TABLE OF CONTENTS
A company’s brand is extremely important—and no place is this truer than in the cannabis industry. A brand and its related packaging speak to many aspects of the companies they represent. For instance, a medical dispensary will require a more serious tone and imagery than a recreational marijuana store.
A brand is more than a company name and logo—it’s the overall image of the enterprise it represents. Not only will a brand identify the brick-and-mortar building of the company, but its business cards, letterhead, website, company vehicles, and advertising as well. Every cannabis company should strive to create brand awareness and recognition to potential customers, which will hopefully lead to brand trust and loyalty. If a cannabis customer purchases a strain from a dispensary and really likes it, most likely he or she will return to purchase more—or try a different product or strain. The brand image and name represent the quality products and/or services of the operation. This will lead to recommendations from these repeat customers.
While a brand should be attractive, there’s beauty in simplicity. Overly complicated designs and wordiness will be less compelling and memorable than limited design elements, colors, and concise wording. Consider the branding from successful companies like Nike® and Coke® as good examples of effective branding. A brand should be artistic and reflect the skills of the graphic designer who created it, but it’s not intended to be a work of art—it’s a marketing piece, perhaps the most important marketing piece a company will ever create.
In the cannabis space there are numerous dispensaries, cultivation operations, and concentrates manufacturers all competing for a greater share of their local market. When the day comes that cannabis becomes legal nationally, this competition will expand beyond the state level to national and perhaps international competition. The savvy and astute cannabis connoisseur will look to the future when creating a brand and related packaging. Not only should the brand accurately represent the company, but also the direction the company plans to go in the future.
Types of Businesses
Cannabis brands not only represent dispensaries, cultivators, and concentrates companies. While these are the most obvious businesses, a plethora of other ancillary companies don’t touch the plant—or touch it in a much more limited capacity. These include software and app developers, security companies, publishers, industry consultants, delivery companies, legal offices, realtors, staffing agencies, and marketing companies that now specialize in serving the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Each requires a brand to help them stand out from their competition and remain competitive, because competition is only going to grow in the future.
Startup cannabis companies should invest in their branding and packaging to make them distinctive and different. These companies don’t want to get lost in the shuffle with boring imagery and fonts. They should invest heavily in brand building and consult marketing and advertising companies to ensure they get the best possible exposure. They should rely on professionals with a track record for brand building—or rebranding—for successful companies. Some of these branding companies cater specifically to the cannabis industry. These are the branding professionals that new business owners need to consult early in their companies’ development.
A cannabis company’s packaging should include the brand logo and be similar in design, with compatible fonts and design elements that don’t clash with the brand image and wording. They should complement each other and serve to provide a consistent and cohesive look to all products produced by a company. When a potential buy sees one of your packaged products, you want them to know exactly where it came from, not have to guess about the company that produced it.
Nowhere in the industry is branding more relevant than the retail environment, whether it be medical dispensary or recreational store. Not only will the brand have a prominent presence on the storefront, but on many of the products sold within the store as well. The employees may even wear clothing that proudly displays the brand. Brands should never be hidden, but displayed proudly.
For instance, the main product driving the cannabis industry is flower. Flower packaging, regardless of the type of container or bag it comes in, must display the company brand. If a customer buys a half ounce of flower, the branded half ounce container goes out the door with him or her and will be seen by everyone with which the customer decides to share. The same goes for concentrates. Whether its shatter, wax, hash, oil, crumble, or rosin, the container in which it is sold will go out the door with the customer and will most likely be seen by others. Consider craft beer as an apt analogy. If you visit a friend’s house and she offers you a beer from the fridge that turns out to be very tasty—with just the right presence of hops or malt you love—chances are you’re going to notice the label on the bottle and possibly buy some for yourself at a later date. The same holds true for cannabis. Just like beer drinkers, cannabis smokers will spend extra to get something particularly good, and they have a wide assortment of brands to choose from these days.
Cannabis retail businesses sell a great deal of cannabis-related gear as well. Nearly all of these products can be ordered with the company brand, whether it’s a vaporizer pen, dab rig, pipe, bong, lighter, key rings, or stash jar. If a dispensary sells it, the company brand should go in it.
Packaging for other products should carry the brand as well. Infused edibles and beverages will carry the brand, but what about related products like mugs, glasses, and plates? If customers enjoy a company’s products, most likely they will buy related items as well.
Branded Apparel: Free Advertising
Every dispensary should have a selection of company-branded clothing items. Shirts, caps, hoodies, and other apparel items are a great way to gain free advertising. Branded clothing is a good conversation starter—particularly if the branding is unique and interesting. With cannabis use coming out of the closet with many people who previously kept a low profile of their love for the plant, cannabis-company apparel lets them express themselves by displaying their interests.
Never underestimate the importance of word-of-mouth promotion in the cannabis industry. Cannabis enthusiasts can be a fickle crowd at times, and it can take some doing to win their loyalty. Once won, however, they will be likely to recommend your company and its products to their friends and acquaintances. Word of mouth is not limited to verbal conversations but postings on websites and social media as well. Word can travel fast about not only companies with low-quality products and customer service but good companies and products as well. Cannabis websites are full of questions from individuals looking for high-quality products. Cannabis companies will benefit from positive recommendations rather than nasty jabs from naysayers.
Just like a dispensary’s physical location is critical for its success, a good brand is vital for communicating its image, products, and services. When it comes to company success and marketing, branding can be everything.