Click here to read the first installment: "Top 18 Companies Giving Cannabis a Makeover"
Sample images from Rebranding Pot's Pinterest board.

Rebranding Pot

"But once in a while, a truly unique situation comes along. 
Systems and constraints shift dramatically, unleashing incredible opportunities to reimagine entire industries, cultures and experiences. Such is the case with the cannabis industry, where legalization is quickly proliferating and opening up the floodgates for design and business model innovation."
— Nicole Bacchus, author of the article, 
“Design Expert: Why The Cannabis Industry Is A Designer’s Dream,” 
published by the media company Piers and Simon

Research Summary

In the U. S. and Canada, cannapreneurs - entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry - are employing increasingly sophisticated design strategies to position their brands. They are targeting a range of potential consumers — women, connoisseurs, skeptics, health nuts, millennials and (perhaps most interesting) those who have never used cannabis before. Rebranding Pot will feature the cannapreneurs who are responsible for the green revolution’s exciting examples of innovative branding and advertising, and will reveal how certain cannabis companies attract new consumers and position themselves in a burgeoning industry.

With the increased legalization of cannabis in the U.S. and Canada, aspects of the plant’s countercultural associations and negative stigmas have begun to dissipate. Replacing this taboo are new connotations, engineered through branding and supplemented by the sheer experience of the substance. Many of us are seeking new ways to relax, socialize, and improve our health. From the medical to the recreational, marketers are using design to communicate a need to a consumer base that can best be filled through cannabis. For those who partake in legal cannabis, the question will arise: What role does design play in that decision?

Rebranding Pot is structured around the central assumption that aesthetics will play a significant role in how cannabis products are received by society as cannabis becomes legal in North America. Intelligent and elegant solutions will allow companies to disassociate themselves from the stigma traditionally attached to cannabis consumption, securing new consumers among the cannabis-curious. The book’s thesis will be supported by images, stories and case studies that showcase the range of branding trends surfacing as a result of the green rush.

In order to create an overview of the cannabis industry’s most compelling designs, Rebranding Pot’s case studies will focus on the people responsible for leading their company’s branding process. Through interviews and independent research I will explore questions such as: How are cannabis companies defining target audiences? How do these companies position their cannabis products? How do they catalyze contemporary trends or execute the unexpected?

What is different and unique about Rebranding Pot’s approach is its focus on aesthetics. Up until recently, the imagery associated with cannabis was stagnant and drew from from established tropes such as green cannabis leaves, Bob Marley references, dancing bears and symbols from late 1960s and early 1970s cultural zeitgeist. Now, as legalization spreads throughout North America, designers are reimagining and updating the visual materials used to package and market cannabis products.

Rebranding Pot is about companies that are adopting sophisticated, innovative and unexpected designs when branding their products. Far from being “Bob Marley visual plagiarists” who recycle stereotypical images, the cannabis brands discussed in the book display remarkable ingenuity, sophistication and design sensibility. While other cannabis-related books chronicle legal and political changes in the field, Rebranding Pot takes the reader outside the conventional scope of existing industry literature by focusing on cannapreneurs and shining a light on their chosen branding strategies. As a design historian interested in the intersection between design, politics, sociology, law, and business, I want to explore how these individuals are changing the aesthetics related to cannabis in the U.S. and Canada. Rebranding Pot will make us wonder: What will this industry look like once cannabis is federally legal? What does legalization look like?
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