Start a cannabis business? Time to think about how to brand it! Cannabis civilization has come a long way from the hookah-filled cabinets, neon signs, and Bob Marley T-shirts of headshops of the past. With literally hundreds of providers now popping up in North America, the need to create a distinctive brand identity is more important than ever.
Fortunately, there are many excellent examples of cannabis brands. To help you get started, we’ve rounded up four of our favorite cannabis branding styles for 2020, plus some top tips for launching your own cannabis business.
The Core Elements of a Great Cannabis Brand
Marijuana is a big problem today. Since legalization in Canada and parts of the US, some of the largest distributors have been listed on the New York Stock Exchange, earning revenues of up to a quarter of a billion each year. The market has generated an enormous diversity of products, from medicinal and recreational CBD edibles to pre-rolled joints, plus various purchase options (brick and mortar, e-commerce, subscription).
As a result, you must build a brand that makes you stand out and helps you clearly define your position. Unfortunately, ‘Craig’s insane Cheese’ and ‘Down at the park’ are no longer acceptable product or distribution models, respectively. (Craig’s Cheese was crazy, though)
So what do most of the big cannabis brands have in common?
1. The logo
Unless used subtly or originally, most modern cannabis business logos stray from the marijuana leaf symbology of the past. While photos of significant green leaves power have had their place on the wall alongside Offspring and Limp Bizkit posters, it’s not the ’90s anymore (sadly). With that being said, the leaf symbol is an essential and unique industry icon, and when used effectively, it can spearhead some great branding directions.
2. The name
Cannabis culture is notorious for its overused clichés, and brands have realized it’s time to stop that. Names typically work when they refer to cannabis in a fresh and understated way, such as Doja, Tweed, and Tokyo Smoke. Fortunately, the vast lexicon of cannabis bags has a wide variety of words to choose from and adapt, such as kush, loud, chronic, smoke, bud, etc. Play around with names and try to develop something that stands out in your market category.
3. Look and feel
The cannabis brand is evolving and developing in character. The look you choose will depend on the type of clientele you think your product aligns with. Take note of certain buzzwords and themes that you notice in the brands you like. Are they focused on health? Organic looking? Modern? Luxurious? Increasingly, cannabis brands are no longer seen as part of a foreign market or counterculture. As a result, the brand has begun to follow more conventional paths.
Tip: You may have noticed that many cannabis brands look and feel the same as beauty brands, organics, or tea and coffee companies. This is not an accident. Many actively draw inspiration from these verticals, as cannabis apps have crossovers in each.
Cannabis Brand Styles
As the market for legal cannabinoids resumes to flourish, we have noticed a natural grouping of brands into a few different categories. These are four of the most common cannabis branding approaches we’ve seen so far.
A happy marriage of digital-age design and online shopping models, the cannabis brand in the Modern category has a clean, laid-back feel and a tech aesthetic. Many of the brands here opt for stripped-down sans serif logo fonts, wonderfully simple design elements, and gorgeous eCommerce displays.
The dosage is an excellent example of the modern cannabis brand with Apple-level attention to detail. Her aesthetic uses a background of creamy pastels with some rich accents to highlight different formulas. In particular, we love the clean, educational feel of the website and the bold branding elements like the logo, packaging, and color palette.
The monolithic Canopy Growth Corporation is the first publicly traded cannabis company. Tweed is a modern cannabis brand that sells everything from pre-rolled joints to chocolate. The logo and branding mind a stylish urban feel reminiscent of sneak and apparel companies. We especially love their packaging!
Another brand under the Canopy Change umbrella, Doja, is a fantastic example of stylish brand originality and brilliant online execution, created by design agency Writing. The logo is a sample of using CBD imagery subtly, and the site is stunning, weaving history, function, and color seamlessly into a rich experience.
Tips for creating a modern cannabis brand:
- Keep your logo simple
- Use a different and thoughtful color palette
- Focus on functionality in your brand aesthetic, from website to packaging design.
Think of an attractive and accessible name
Luxury cannabis has continued to grow as a market segment, with brands like Beboe and The Goodship Company coming to define the look and feel of the luxury cannabis aesthetic. Distinctive design elements with a boutique cosmetic flair (plus a few extra bucks on the price tag) typify these brands.
