CBD products are rapidly conquering the market in every shape and form imaginable. But creating the perfect CBD branding is a big task. If you want your CBD brand to succeed, you have to distance your brand from old cannabis stereotypes and create an appealing and modern branding experience for your customers.
So, how do you brand a CBD product? In this guide, we answer all your questions on successful CBD branding and present its best practices, according to the experts.
The challenges of CBD branding
Before we go further, let’s clarify what CBD is and why, from a branding perspective, it’s the polar opposite of “smoking of doobie.”
The two most prevalent components of cannabis are, in order, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for all the psychoactivity of cannabis—the “trippy” feelings, the euphoric “high”—whereas CBD deals more with sedation, anti-inflammation and analgesia. When you smoke a joint, for example, you take in both effects at the same time.
However, the new wave of cannabis research has revealed ways to isolate the two components and offer CBD independent of THC.
Essentially, CBD products are a new medicine derived from the same plant that certain people smoke, and that’s the end of their similarities. CBD products do not create a “high”; if used recreationally, they’re comparatively boring next to THC, and offer relaxing benefits akin to incense or herbal tea.
CBD is most effective as a pain-killer or sedative, and when extracted is perfectly legal in all fifty states. For example, CBD is the main ingredient in the epilepsy medicine Epidiolex, the first “purified drug substance derived from marijuana” that’s approved by the FDA.
On one level, it’s quite an exciting time in medical research, with new discoveries for cannabis-derived drugs opening up new treatments. But these particular drugs are all born with the stigma of marijuana—for decades, cannabis has been a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S., and many people still associate it with criminals and degenerates.
Now, practically overnight, you’re asking people to view an “illegal drug” as a ground-breaking and benevolent medicine. That’s a monumental feat even for seasoned branding and marketing experts.
Despite these challenges, CBD is skyrocketing. For one thing, the multi-billion-dollar, global CBD industry is booming: as we pointed out in our Top 4 emerging industries to watch in 2020, design work for CBD branding has gone up 1,568% since 2015. That proves both public support for cannabis-derived drugs and the profitability of CBD companies.
Another advantage for CBD brand design is the wide range of applications. With the restrictions on cannabis research lifted, new discoveries on what CBD can do keep popping up, in addition to what we know already. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), CBD already has proven effects in treatment for a multitude of health issues.
Again, more studies demonstrating the health benefits of CBD are on the way. For example, current research is starting to reveal that CBD also has a positive effect on skin care and cutaneous health—opening it up for the lucrative market of beauty products! The popularity of CBD is expanding into many different industries beyond health as well; you can find CBD everywhere from pet products to chewing gum.
The science is already there, but the goal of CBD branding is to demonstrate all this to the public using the right visuals and messaging.
Matching your market
Aside from the unique challenges of CBD brand design, you also have to deal with the difficulties of branding in general. The art of branding encompasses presenting your company in the best light, motivating consumers to do business with you and letting everyone know you exist in the first place.
While good branding involves a solid business model, marketing strategy and ample advertising, most branding elements revolve around graphic design. How you handle your logo, website, store decor, social media presence, content marketing, product packaging and more directly influences what kind of customers you attract and how excited they are to do business with you.
The visual elements you use for branded materials, from color schemes to typography, will make or break your CBD branding strategy. Combined with the extra challenges of a new and somewhat notorious medicine, CBD brand design has its work cut out from the get-go—but that’s what we’re here for.
3 best tips for your CBD branding strategy
Before we delve into the specifics of CBD branding, let’s discuss some big-picture solutions to the problems we’ve outlined above. No matter which direction you take or which market segment you target, consider these 3 tips when planning your overall branding approach.
1. Normalize the product
CBD is legal, healthy and medically effective; whatever hang-ups your customers have about cannabis really don’t apply. To demonstrate this, treat your CBD branding and products as you would any other. If your branding acts like CBD is just like any other medication (which it is), then your customers will follow along. That’s the first step in distancing it from “recreational drug” associations.
2. Use brand values and relatable narratives to combat negative stereotypes
For CBD brand design, you have to maintain the professionalism expected in a pharmaceutical company, even at times overcompensating to balance out negative connotations.
Play up your brand values and put your business ethics on full display to show that you’re anything but sketchy. Brand narratives, like a relatable story about how you founded your company, are an effective branding strategy for any industry. For CBD companies, they’re especially effective as a way to get up close and personal with customers who would rather distance themselves from cannabis products.
3. Medical or recreational—pick a lane!
Medical products and recreational products have two opposite approaches to branding, so trying to do both pulls your brand in two different directions. Instead, pick one and lean into it.
