Branding Bud: How Cannabis is Getting Creative

With the US seeing states legalising weed (Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Colorado) there’s something of a scrabble to rebrand cannabis to a mass audience. Should health benefits be the calling card, targeting yoga bunnies looking for that extra pinch of relaxation? Or is it more about tapping into verticals such as food and drink, lacing fruit squash with a touch of bud? And will all this brand noise make the authentic audience distance themselves from the mainstream smokers? These are just some of the questions that are sure to face the discerning buyer in the next 10 years, as legalisation spreads. If the Adult Use of Marijuana Act passes and is enacted by 2018, California’s legal cannabis sales are projected to hit $1.6 billion in their first year. So, there’s also a chunk of profit to be made. Although it might take some time for consumers to buy into the idea of branded cannabis, the likes of Brandsy are already tapping into a potential design language, so we take a little look at how this emerging business is taking traditional marketing tools.

Design, design, design

Unsurprisingly, celebrity endorsement is off the chain. Snoop Dogg has his own line ‘Leafs by Snoop’ (a bit of a dig at Beats by Dre, we wonder?). His line includes eight different types of marijuana flower, including Lemon Pie, as well as edibles and concentrates. What is suprising, though, is that it's also beautifully packaged, with design taken care of by agency Pentagram. Then there’s Dixie Elixirs who’ve got 30 products out there, and a whole lot of chic Scandi style. And, on opposite end, is the tongue-in-cheek rendering of Pepe le Pew used by The Green Skunk. So, all bases covered – from celeb stock to sleek design and stoner humour, there’s a lot to play with when it comes to branding bud. Perhaps the only avenue not left open is tapping into the grunge 90s aesthetic of Kids rebellion, now it’s legal that all seems a little passé.

Target Audiences

Meanwhile, we have the 'CosmoGirls of cannabis',

The Beverly Hills Cannabis Club

. They are (by their own reckoning) the original branded bud. Since 1996, they’ve tapped into that Hollywood market, not only providing ‘luxury brands’ to discerning customers, but also offering “…its sophisticated members… detailed insight into a range of subjects, which include 420 travel, politics, women and children issues, fashion, state of the art vaporizers, and much more”.

This turn on the idea of ‘insight’ when it comes to smoking is an interesting one – showing how it becomes part of a lifestyle. This is reflected in the range of products that cannabis is being laced into. It’s not only vapor pens and edibles – BHCC have a reality TV show in the works, with Morgan Spurlock rumoured to be attached (working title ‘High Society’… another ganja genius strikes).

Start-Up Scenes

The start-up scene is all over this one too. Another genius coined the term


, so you know it’s serious. Although conditions aren’t quite there yet, for an en masse move into the sector, some people know it’s only a matter of time before brands start slipping into buzz words. Influencers will casually litter their Instagram with product, a joint here and some smoke-infused skater shots there. Meanwhile, content marketing will start sampling product – the new Beat Generation of the Internet, copywriting missives whilst high. And as for CRM masters? Well, what better way to get return click-through rates?

Diversify Your Offering

You don’t just smoke weed. Not anymore. As Simetra for Life show, you can always find a way to tap into the well-being trend. In their case, they have created a range of skin care products, supplement pills and vape pens. They’re cornering the ‘lifestyle’ offering, with images of young people playing on rope-swings and rolling American hills. They’re also developing an app.

But we’re left wondering…

Overall, legalisation hasn’t just given a new legitimacy to stoners like this guy, it has also opened up a potentially huge marketplace. No longer is legalisation a pet project of the radical left – with big profits on the horizon this could blow the traditional political faultlines open. From start-ups to apps and lifestyle branding, it's interesting to see that bringing bud to market follows some traditional tactics. Perhaps it's disruptive enough to try and get cannabis onto the shops shelves. This article first appeared on Creativepool. Connect with Amplify here.