The Evolution of Weed - Branding a New Design

The Evolution of Weed - Branding a New Design

June 15, 2017

Marijuana Makeover: Startups Intends to Make Pot Classy

Until recently, when one looked up anything to do with marijuana, there was usually a certain type of image that popped up: young, unkempt, unenthusiastic, and unemployed. One woman wanted to change that. Managing director of communications at the Drug Policy Alliance, Sharda Sekaran, says, "There's still a major bias on who the marijuana user might be. They don’t always look like the guy from 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Industry participants and activists like Sekaran think that the media representation of smokers we see in film and on T.V. doesn’t represent the actual people engaging in the practice. Considering there are about 2.5 million legal smokers, this is most likely the case. To that end, they have started to use stock photography to change the narrative.

Acquaintances were asked to pose with a professional photographer to create a new set of images. They are free for use so long as credit is given, for commercial and editorial purposes. The current primary stock photo results are usually men smoking on unappealing joints, and this may be hurting the industry says Mike Ray, director of Bloom Farms, located in San Francisco.

In an interview with Tech Insider, Ray says, “The over-the-top sexualization of women along [with] the reinforcement of the 'stoner' stereotypes is so undercooked and poorly thought out that it turns most of the mature and responsible demographic away immediately."

Sekaran needed to hire outside models for a shoot in Colorado because no people of color volunteered. Not surprising as PoC are four times more likely to be arrested for pot possession, "Even though there's so much changing around public opinion on marijuana ... there are still consequences in states where it's still criminalized. People can lose their jobs, lose their kids.”
With marijuana being the third most used substance behind alcohol and tobacco, maybe new pictures will be worth thousands of new words.

The Evolution of Weed

The fight over marijuana legalization is coming to a near end. It has outlived its bad reputation.  But what use to be seen as a societal taboo, is now being accepted by society. Marijuana is no longer exclusive to the subculture of stoners and rebellious youth. Now it is a product of a lifestyle. It has taken decades just to get the usage of marijuana decriminalized.  It seems that the usage of weed is not too far from being legal nationwide. But how will the expansion of marijuana proceed after it's no longer illegal?

Due to the marijuana legalization active moment, New York Actress, Comedian, and Businesswoman Whoopi Goldberg has announced that she will be partnering with Maya Elisabeth, the founder OM Edibles. Together they are going to be launching a new line of products called Whoopi & Maya, which is a cannabis infused line made specifically to help ease menstrual cramps.

The comedian has stated that smoking joints is fine, but the majority of people can’t do it before work and function properly. Many women could use the pain relief of cramping because , as Whoopi says: “It’s not a joke.” She wants to help women who suffer from it. She dismissed those out there who proclaim that menstrual pain is a niche, replying “Hey this ‘niche’ is half the population on earth. This seems to be people flippantly blowing you off, which is what you get whenever you start talking about cramps.”


She said she was inspired by her granddaughters who suffer from painful menstrual cramping. The line will include lotions to rub around the abdomen, bath salts, and tea. It will only be available in California in medical dispensaries for now. Read the original article here.

The design of marijuana is mostly about solidarity. The stereotypes surrounding it, plus the environment of illegality draws a negative response towards it. This keeps weed isolated within the subculture that stoners happily claim. But if the design gets embraced in a more  positive light. Than weed might one day get the same diversity of branding and advertising as other lifestyle products such as alcohol and cigarettes.

As weed goes mainstream, the design will evolve with its popularity.  Companies will jump at the chance to be a part of this rising new source of income. They will find unique ways to exploit the product and make different brands. The different branding designs will fit the demand of consumers. Targeting different demographics, to make new users feel more comfortable with the product.


As the nation braces for full marijuana legalization, marijuana has branded itself into a dynamic industry for entrepreneurs. The marijuana business is on the cusp of booming onto the scene of mainstream America. The once frowned upon and illegal use of marijuana has now found itself in a competitive market for advertising. The pot leaf and tie-dye are no longer the typical de-facto logos for marijuana. As pot evolves into more than a one herb show with multiple products. The importance of branding and design will change the way we think as a culture towards cannabis.

To capture the essence of the consumer, brand designs are essential. From the recreational user to the business professional, just like medicinal marijuana, it has multiple strains for numerous conditions. In this case the diversity of marijuana’s clientele will have an array of strains to choose from and reasons why. From workplace acceptance for creativity, to the health conscious for its nutritional value, and the   recreational user wants to enjoy the feeling of euphoria.  

Although one businesses’ (Co.Design) present reasoning is, in order to gain trust with the consumer we must “respect the past”. The new brands design want to avoid this thought process due to stereotypes with their usual stigma. The growth and the segments of the market will be competitive for advertising, as marijuana legalization continues to grow for medicinal and recreational purposes.

The future of marijuana is looking bright. Surely it won’t belong before it’s legal everywhere in the U.S. Once it’s legal hopefully it will spark the idea of the change and expansion of the brand. Someday soon marijuana will be sold in supermarkets, dispensaries, coffee shops, malls, and by delivery services all across America. Get ready for it people marijuana is not just coming, it is already here. Just “use” it.  


