Marijuana Goes Mainstream: Rebranding the Cannabis Culture

marijuana branding

As the legalization of marijuana starts to become a national phenomena, with 23 states having legalized it in some capacity, marijuana marketing techniques are greatly in need of a refashioning. Cliche logos consisting of pot leafs and green and black color schemes may have been successful prior to marijuana’s widespread legalization, but as it moves beyond its previous perception of a novelty, its branding needs to evolve with the times.

Categorizing Brands:

It is not uncommon for various marketing fields to stick with familiar visual symbols when marketing their brand. Many dentists incorporate teeth into their logos, and veterinarians use pictures of animals. It lumps the brand into an easily identifiable category. However, for certain industries, this can prohibit the brand from standing out above others in that category. That is what the marijuana leaf symbol has become to the marijuana industry. In a recent study by Emblemetric, in fields using cliched design elements in their branding, marijuana ranked third, below veterinarians and basketball teams, and was higher on the charts than barber shops with their classic striped polls.

This type of marketing may still attract consumers for the time being, but as marijuana begins to flow more and more into the mainstream, companies will need to incorporate other visual elements, so their particular brand doesn’t just get lumped into the general category of cannabis rather than stand out amongst competitors.

The Popular Pot Leaf:

According to United States Patent and Trademark Office, the marijuana leaf is featured in 44% of all marijuana-related businesses, and 20% of all U.S. logos. The first logo that featured the leaf was filed in 2004, and now it can be seen in one of every 500 new U.S. logos. Some of the most high-profile marijuana brands, such as performer Snoop Dogg’s Leafs by Snoop, feature the cannabis leaf. It is an obvious design. However, according to Brendan Kennedy, co-founder of the cannabis company Privateer Holdings, the marijuana industry is its own worst enemy when to comes to branding. It is still marketing marijuana as part of the counter-culture rather than the mainstream.

Companies Thinking Outside of the Box:

Privateer Holdings is one of the most successful cannabis-related companies. Their portfolio consists of three businesses: Tilray, a producer of medical marijuana, Leafly, a website and mobile application that provides reviews of cannabis strains and is a guide to licensed stores and dispensaries, and Marley Natural, a recreational cannabis named after reggae artist Bob Marley.

None of these companies use the pot leaf in their logos. (The leaf was a secondary design in the original Marley Natural logo but has been recently dropped.) Kennedy believes the goal of creating a successful brand in the cannabis industry is changing the perception of the product and the user. The once shady industry must now become trustworthy and unoffensive – a legitimate business. Using popular stoner slang like 4/20, or decorating your storefront in tie-dye may stand in the way of creating legitimacy.

A Billion Dollar Industry:

The marijuana industry is speculated to earn $6.7 billion dollars this year, and $22 billion by 2020. It already has a huge consumer base; nearly half of Americans consume marijuana in some form. These numbers prove that it is no doubt an industry on the rise. The goal for any business in any popular industry is to stand out from the rest. If 44% of the marijuana businesses are featuring pot leaf logos, it will be difficult to differentiate one from the other. As Kennedy said, “Not every name has to have ‘cana’ in it, or ‘green,’ or ‘Mary Jane.’ ” It’s time for the marijuana business to shed its proverbial skin and mature.

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