Best Practices

A Branding Guide for the Cannabis, Hemp and CBD Industries

Your branding will determine the success of your company in this industry

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Introduction to Branding for Cannabis, CBD and Hemp Industries

Congratulations on your new business or product! You have created the next multi-million dollar product or idea in the Cannabis, CBD or Hemp Industry and now it’s go time. 

Whether it’s your own idea or you have business partners, most entrepreneurs know exactly how this revolutionary product or service is going to solve a problem in this new emerging industry. If the end goal for your new business is a merger, acquisition or total market domination, then you must build a loyal customer base and make your brand beloved.

It’s time to make some decisions on how you will go to market. 

✔️Million (or Billion) Dollar Idea

✔️Secured Funding

✔️Established an Execution Plan

🚫Brand Built and Logo Created

🚫Website, Marketing Collateral and Product Packaging Complete

🚫Go to Market

You are halfway through your process and now it’s time to create your brand. Anyone who is NOT a graphic designer (which is probably most of you) thinks that branding is creating a logo and a website. I’m here to tell you that it’s so much more. 

Your brand will become a living, breathing entity. Your brand will be born into the business world as a baby, grow through its teenage years and eventually become an adult. Throughout the lifetime of your brand, whether it’s 5 years or 50 years, there will be a natural evolution of what your brand looks like, but it should always maintain a resemblance of the very first time you storyboarded the ideas about what this company means to you and why you started this business.

Once you have established what your brand really means to you, the look and feel of your company will come together naturally. 

This branding guide will help you to establish a basic set of principles that will become the ethos of your company.

Choosing Your Target Persona

One of the most difficult challenges that a new brand can face is deciding who is their ideal customer. Most entrepreneurs and product developers will assume that their product will be bought by everyone and anyone. 

The reality is that by widening your focus and trying to appeal to everyone, that your brand will get lost in a sea of products with no clear direction as to who the product speaks to. This is one of the most challenging elements to branding because you are deciding an entire marketing plan around who you believe wants your new product. 

An entire marketing plan? Yes. That’s correct. The moment you choose your target persona, every aspect of your brand should invoke feelings from a potential buyer.

You should be asking yourself these questions to decide:

  • What is my product going to cost? 
  • What are the benefits that my product will provide a customer?
  • Is my product a one time purchase or will we gain customers for life?
  • What type of feelings do we want a buyer to have when they see our product?
  • Is my product a necessity or a lifestyle product?

The answers to these questions will start your journey to deciding who you will be targeting. Once you have these answers, you should have a “vision” of what a potential identity looks like, such as product packaging, website and potentially even a logo direction.

What Does Your Brand Stand For?

Now that you have a target persona chosen, you have to decide what your product and company stands for. 

Your brand is a living, breathing entity and has the ability to influence a buying decision. So how can you communicate the principles of your brand? Now is the time to start thinking about the principles of your brand and make a decision about how your brand and product will impact the world. 

Here are some examples:

Planet 13 Dispensary

Planet 13 is more than a marijuana dispensary,
we are an experience.

Building a dispensary around an experience versus a transactional nature, allows the world’s largest cannabis dispensary to change the perception of marijuana through unique customer experiences.

Caliva Cannabis

We Strive for Higher Standards

Not only does the brand hold itself to a high standard, but it lets customers know that the products they produce should be of the highest quality.

Sugar & Kush CBD Products

CBD Never Tasted This Good

This brand statement showcases a commitment to making CBD products that are focused around tasting great to their customers. 

It may sound like this is too much to consider at this stage, but are you building a brand and product to close the doors in a year, or are you planning for success? If your answer is not building for the future, then stop reading right now, go spend $5 on a logo and make room for the serious business owners and entrepreneurs.

You are still here and reading, so it looks like you aren’t quitting. That’s what we want to hear, so let’s continue with the branding chat. 

✅ You have decided who you are targeting. 

✅ You have established what your brand stands for.

🚫 How do you look? How do you sound?

What Does Your Brand Look Like?

By now you should have enough data to start storyboarding the look of your brand. Either you have ideas floating around in your brain or are completely blanking out on direction. No matter where you are in the creative process, try and stay focused on the target customer instead of thinking about a potential logo, packaging or marketing material.

The look will invoke a feeling from your target audience. How do you want people to feel when they see your new brand? If your brand is medical, then clinical imagery might work or possibly faceless people who are experiencing a condition that may be relieved with the use of your product. If your product or brand is recreational in nature, then using images of people having fun might do the trick to draw emotion out of a target buyer. Some additional feelings to target through imagery are fear, relief, humor, envy and guilt. A good exercise to narrow down some imagery ideas is to spend some time on a stock photo website, using keyword searches that are specific to the emotion you are looking to target. 

What Does Your Brand Sound Like?

The look will invoke a feeling from your target persona and the sound/tone of your brand voice. What does this mean exactly? The way you “speak” to your target audience is non-verbal and has to be portrayed in your marketing material, social media, newsletters and other marketing collateral.