Beboe is a Cali-based luxury cannabis experience brand created by artist Scott Campbell and tech and fashion executive Clement Kwan. Selling everything from vape pens to cakes, Beboe uses a baroque-inspired brand with aspects of Campbell’s traditional tattoo background.
No, it’s not a Beyonce knockoff. Putting the high on high, Defonce (which also means “high” in French) creates luxurious cannabis-infused chocolate in gorgeous packaging, unlike the edibles you’re used to. Stylish branding combined with handcrafted chocolate packaging and a super cool logo makes Defonce an excellent example of successfully branding a specific product, market and segment.
Van der Pop
Designed as a women-friendly cannabis business, Van der Pop’ curates and creates cannabis experiences for modern women. A logo that couldn’t be further from the headshop aesthetic if it tried, Van der Pop’s brand draws inspiration from the world of fashion and cosmetics, with a delicately crafted brand story that directs cannabis education to women.
The Goodship Company
The Goodship Company is another manufacturer of CBD-infused chocolate with elements of baroque branding. Even if you’re starting with a few products in your line, The Goodship Company is proof that it’s all about the brand you surround yourself with.
Tips for creating a luxury cannabis brand:
- Get inspired by relevant industries
- Reproduce bold design elements in a sleek and sophisticated logo.
- Come up with an expensive-sounding name!
Probably the most ‘predictable’ cannabis brand style (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), organic brands focus on holistic approaches and an often rustic, smooth feel. Brands in this category use earthy tones and can often bear a passing resemblance to a yoga studio or coffee company brand.
Marley Natural is a purveyor of cannabis products and accessories, with a distinctly rustic feel and outspoken brand voice. Rasta inspires their iconography, and their brand story does an excellent job of encapsulating the feel and taste of their products.
Kiva Confections is a grocery producer that makes cannabis-infused mints, bites, gummies, and chocolates. His brand is apt for its simple organic elements and laid-back color schemes. Products are individually named, and many have Cannabis packaging designs that help clarify and define your offering.
Maitri, which means loving-kindness in Sanskrit, makes beautiful homeware and cannabis accessories for ritual lovers. Wood touches and smooth porcelain details give their products a ceremonial quality that makes you want to drop a ’10 Hours of Gentle Rain’ track on YouTube and put your feet up.
Tips for creating an organic cannabis brand:
- Get inspired by nature
- Focus on textural contrasts and natural shapes.
- Explore spiritualist traditions and approaches
- Use earthy color combinations
4. Health comes first
The healthy marijuana brand often blends a clinical look and feel with an accessible but not too flashy, modern aesthetic. Stamps and branding elements are simple, and sites are your usual e-commerce setup. The emphasis in this vertical is on sensible functionality, education, and safety.
Depending on which state you’re in, Wana sells affordable cannabis edibles in medical and recreational formats. Branded more like a supplement company, Wana does a good job positioning itself as a health-focused cannabis brand without being too over the top about it. However, the logo could use some work!
Apothecanna is an American provider of cannabis-infused pain-relieving skincare products. According to the company’s mission, Apothecanna aims to “spread the wisdom of traditional plant medicine” and has created a brand that is not too direct. This marijuana brand focuses on clearly describing the ingredients and benefits available.
Tips for creating a cannabis brand that puts health first:
- Take inspiration from mass-market health care and supplements, but put your spin on it
- Keep design elements and themes accessible and utilitarian
- Focus on a clear and educational tone of voice
- Start a cannabis business
If you’re thinking about a cannabis business, you’ve probably thought about the practicalities. But just in case, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Think about your positioning before you throw. For example, if you plan to create a brand identity for a boutique CBD edible brand, make sure the strain and dosages are correct. Don’t send your clientele directly to Mars after just one gummy.
Make sure you comprehend your state or province’s applicable laws and regulations. Cannabis may be legal in Canada and in 11 forms (at the time of writing), but per jurisdiction has its rules on possession and distribution. Make sure you are up to date and compliant. Likewise, many social media companies have strict policies about marketing any cannabinoid product, so check to be sure.