Building a strong brand from scratch is an intimidating task in any industry, especially for cannabis businesses. In addition to the usual challenges of building a brand in an increasingly crowded space, cannabis businesses must navigate a complex and constantly changing legal landscape.
Don’t worry though, sticking to these simple do’s and don’t’s will help you make an impression that lasts, while also avoiding the mistakes that hold back many cannabis brands.
Create a Clear Style Guide
A style guide establishes the images, colors, fonts, and formatting that will represent your business in any context. Besides helping your own team to create a consistent brand image, a style guide is also an invaluable resource when it comes to working with contractors and freelancers.
Creating a style guide starts with your logo. Your packaging, promotions, logo, and website design, are the first parts of your business that customers encounter. These need to be consistent in their style and design to ensure that customers know your products and marketing as soon as they see them. Here are some tips on creating your business logo.
- Research your competitors’ logos. This is a great way to find inspiration, while also ensuring your logo is not similar to anyone else’s.
- Recognizable logos are simple and bold so that they can be understood with a quick glance, even from a distance.
- Use colors and icons that reflect the values and personality you want to associate your brand with.
- Avoid the overdone clichés. A green cannabis leaf, joint, or another obvious cannabis iconography will have a hard time standing out from the crowd.
- Don’t use complex images and fonts that can be hard to discern with a brief glance.
If your customer is shopping in-store, might be the first time they learn anything about your business. Besides creating an appealing visual design, this also needs to provide the information a customer needs to make a purchasing decision. Legal regulations affecting how cannabis products can be packaged differ greatly from region to region, so paying close attention to your packaging designs is very important.
- Create a packaging design you can use across different product types. Even if you only sell one type of product now, you should be able to expand your product range without changing your branding. Otherwise, you could lose all of the hard-earned brand recognition you have built up.
- Find out what you can and can’t say on your packaging in your region, as well as the information you must provide. Customers want clear and honest information about what they are buying, and getting this wrong can also put you in legal trouble.
- Avoid imagery that could limit the audience your packaging appeals to. While garish or psychedelic images may appeal to some customers, many others don’t want to be associated with ‘stoner culture’ stereotypes. Keeping it classy gives your brand a wider appeal.
- Avoid cartoons and any other images that could appeal to children. In most regions and most countries, it is illegal to create cannabis marketing and packaging that could appeal to people under the legal age to buy cannabis.
The state of Nevada has a list of legal requirements for cannabis product packaging and labeling.
Other Branding Do’s and Don’ts
Your style guide is a very important part of branding, but far from the only area to focus on. These more general do’s and don’t’s should apply wherever you build your brand image, from your business information on your website to the style and tone of your cannabis marketing and promotions:
- There are many misconceptions about cannabis and the people who use it, even among frequent customers. Giving people good information establishes your brand as trustworthy.
- Share your story and values. Telling a story about your business and how you uphold your business’s values enables customers to form a stronger emotional connection to your brand.
- Understand the legal landscape. The complex legal status of cannabis and the cannabis industry means that almost every step of creating your business branding has the potential to fall afoul of regulatory restrictions.
- Be approachable. If your branding uses jargon and buzzwords intelligible only to experienced cannabis customers, you may struggle to attract new or beginner consumers who could have become long-term customers.
- Offend your customers. Don’t play into negative stereotypes about the effects of cannabis or cannabis consumers. While you may intend this kind of branding as a form of self-deprecating humor, your customers might not see it that way. Even in places where cannabis has been legal for years, people can face stigmatization for using it and they don’t want to carry products that reinforce stereotypes.
- Make unproven claims about your product or cannabis in general. Not only can this get you into legal hot water, but it can also make your brand appear untrustworthy to customers.
- Forget social responsibilities. Consumers of all industries are increasingly aware of the social impact the brands they buy from have, from their sustainability and ecological impact to the work they do in their local communities. This is especially true when it comes to cannabis consumers. The legal and social issues surrounding cannabis are ongoing and have likely impacted almost all of your customers in some way.
The cannabis industry is growing rapidly, making it more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. Marijuana business branding is an important part of creating a memorable customer experience that earns long-term loyalty. It established the first impression and how customers feel about your business long before they even try any of your products. Following these do’s and don’ts will help you create a brand image that customers can connect with while avoiding costly mistakes.