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Cannabis Branding Trends | PART 2: LEVERAGE, don’t follow

In my last post, I described the pitfalls of trend following, and why cannabis companies shouldn’t follow cannabis branding trends. There are, however, exceptions to that rule.

Instead, let me offer a better way to think about the use of trends. Here’s my advice to cannabis brands when considering adopting a branding trend:

LEVERAGE A TREND, don’t follow it.

If you’re going to utilize a trend, make sure you do it with intention. Use it because it’s necessary to clarify your product offering, or because it capitalizes on a consumer preference or sentiment that you know will earn you some serious brand equity and loyalty.

How do you know whether your trend use meets those criteria? Ask yourself:

1. Does it give my customers what they want?

Let’s be clear: what you offer your customers is not a product or a service. It’s a feeling. Give them a sleek, cutting-edge piece of technology, and they get to experience a feeling of self-satisfaction and superiority. Offer them a time-saving service, what you’re really selling is an increased sense of productivity (a.k.a. self-worth), ease, and peace of mind. If the trending shape, color, or word(s) you’re considering using will effectively elicit the intended feeling, then it may be worth leveraging that trend.

2. Is it aligned with my brand?

Remember, I’ve said it before – your brand is not your logo. It’s the impression you make and the relationship you have with your customers, investors, partners, and the media. Does this trend represent the thing your brand stands for? Does it support the message you want to communicate to the world about your company or product?

3. Will it last?

This is why it’s so important that you don’t just generate a carbon copy of an existing trend. Take the trend and tweak it, twist it, reinvent it and make it original. Hint at the trend, but don’t broadcast it. If you can allude to a trend but not imitate it, your brand will feel more timeless.

Okay, so how does one go about “leveraging a trend”? What on earth does it even look like?

I’m glad you asked. In the next article, I’ll share examples of brands that have successfully leveraged cannabis branding trends.

To close this article, however, let me illustrate an example of the aforementioned criterion: Does this trend give my customers what they want?

The key requirement here: KNOW THY CUSTOMER.

And here’s the perfect example of why: meet Todd Hinden.

If you don’t know Todd, you haven’t done the Tri-State/New England cannacircuit… This industry stalwart (co-founder of High NY and long time cannabis advocate) is at friggen’ every show, fully adorned in green leaf attire, Burks and socks, and a full-fledged founding fathers ponytail.

Upon first seeing my HIT THE SPARK business card last summer, Todd announced in a ridiculously patronizing tone, “Ohhh, honey. No no no no. You just don’t get it.”

When I asked what the heck he was talking about, he exclaimed: “There’s no green – no leaf! This doesn’t say cannabis at all. It’s no good.”

Todd with me at CannaCon last summer and then CWCB the year prior. The attire is noticeably consistent, no?

This guy is clearly not my audience. Not my customer. And yet, he’s not the only one of his kind. There is, indeed, a new cannabis customer (there are many, in fact). But the original cannabis customer still exists. The stoner culture still exists, and there are products out there that are really only meant for that demographic. These consumers want to see all of the familiar visual and language cues from their heritage, so if they’re your main customer, make sure your brand hits most – if not all – of those points of nostalgia.

Just for emphasis, let me repeat what I’ve said earlier:

If you’re not designing for your customer, or worse – you don’t know who your customer is – then you might as well close up shop now.

For realz realz. (Note the added emphasis. Shit just got serious…)


Stay tuned for Part 3, COMING SOON…


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