Depending on your product, one option may be more applicable than the other. If you product leans into the medical benefits of CBD, focus on that in your branding.
Alternatively, if your product is more relevant for wellness and recreational uses, you can also target customers the way health-food, aromatherapy or holistic products do. Just look at the branding for MUHU, a new gin with added CBD.
Best practices for great CBD brand design
In some ways, CBD branding coincides with the best guidelines for cannabis branding in general. All cannabis products, not just CBD, have to deal with problems like normalizing and legitimizing their products. But because CBD branches off from the rest of the cannabis industry, there are a few particular nuances to consider.
Your logo is the face of your CBD brand. It needs to express the essence of your brand and communicate what your product is all about through graphics, color, type and shapes. No matter what your brand’s focus is, your CBD logo should reflect it at a glance.
The best shapes, fonts and colors for your CBD logo design depend on your brand personality. In a nutshell, rounded lines, hand-drawn imperfections and brighter, warmer colors are friendlier, more relaxed and more inviting. Conversely, straight lines, clean edges and cooler, neutral colors are more formal and give the impression of professionalism and effectiveness.
Logo design is an art form, so don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a professional to create the perfect logo for you. A professional designer can take your brand values and brand message and turn them into a logo that perfectly summarizes your brand.
Take a look at some great examples for CBD logos below:
Best colors for CBD branding
Naturally, if you’re highlighting connections to the natural origins of your product, green is the way to go.
Green is by far the color with the strongest associations to cannabis, not only reminiscent of the plant itself, but also of the “natural” and “ecological” properties that come with organic products.
However, if you’re going the medical route and are trying to appeal to people who have never used cannabis, you might have better luck using the traditional colors of the healthcare industry: blue and white. Blue represents trust and a welcoming atmosphere, while white suggests sterility and virtue.
On the other hand, CBD brands with a wellness or lifestyle focus might want to set their products apart from the crowd and go a totally different route. Bright, luminous colors, soothing pastels or even bold and edgy shades of grey and black can all work well for different CBD brands with different brand identities.
Best typography for CBD branding
Like your color scheme, your typography should follow your brand personality. Casual, friendly brands can get away with extravagant, even hand-drawn fonts. However, if you’re targeting more mature markets and want to appeal to the wellness niche, an elegant serif font appears more high-end and trustworthy. Clean and modern sans serif fonts are a great choice for more serious, science-focussed CBD brands.
CBD web design
The best CBD websites create a seamless and visually enticing experience for their customers. Based on your logo and existing brand assets, your CBD website needs to take all the different aspects of your brand into account and use the right images, illustrations, layout, typography, colors and brand voice throughout the whole website in a consistent way. Take a look at some outstanding examples of CBD web design below.
CBD product packaging
CBD packaging is a crucial aspect of branding your product. It’s what your customers will hold in their hands, so it can make or break the brand experience. CBD packaging needs to be professional-looking, visually pleasing and functional at the same time, which is no small task. Take a look at a whole range of different CBD packaging styles below:
Social media branding for CBD products
In terms of legitimizing your CBD products, social media is an ideal way to reach and influence your target market. Just make sure your social media channels all look consistent and on-brand. Every single post you put out should be engaging and visually pleasing to attract new followers.
A branded video can also help in this department. If you’re targeting people who don’t necessarily know what CBD is or how it’s different than cannabis that used to get high, a quick video on social media can go far in educating them. Videos are the best medium for explaining complex ideas online, and they also perform better on social media.
Best tone of voice for CBD branding
Your tone of voice is one of the most important branding elements for normalizing CBD products, a central goal we mentioned above. All your branded writings should talk about cannabis products with the same respect as other medications or products infused with natural ingredients. Don’t talk about cannabis flippantly or how it was discussed in the 20th century—those are the connections you’re trying to avoid.
Even if you’re following the casual route, you still want to talk about CBD in a serious light. No one uses CBD to “get high,” so that kind of “party animal” tone of voice doesn’t apply here. On the contrary, CBD has a lot of scientific evidence and statistics to draw on, so you might be better off using an intellectual tone of voice, explaining the clinical benefits.
CBD branding: the cost of entry into a lucrative new niche
However challenging it is to build a successful CBD brand, the rewards are more than worth it. The CBD industry is brand new and booming—that means the demand is high and the marketing techniques are being written as we go.
But before you start counting your riches, you first have to break into the industry. The challenge with CBD lies in shifting outdated opinions about cannabis, which puts a lot of pressure on your CBD branding; you not only have to stand out from your competition but also push against preconceived notions about what you’re selling. More than other industries, CBD relies on branding to carve out a niche on a gigantic landscape that didn’t even exist a few years ago.
Author: Matt Ellis