Crossing Over: Here's How Cannabis Brands Can Design Products That Have Mainstream Appeal
By Trent Overholt, CEO of 14th Round.
In the face of the global pandemic, a sizable cultural shift is starting to take place around people’s perception and comfort levels with cannabis. Legal sales of products and goods are breaking records this year, the state-by-state cannabis legalization movement is quickly gaining momentum, and governments have pushed the issue even further by designating it as an essential product to people’s physical and mental well-being.
This heightened acceptance of cannabis has led to a massive uptick in consumer interest, and with cannabis becoming a fast-growing industry, the marketplace demand for ‘disruptive’ product experiences that appeal to mainstream consumers has equally increased. As the multi-billion dollar industry matures, cannabis brands need to start preparing now and rethink how their design and marketing strategies can fit the needs of a whole new swath of curious customers looking to new products.
For emerging businesses, there is a renewed sense of urgency and importance for prioritizing high-quality product and packaging design from an expert lens. To rise above the clutter of competition, cannabis companies should look at how they can design products that can appeal to all ages and demographics. Here are a few ways they can achieve innovative design and create products that have crossover appeal.
Memorable packaging and product design should leave a lasting impression
Good packaging and product presentation must be a very memorable experience. Look no further than Apple’s iPhone, a visually arresting product with a fairly simple but impressive design approach to their packaging. The look and the tactile experience of the packaging makes a statement. The quality of the materials and the thoughtfulness of the box is apparent and signals the level of quality of what’s inside. The unboxing of the product itself begins the experience with the brand and has become its own genre of YouTube videos.
The same can be applied to cannabis products. A cannabis brand’s packaging is even more important to the overall brand experience simply because there are so many restrictions on how cannabis can be marketed versus CPG products. From understanding a product’s shelf impact and personality, to establishing a connection with consumers and authenticating a brand voice — these are all best practices that designers and cannabis marketers must not only embrace to engage new consumers, but also to retain their existing brand-fan loyalty.
Understand what the modern consumer is looking for
Even within the top-selling brands in cannabis today, what got those companies there in the first place won’t help them keep up with the tough competition that lies ahead. This continued cultural shift and maturing of consumer preferences around cannabis is growing faster than traditional CPG brands, who are now becoming increasingly interested in getting involved in the space.
As businesses prepare for the influx of new canna-curious consumers, they need to understand how to market themselves and their products to various demographics and their diverse consumption preferences and tastes. Younger millennial and Gen Z generations have been brought up with a lot more choices than their predecessors. The beverage industry is a good parallel to cannabis in terms of the necessity for creating products that fit the needs of a fragmented marketplace that’s become accustomed to an abundance of choices.
While the industry has been largely rooted in the efficacy of THC, this simple and singular approach is starting to lose market share to a diversity of products that are more complex, nuanced, and with cannabis oil that are extracted in a less adulterated method. Consumers have more choices than ever, and are opening their eyes to minor cannabinoids and full spectrum extractions in non-combustible cannabis products to help them deal with a variety of issues like mental health, pain relief, relaxation and sleep.
Never stop innovating
For leading cannabis brands, product innovation is the lifeblood for sustaining growth and maintaining a leadership position. These brands are being faced with new challenges from more discerning consumers and more demanding retailers looking to take advantage of the moment.
The shift in consumer preferences is pushing product innovation faster across categories than with traditional CPG products. Take the vaporizer category for example. Up until recently, most inhalable products basically all looked the same, had the same 510-threaded connector, and essentially performed the same. But now brands are realizing that the vaporizer form factor is the most durable part of the consumer experience, and merits more thought and investment so that it too delivers on the brand promise. Brands are starting to distinguish themselves with vaporizer hardware that is functionally excellent and tuned for their specific extraction, built to be more reliable and durable, and are aesthetically distinctive so that a great experience is tethered to a memorable, well-branded device.
Cannabis companies need to maintain forward-thinking design practices built around superior engineering and packaging. If brands can effectively translate these it will enable them to develop better products to stand out in today’s blossoming cannabis marketplace.
Trent Overholt is the CEO of 14th Round, a design and technology company building the best brands in cannabis. 14th Round offers integrated product development, product design, branding and manufacturing plus unrivaled experience in tuning the hardware to each brand’s unique consumable, to functionally elevate the brand while aesthetically differentiating the form factor.
Trent’s specialty is launching and developing successful businesses. As an operating exec, he combines strategy, team building and organizational design to drive clarity and alignment.
The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.
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