In 29 states plus the District of Columbia, cannabis has been legalized for either recreational or medicinal use. Though the majority of the states that make up this nation have a stake in the weed game, Mary Jane remains federally prohibited. As a Schedule I substance, cannabis (along with heroine, LSD, and ecstasy) is considered highly dangerous and medically useless according to the Controlled Substances Act, the legislation responsible for this system of drug categorization.In addition to being unreasonable, the law has created hurdles for the burgeoning industry, including its ability to brand itself.
Federal law prohibits the advertisement of contraband on television or radio, and even in legalized states, the distances between cannabis marketing and institutions catering to child-related services (schools, daycares, libraries) must be carefully considered. So even though cannabis can be advertised in an airport in California (where it cannot be physically present), it can’t be advertised on most billboards or on local radio and television in California cities (where it can be legally possessed and purchased). This is the stuff cannabis policy is made of.
Even though these challenges to marketing make brand building a little tougher than the process already is, it’s vital that cannabis companies interested in making it after the noise around cannabis legalization settles make every effort to cultivate a transcendent brand.
A company’s brand is its identity—the attributes that distinguish it from its competitors. Consumer-facing brands should be crafted to engage the segment of the market most likely to purchase the product, while business-facing brands should be designed to appeal to other businesses that could benefit from the company marketing its products or services. No matter the type of brand, it should be one that is “going to last through the change into full legalization whenever that comes,” as Nesta CEO Chuck Rifici recommended in an interview with Wikileaf.
“A lot of the customers today are more cannabis enthusiasts or early adopters, but I think a large amount of sales and consumption over time are just going to be from rank and file Americans in the US,” Rifici continued. “I think it’s important to stay away from the obvious unique ‘canna’ brands and the overuse of the colors green and ‘canna’ […] because those aren’t really going to last in the long term.”
Top Branding Agencies
Because of the cannabis industry’s youth, there are far less cannabis-selling operations than there is demand for product. That success is somewhat blinding. Many cannabis entrepreneurs don’t see the point in investing in a branding agency when they’re having trouble keeping their shelves stocked according to Marijuana Business Magazine. However, once full legalization becomes a reality, the industry will create a far more competitive landscape for businesses to traverse. Additionally, the social stigma cannabis endures makes many an interested consumer reticent of fully embracing the newly legalized industry. The following companies are devoted to making cannabis a more palatable commodity for these potential customers.
Wick and Mortar
Formerly Online Marijuana Design, Wick and Mortar has been in operation since 2009, making it the most seasoned branding agency specific to the cannabis industry. Wick and Mortar provides a full range of branding services for companies within the cannabis industry including advertising, app design, branding, logo design, marketing, packaging, photography, SEO, and web design. This agency’s work has been featured in articles published by the Huffington Post, CNN Money, MJ Business Daily, Geekwire, Marijuana Venture, Merry Jane, Dope Magazine, and more. Wick and Mortar’s diverse designs have been used by cannabis retail store Evergreen Market, cannabis cultivation company Lifted, the business convention CannaCon, and the edibles company Blaze among many others. To learn more about Wick and Mortar, check out this interview we did with their foudner and CEO, Jared Mirsky.
This Portland, Oregon based agency works with companies nationwide. With more than 15 years of experience in branding, Potency has the tools and expertise to help entrepreneurs in the cultivation, investment, and retail segments of the cannabis industry build award-winning brands. The company’s services reach all areas of brand development and include brand strategizing, company naming, identity development, copywriting, and illustration, web design, packaging, and merchandising. Potency’s rustic, earthy work has earned recognition from Dope Magazine, High Times, and Fast Company. Potency’s clients include the dispensary Stem Wellness, edible company Cannavore, and the cultivation site Pistil Farms.
As featured in the Washington Post, Forbes, and CBS This Morning, Brand Joint provides its clients with “bold brands for risk-takers, trendsetters, and innovators.” The Maryland-based company’s mission is to make the cannabis brand more accessible to those who remain influenced by the plant’s unfortunately resilient negative connotation. Jennifer Culpepper, the founder and Creative Director of the company, has over 20 years of experience in building brands, and is a frequent speaker at numerous cannabis conferences including Women Grow Signature Speaking Events. Brand Joint’s whimsical and modern designs attracted clients like cannabis concentrate line Ananda, Washington D.C.-based dispensary National Holistic, and apparel company Crab Cakes & Cannabis.
Another agency based in Portland, Oregon, KindTyme’s team is comprised of branding professionals with expertise in the areas of design, marketing, strategy, and development. KindTyme’s process involves thorough study of their clients, planning, project development, delivery, and long-term support and services ranging from website design to social media. On-going services include SEO strategization, technical support, website hosting, and content planning. KindTyme was awarded “Best Cannabis Design Firm” at the 2017 Dope Industry Awards in Oregon. You can find their award-winning work in products sold by cannabis flower and concentrate brand Apollo Grown and on the website of cannabis dispensary Canuvo.
With titles like “Omnipotent,” “Design Extraordinaire,” “Design Ninja,” and “Digital Mastermind,” Lucid’s team makes it clear that they aren’t afraid to be just a little edgier than the competition. The company’s services include cannabis branding, packaging, and marketing. Lucid’s work has been featured in reviews by Dope Magazine, Marijuana Venture, Advertising Age, the Willamette Week, the Potlander, and the Daily Leaf. Their bold designs are featured in NW Kind’s product packaging, Golden XTRX’s branding design, and PROPER’s web design.