So you want to design a recreational cannabis brand in Canada?
Over the last four years here at Jacknife, we’ve been lucky enough to play an active role in branding and developing cannabis brands for licensed producers, medical educators, and commercial advocates. We’ve worked to define, position and craft a new wave of brands entering an unknown market at the flip of a switch.
On October 17th, an unprecedented number of (mostly) savvy and well-designed brands will hit the shelves. Needless to say, the country—as well as the global industry—is watching closely. The nearest references we have for what’s about to happen are the end of the American prohibition and the gradual evolution of alcohol branding in Canada over the last century. (We’ve come a long way since the days of purchase order slips at the LCBO.)
We’re all diving into the unknown together. For cannabis brands and their creative agencies this simultaneously means both exhilaration and exasperation throughout the long (and ever-changing) process. Based on our experiences in the space, we’ve outlined four key tenets for designing successful brands in this emerging market.
/ STICK TO THE PROCESS AND FOLLOW THROUGH.
With the consumer always in sight, keep briefs focused, stick to milestones, give and receive constructive feedback (define “constructive”), and always avoid assumption.
/ BUILD DREAM TEAMS.
Engage partners that fit. Bring the right specialists to the table and allow them to do what they do best by defining roles and responsibilities. Because everything is moving at lightning speed, it’s crucial to balance project urgency with reflection, iteration and refinement throughout the branding process.
/ TRANSPARENCY, TRUST AND OPEN COMMUNICATION.
Stakeholder management and stewardship is essential when developing a new cannabis brand. It’s important to focus on key tasks and deliverables, avoiding the trappings of working in silos; foster collaboration and establish a common working vocabulary between you and your client or agency. Regular check-ins and working sessions are great tools to accomplish this.
/ TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND BE PREPARED TO DO IT OVER.
Pre-legalization means a period of uncertainty where the rules can shift on a weekly or daily basis. How recreational cannabis brands choose to react to this will vary. For their agencies this means designing brands in a real-time pace, where context can rapidly change. Be flexible, design systems that are readily scalable, have a backup plan, and be prepared to deploy plan B (or C, or D), and manage client expectations accordingly.
These four elements are merely the start to building successful brands and understanding the complexity of the space. There are hundreds more things that we’ve learned along the way–but that’s beyond this post. Want to chat about more than these four? check out some of our work below and , or read about our .