Branding is important when a business’ legitimacy has not been fully embraced by culture or the law, a problematic situation the cannabis industry is currently navigating through. The industry’s hope lies in its widely publicized lucrative potential: according to Arcview Market research group, a cannabis consulting company, legal cannabis business produced $6.9 billion in 2016 and is projected to generate almost $22 billion by 2021. This marijuana boom means that marketing is one of the business sectors within the industry that continues to grow, and innovative companies are totally transforming the way consumers look at cannabis.
This cultural shift means it’s time to redefine and rebrand, and that requires the recognition that the market is comprised of populations which are incredibly diverse, knowledgeable, and respectable. Savvy companies know how to promote themselves to these populations by using venues such as websites and trending social media platforms to increase brand recognition. But that self-promotion will only gain momentum if the brand creates the right kind of energy. The following marketing agencies have acknowledged that nuance and are playing an enormous role in bringing beauty, edge, and legitimacy to the industry’s image.
Wick and Mortar
Wick and Mortar (formerly Online Marijuana Design) is Seattle’s leading cannabis marketing company. They’ve won Dope Magazine’s Industry
Award for Best Design Firm (twice!) and have been featured in magazines such as Forbes, Huffington Post, and CNN Money. Founder and CEO, Jared Mirsky, got his start in cannabis when it was medically legalized in 2009. Since then, his experiences have groomed him to become one of the most trusted voices in cannabis. Wick and Mortar is the embodiment of Jared’s mission to rebrand and destigmatize the idea of cannabis in America. When asked about challenges specific to branding in the cannabis space, Mirsky told The Stash,
“The biggest challenges when building a brand for a cannabis client are really understanding the plant, understanding the client, and most importantly, understanding the rules and regulations and compliances pertaining to each state that our clients are in. Not only that, but I feel like the industry is growing so fast that things are changing very quickly, which is forcing everyone to have to be quite a bit more nimble and malleable. So I’d say that that’s probably been the most difficult thing. But ultimately I feel pretty damn comfortable in the cannabis industry now, given how long I’ve been in it.”
This San Francisco based graphic design company works with entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists, restaurant owners, and, of course, cannabis ventures to create packaging, products, books, and full service branding. The company’s use of bold colors, space, surprising icons, and innovative thinking give their work the modern, minimalist look trending today. Its packaging work with Prophet Cannabis Company has a masculine, modern feel that far surpasses the sketchiness of the black market’s clear plastic bags.
Rival, another California based agency, works with a variety of organizations but is known in the cannabis world for its project with Willie’s Reserve, Willie Nelson’s line of marijuana products. Rival incorporated Nelson’s love of music, dedication to positivity, equal dedication to nonconformity, and his appreciation of the American west into the company’s brand. In constructing Nelson’s branding, Rival’s inclusion of the cannabis leaf nodded toward the subculture’s history while incorporating the sophistication of the modern legalized movement’s style.
Think It Design
A small Georgia marketing studio, Think It Design helps businesses develop their identities, brands, packaging methods, and print and digital designs. They have worked with an array of businesses including Trump Towers, Safety 1st Infant Products, Crayola, Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, and the medicinal cannabis label, House of Jane: Jane’s Brew. Think It Design used the busy but clean, bohemian look reminiscent of Starbucks graphic design in its development of House of Jane’s branding, giving the product a warm, artsy, and professional look. The products blend in quite well with the beverages that line grocery shelves today while standing out just enough to pique interest.
Located in Portland, Oregon, Sockeye is a marketing agency that has worked in everything from retail business to academia. Sockeye worked with Mirth Provisions, a company specializing in the production of cannabis-infused goods, to create a dark, rustic, brand appealing to those seeking happiness in the simple things the earth has to offer. The agency’s use of natural images and minimalism are gentle reminders that cannabis, despite the political and social upheaval surrounding it, is just a flower.
This marketing agency has worked with retail monoliths including Starbucks, Qdoba, Jansport, Panera, and New Balance. More recently, it worked with Privateer Holdings’ cannabis brand, Marley Natural. Heckler Associates is responsible for the brand’s lion-themed logo, an integration of the deep connection between Bob Marley and cannabis and the movement today.
This marketing agency, self-described as the world’s largest independent design consultancy, has locations around the world designing websites, architecture, interiors, books, posters, and exhibitions. Pentagram has worked with more than one cannabis business, but perhaps its most notable partnership has been with Snoop Dog in his venture, Leafs by Snoop. Pentagram’s simple but elegant use of a gold leaf over a white background gives Snoop’s products an air of surprising sophistication.
Cannabrand calls itself the world’s first cannabis marketing agency, and its mission is to “partner with cannabis industry companies who are dedicated to making their brand image not only recognizable, but an experience for the consumer.” MiNDFUL was featured on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Style section and given air time on 60 Minutes. Not bad.