As a rule of thumb, your brand voice should be linked directly to the brand statement. This tone is what brings the brand to life and this is your opportunity to build a relationship with your target audience. Keep in mind that your business will grow and the person in charge of creating marketing content will most likely change multiple times, so standardizing the tone will help to mitigate changes in writing styles, punctuation preferences and digital communication etiquette. 

Choose 3 simple words that define your brand voice. 

Here are some examples:

  • Creative 
  • Sarcastic
  • Cool
  • Authoritative
  • Funny
  • Friendly
  • Arrogant
  • Provocative
  • Confident

This is no easy task, but it’s important. If you establish 3 words, then you can create example pieces of content to be used across social media, product packaging and email communications. 

I’ll use 3 drastically different tones as examples for a potential social media caption for a cannabis dispensary coupon engagement promotion.

Friendly:

Hi! I am Brian and I work at that dispensary that you keep driving by. I am here to answer all of your questions in a private, comfortable environment. Stop by and see if I can recommend a product that will help you decide if our products are right for you. We are here to educate you about the benefits of our products. Send us a DM anytime with your questions and for an exclusive coupon!

Authoritative:

We have the best products, the best prices and the most knowledgeable budtenders in the industry. Come see why we are voted #1 dispensary by our customers. Give us a follow, send a DM and we will send you an exclusive coupon to use on your next purchase.

Confident:

We noticed that you are following a couple of brands that we carry in our new beautiful store. If you like them, then you will love us. Come in and see why we were voted the best dispensary in the Valley by our customers. We make sure you never leave unsatisfied. Still need convincing? Send us a DM and we will send you an exclusive coupon. 

Once you have chosen a direction for your voice, there needs to be continuity in your messaging across all marketing channels. 

Your brand voice is not your personal voice and it’s important to remember that the brand is a living, breathing entity. It can change slightly over time, but if you keep those three words that describe your brand voice in mind while you create all the content, then it will evolve naturally. 

The voice and tone has to speak directly to your target audience, so make sure you know your customer and how you want them to perceive your brand.

Case Study: Sugar & Kush CBD Imagery and Tone 

Deciding how you look and sound is incredibly important. It is unique to your decision on what the brand stands for, so in this case I’ll use the CBD brand mentioned in the previous section as an example since it has a larger target market that is not regionalized, or specific to the cannabis industry.

CBD Never Tasted This Good is the mantra and the health conscious, millennial consumer is the target.

Sugar and Kush CBD uses high quality, professional photos of attractive models because the founders have a history in the competitive nutraceutical and fitness industry. 

The direction for imagery was to invest heavily in creative photography and videography that would capture the attention of millennials who use Instagram. The decision was made to choose fitness models showcasing the product in a classy, yet seductive scene. Investing in creative imagery and video content would directly appeal to their target and hopefully stop both male and female users in the middle of their infinite scroll to appreciate a good looking human. 

Sugar and Kush’s product video on Instagram

The creative team produces short video content using advanced techniques designed specifically for social media engagement. Here is an example video of their Cotton Candy CBD tincture on IG:

Their product videos switch frames and scenes quickly paying mind to a short attention span, which increases watch times, creates emotion and boosts engagement leading to product sales.


The tone of Sugar & Kush CBD is playful in nature. Their content team speaks to their audience with the use of cheeky icons, internet slang, emojis and touching on current health trends to their target audience. Here are two examples that showcase continuity in brand voice:

Social Post: 

The traces of organic earthy nutty flavors in the lab tested hemp we use in our unflavored CBD oil may enrich food or goes great right under your tongue.🌱 It’s all grown right here in the U.S. and there is 0% THC.⁠

CBD Benefits🌿:⁣⁠

💜 Relief from everyday stresses⁣⁠

💜 Supports Restful Sleep

💜 Supports relaxation

💜 Sense of calm and focus⁠

.⁣

Website Content:

LIFE HACK: 

Enjoy relaxation! 

Drop a whole carnival onto your tongue with our pink and blue cotton candy CBD oil drops.

Dropping soon…

BAKED GOODS!

Just like mom’s home-baked, plus a nice infusion of CBD. Enjoy these after a few seconds in the oven for a melty, feel good experience. Nothing like a little sweet comfort food to put your mind and body at ease.

You can see from their content that it’s quite playful and fun. This made the brand elements come together as the team started logo and typography concepts, which is succinct with the rest of the colors and marketing. 

In Conclusion: Stay the Course!

Once you have established the basics of your brand, don’t change it. 

Of course there are some scenarios where the brand elements needs to change (business pivot, change in legislation, no sales), but if you are ready to build a company around your brand, then these principles become your guide to growth, a handbook for all employees, contractors, partners and most importantly a commitment to your customers. 

Do yourself a favor and hire a professional logo designer, give them the well thought-out direction for your brand, and witness your company come to life. 

About the Author:

Brian Wroblewski is the founder of Kush Clicks Cannabis Advertising. A digital marketing consultant who has been helping brands grow since 2003, Brian enjoys talking business, networking and smoking a fat preroll at the end of the night. 

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