brand image.
A good portion of our designs can be found on our website. Be sure to visit the “New” page for designs not included on the portfolio page.