Forget the pan and shovel. There’s a new gold rush in America, and this time, the gold’s gone green.
Cannabis has quickly established itself as one of the fastest-growing markets in the country, with a wide range of CBD and cannabis-based products filling shelves in a growing number of states. Businesses big and small are seeing the new field for what it is: a market on the cusp of proliferation — a veritable retail frontier — and everyone wants in on the ground floor.
Already, experts estimate that there are more than 28,000 cannabis brands in the United States alone, with more on the way.
The problem: how to stand out in a herd of cannabis capitalists, especially if you don’t have the budget for a Budweiser-caliber ad campaign?
One solution: innovative, eye-catching package design.
Designed to Drive Sales
A product’s package is your brand’s most consistent form of advertising. It’s where the rubber meets the road.
That’s an important concept for companies working with minimal marketing budgets or little to no money spent on traditional advertising. Your package design has to work that much harder to get noticed.
So how exactly does cannabis package design lead to increased product sales? To Increase sales, cannabis package design needs to “Captivate, stimulate and motivate.”
One key thing to keep in mind is that your cannabis business is much more than the product alone. You’re in the world of retail, and in retail, communication drives sales. It’s not just how good your product is; it’s what your customer understands about your product. You’ve got to tell them why to buy.
In most markets, businesses turn to TV and online advertising to make their case directly to the consumer. But cannabis products are tightly regulated. The rules are different for cannabis and CBD, for example, than they are for brands like Coca-Cola or Heineken. That’s precisely why you can’t underestimate the value of packaging. It’s how you stand out. It’s how you elevate the perception of your product.
Studies show that the average consumer looks at a product on a shelf for about seven seconds before making a purchase decision. You have seven seconds for your package to tell them everything they need to know: what the product is, why they should buy it and how it should make them feel.
Historically, companies that have invested more heavily in creative, well-executed branding and packaging have outpaced competitors, yielding a higher return on investment. In fact, research has shown that better branding can even support higher price points.
By comparison, companies that fail to appreciate the value of packaging suffer from a lack of what experts call “on-shelf standout,” which ultimately leads to retailers returning your product and stocking something more appealing in its place.
An Emotional Connection
If you were to ask people why they choose the products they buy, they would probably answer in utilitarian terms: they like what the product does for them.
But market research consistently shows that there’s more to it than that. People also buy products because of what the product says about them.
It’s what the Harvard Business Review calls “psychological ownership.” Consumers understand, perhaps intuitively or subconsciously, that the products they use send a message to others — and even to themselves — about the kind of person they are, the circles they run in and their ability to make good choices. In other words, people see brands as an extension of themselves.
Your job as a product manufacturer is to package your product in a way that embodies the target customer’s lifestyle — their values, their interests, the problems they need to solve and the perception they want to have among others.
For cannabis companies, there is an additional challenge: different people come to cannabis for different reasons. Medicinal cannabis customers might think more about functional benefits, whereas a recreational cannabis consumer might be drawn to a brand’s lifestyle image.
Ultimately, it’s all about the emotional connections. Strong package design presents an opportunity to connect with customers on a personal, intimate, emotional level using language, visuals and other cues — and all in just seven seconds.
Branding and package design have the capacity to make these visceral connections with individual consumers. Everything from the way a package looks to the way it feels in their hands — and even the way it smells or the taste it suggests — can stimulate an emotional response. It is this visceral connection with the packaging that ultimately motivates the purchase.
Branding: Why It Matters
Branding is much more than just a package or a label. It’s an identity, a personality, a set of character traits.
The goal in any industry is to create a clear, unique and compelling brand identity.
But how do you do that? For many companies, branding is ultimately a “know yourself better” exercise. Questions to consider when developing a brand identity include:
– If the brand were a person, what adjectives would you use to describe them?
– Who is the brand’s audience? What adjectives would you use to describe your target customers?
– What is your product’s key differentiator? What makes it different from the others on the market?
– What are your brand’s key values? What positions do you take? What do you believe in as a business?
– What is your brand’s voice? What and how do you want to communicate to customers? (If your brand wrote a book, what would it be called, and what would the style of writing be?)
It’s important that the answer to each question be truthful, relevant to the consumer and “ownable” by the brand (that is, something your company can stand behind and easily communicate to others).
Once developed, the brand identity informs everything else your company does: advertising, online blogging, website design, package design and so on.
Package design is especially important in the wellness products sector, which includes CBD and cannabis-based products, because customers in this space are often overwhelmed by their options and not entirely sure what they should be looking for. That’s why package design matters for online sales too. Even from a computer screen, customers make judgments based on messaging, packaging and personality.
All brands, including cannabis-based brands, need to ask themselves a few simple questions: what is our brand about, why are we different and why should customers choose us? The first step is talking to a pro. You don’t need an expert in cannabis. You need an expert in branding and package design.
Never lose sight of the fact that your business is a business. Talk to people who know how to make a products-based business succeed.
David Ceradini is the CEO of Ceradini Brand Design, a boutique package design and branding agency located in New York and serving product makers around the world. Ceradini’s clients range from small startups to Fortune 500 companies. A full-service branding agency, Ceradini specializes in bringing brands to life through strategic design solutions. The company’s philosophy is: “Captivate, stimulate, motivate — in heart and in mind.”