The Art of Packaging

Today, it seems that every cannabis company is trying to become the next “luxury” or super -premium brand. And for good reason. In a market that is basically a commodity, brands don’t merely stand out, they are a must-have.

When Oregon created the states legal cannabis program, they had one goal in their mind above all else: to convince every grower to leave the black market. Accordingly, they set low barriers of entry. As a result, cannabis production boomed — with bitter consequences.

Cannabis prices in Oregon are currently in a freefall, and the craft cannabis farmers who put Oregon on the map decades ago, are in peril of losing their now-legal businesses as the market adjusts. In order to survive this commoditization, premium brands are emerging that create a connection with the consumer and can command a higher price.

Undeniably, there will always be those that want to compete on price. Bargain basement brands have a market however, their margins are slim with little consumer loyalty. As soon as a competitor releases a comparable product at a lower price, consumers will switch. The same cannot be said of luxury brands.

Luxury brands are a prized possession. In a complex, competitive, commodity-driven business environment, luxury branding creates higher profits and stability. They create a strong, loyal following, and temper the winds of price wars and recessions. A study by the Financial Times found that 70% of the market capitalization of the top 100 companies was intangible, and that a company’s brand was considered its “most important asset.”

One of the single most important elements in creating a brand is in how it is presented to the public – its packaging. I often tell my clients that packaging is not more important than the product that goes inside the box, but it comes a close second. If you have an inferior product, no amount of fancy packaging will stimulate a repeat sale. But if you have a great product that delivers a consistent experience, then your packaging can attract and retain consumers.

What makes a great package?

Do not make the mistake of believing that shoppers make rational, informed decisions. In truth, most purchasing decisions are purely instinctive and reactive. Eye-tracking studies show that consumers read on average only seven words in an entire shopping trip, buying instinctively by color, shape, and familiarity. Best sellers succeed by appealing to the reptilian brain, which makes the purchasing decision before logic has a chance to intervene.

To be successful, every luxury packaging must have a distinctive point of view, and be able to express the brand’s clear and unique positioning. Effective packaging makes it easy to understand at a glance who you are, what you are, and why you are relevant to the consumer’s life.

Here are a few tips on how to create effective luxury packaging that will promote your brand, attract attention, and create a feeling of loyalty with your product:

1. Get Noticed

One way to make your packaging stand out is through the use of cusps, which are sharp, pointy shapes that trigger feelings of alertness and heighten emotions. The packaging design we developed for Herban Extracts uses this technique. Notice how the cannabis leaves jutting into the frame also create the outline for a series of diamond shapes that are designed to elicit excitement about the product.

2. Keep it Simple

In a busy, visually agitated market, sometimes a moment of visual calm will attract consumers. We used this technique with Shanti to create a calm, peaceful feeling.

3. Create a Visual Icon

Utopia Cannabis did this brilliantly. Notice the simple letter “U” and how it intersects with an elegantly designed cannabis leaf. This icon connects the consumer with the brand in an almost unconscious manner, yet it creates a bond that is hard to break.

4. Use Color Carefully

Gold Flora is a producer of premium vape pens. Of course, the word “Gold” signifies superior quality, but the careful use of a gold color throughout the line gives it a feeling of luxury. All of their vape pens and packages use simple color choices that convey the brand’s promise and command consumer attention.

5. Incorporate Interesting Materials

Canndescent does a wonderful job with their packaging. They created a beautiful wooden box that holds a variety of their products. The result is an earthy, refined, yet simple statement that says, “quality products inside.” Consumers love Canndescent, not only for the products, but for the presentation as well.

6. Be Authentic

Authenticity is at the heart of great packaging designs. When consumers are faced with a myriad of brands, the one that stands out is often the package that is direct and honest. Take a look at the packaging for Kiva. It conveys the impression that the product is natural, simply made without artificial ingredients, and of the highest quality.

7. Make it Familiar

Some products seem like they’ve been around forever – and with longevity comes a certain implication of quality. You can make your product look as if it has stood the test of time, even if it is brand new. Take a look at Lord Jones. Everything from the name of the company to old-English design style suggest that the products are upper class. For those that like old-school elegance, this package will stand out and create instant appeal.

8. Make it Distinctive

Unique structures, sizes and shapes will always stand out and speak volumes about quality. Additionally, printing effects such as coatings, specialty substrates, and embossing will help create the impression of luxury. Wyld takes this concept and created a point-of-sale architecture with its unique shape. Its geometric design allows Wyld more packaging “real estate” to educate the consumer about the product while positioning their beautiful logo front and center.

Concluding Thoughts

The next few years will show a dramatic shift in the cannabis industry. As states such as California and Massachusetts fully develop, and shake-outs in states like Oregon are settled, it will be interesting to see which brands survive, and which fall to the wayside. Packaging is a vitally important component to a product’s success. Luxury packaging stands out in the crowded marketplace, captures consumer interest, and cements a bond between the customer and the company behind the product.


Featured in Cannabis Packaging News Vol. 3 JUL/SEP 2018