Green is Blue - The Cannabis Aesthetic Will Play To The Middle Class

Opinion by Liz Eiseman

Looking at The Cannabis Aesthetic: How Will Weed Design Evolve? In the article Joshua Belhumeur discusses the way the cannabis is marketed and promoted and how that will change to attract a broader range of consumers in the future. I read this article and while I agreed with a lot of the points the author made we dissent in a lot of ways, mostly in the way he confuses the cannabis subculture with the subversive stereotypes mainstream marijuana and our culture portray today. The stereotypes will always be there and will grow with backing from competing industries over time, but what the pundits against cannabis don’t see is the more realistic images of marijuana consumers that has existed side-by-side with those stereotypes.

The blue collar worker who smokes a bit of schwag to ease the burden of a long day. The call center operator who lights a joint with her coworkers as they discuss the tough calls they took earlier. These are the stories that will captivate mainstream audiences and reassure them that this plant isn’t just for those with dreads, It’s for all of us.

If you look at beer, another commodity which I enjoy imbibing from time to time, there is quite a range of different products. Craft beer is the fastest growing segment of this area. People, especially young professionals, enjoy the variety of products in this space and the different stories each brand has to tell. Ideally this is how the cannabis economy would develop, that has yet to be determined. But when you look at the big picture of beer you see while craft beer is going exponentially, it controls a modest 12.2% of the beer market. Will Marijuana be the same, should it be the same?

I dissent from the author on his point at the end of the article, I do not believe that class-marketed branding will work. We want to push the commonly held belief from smokers that this plant is a unifier. There’s a sharing that happens between smokers that’s wonderful, I wouldn’t want to change that to appeal to upper-class consumers. Marketing to the elite in my opinion would fall flat because marijuana isn’t a class-based commodity, or at least I’ve never experienced it as one. That sort of marketing would most likely cause you to lose consumers by alienating them from your brand. “Middle-class” and “Blue collar” campaigns work however because we are all exposed to this class in America in one capacity or another. There’s a common familiarity and admiration held by all of us for the working man, and I think there’s great potential for a campaign who plays to these ideals.

BRINK has some great ideas for marketing cannabis but I didn’t find them particularly well-versed in the social nuances of the cannabis subculture for these reasons, however I like their end-goal of creating a paradigm breaking brand. There are some stereotypes and messaging we need to work past, but it’s something I’d like to see us all do together. The culture we have built may be subversive, but it's also warm, welcoming, and jovial, and I wouldn’t want that to change.



The Future Design of Weed Is Here and It’s Lit (Opinion)

Joshua Belhumeur is a partner of and Strategy Director for BRINK, a digital marketing campaign group with offices in Tucson and D.C. Always involved in the newest trends, Mr. Belhumeur published a piece predicting what he calls “The Cannabis Aesthetic”... and it’s lit. Since BRINK has a large audience and expands itself further than just the marijuana industry, Mr. Belhumeur first stresses the drug’s rapid growth - among more than just the usual youthful stoner crowd.

He says there’s a “flurry of entrepreneurs” eager to plant their roots in the industry, and the process begins with design. We’ve seen it all before: enough shades of green that would make a rainforest proud, Rasta flags, a hit of Woodstock-esque tie-dye, and leaves that aren’t quite the Adidas trefoil. Each has its own implications, but if our 4/20 friendly buds hope to achieve a streamlined and legal cannabis industry, Mr. Belhumeur thinks something has to change. I haven’t given it too much thought, but I suppose I agree. Not everyone wants to sit down with some late night comedy and a bag of chips too frequently. He calls this new change “Marijuana for the Masses.”

Presently, marijuana is not for the masses. Sure, cannabis tourism is expanding and anyone 21+ could travel and acquire some, but those who have never smoked before aren’t likely to do that. Our present major weed symbols exclude a large group of Americans, they’re also (ironically) the same messages that hint at the present day “juvenile and tacky” tree scene. Mr. Belhumeur cites design and branding as “powerful and psychological forces” in today’s culture, so the spirited aesthetic has to be more sleek. That way, first timers will feel more comfortable with marijuana culture, and more open to trying it out. Increasing pot’s mainstream status won’t be easy, but we’ll likely see marketing campaigns similar to those of Xbox, luxury cars, bourbon, or even granola bars. He makes a few good points, too, noting that these items either invoke a sense professionalism or belonging.

For college graduates in particular, Mr. Belhumeur predicts that having “favorite ‘social’ brands” will encourage the greater marijuana market to counter the slacker perception of smokers. This one had me a little weary: remember the last time America had “favorite ‘social’ brands” of smokes? We’re STILL reeling from nicotine and tobacco issues… Obviously, marijuana is very different from cigarettes, but it’s something to consider. Anyway, Mr. Belhumeur believes that this this notion of a favorite brand could even lead to a more ambitious or active lifestyle. Legalization stemming from a mass of marijuana users will bring out once secretive users. If those active users went sativa over indica, nearly anything would be possible. 5k race? Check. Errands? Check. Low impact sports? Check. With so many potential open and active consumers, the money to gain from marijuana marketing seems like almost anyone’s for the taking. BRINK, led by Mr. Belhumeur, is ready to jump in.

Sad to see the good ol’ grass aesthetic blow away? No worries. Mr. Belhumeur says “we don’t have to feel constrained by the design of the past,” and acknowledges that brands will forever “respect the history” of the marijuana industry. So what’s next? Chrome vapes with Snoop’s profile etched tastefully on one side? Onyx carved ash trays engraved, “smoke weed every day?” We’ve got a lot to wait for in the cannabis industry, and the future, despite economically promising, is… smoky.


Read the full article here

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