YOU have a cannabis product. It needs to be packaged. Sounds simple enough. So, you find some container to stick it in, slap on a label, and you’re off to the races. Thankfully it’s not that easy, or I would be out of a job.
Seriously, there are so many considerations when it comes to developing a packaging solution for a cannabis product that this column could be 100 pages long. But to keep it short, I’m going to highlight some of the most important factors every cannabis business owner and brand manager needs to think about.
First and foremost, understand packaging is the link between your customer and your product. No amount of advertising can get a customer to purchase your product if the packaging looks unattractive or, worse, creates an impression of a sub-par product. Even bargain-basement products need to look appealing. Accordingly, the first place to start is with design.
Rule 1: Great packaging starts with great design
Packaging needs to be designed so it evokes feelings that are in harmony with your brand. Good design stands out on a crowded shelf and immediately conveys a complex message about your product’s strengths, attributes, and benefits. Your package is the essence of your brand in your customer’s hands.
Wait a minute. So, before you design your packaging, you need to create or refine your brand.
New Rule 1: Great packaging starts with a great brand
Sorry for the confusion. Let’s carry on.
Customers see your packaging as the essence of your brand. Accordingly, you need to make sure your brand speaks to customers in a way that is authentic and connects with them on a visceral level. Your brand lives in the hearts and minds of your customers, so what do you want them to think and feel every time they use your products?
We recommend doing a complete brand analysis to determine what your brand stands for, what promises it can deliver, and what type of person is most likely to respond to your message.
Of course, this also requires a bit of competitive analysis, which already should have taken place.
New, New Rule 1: Great packaging starts with understanding the competitive environment
Carrying on. While you can compete with whomever you choose, smart marketers find a niche in which they can dominate. No sense trying to go head-on with Coca-Cola. They can out spend, out maneuver, and out muscle you at every turn. But if you have something Coca-Cola doesn’t (real or perceived), then you can exploit that to your advantage. This is where creative minds determine your products’ strengths and attributes and then find ways to promote the unique and wonderful things about your brand. Whether your products are upscale or inexpensive, designed for young or old, for males or females, choices come out of a foundational understanding of what is already in the market, whose position can be overtaken, and how dominant a position your competitors have secured.
Of course, your company is your company, and you can’t just change it in order to create product packaging. So, it’s important you start with a solid company that can produce the types of products that make you proud and will resonate with consumers. The buying public can smell an inauthentic brand a mile away, so the first step in creating a great package is making sure the company behind the package is everything you want it to be.
Darn it. We’re never going to get past Rule 1 if we have to keep starting over.
New, New, New Rule 1: Great packaging starts with a great business
Creating a great business is an excellent place to start when designing new packaging. But first, you’ll need financing, a business plan, and so much more.
Of course, with the myriad rules and regulations impacting the cannabis industry, it is vital your packaging be compliant. This means everything from using the correct and required notices to fonts being the correct size to certified child resistance. Everything must be properly addressed.
The Newest Rule 1: Great packaging starts with a well-rounded understanding of compliance
If your cannabis packaging isn’t compliant, it very well could wind up in the trash bin. This actually has happened to several companies, and they are out a ton of money and time because they didn’t understand current packaging regulations.
Accordingly, when you start designing your cannabis product packaging, make sure you work with someone who knows the rules inside and out, so your product doesn’t just look great, but also passes regulatory requirements.
Therefore, it probably makes sense to contact a packaging, design, compliance, and branding expert before you start your project.
The Real Rule 1: Great packaging starts with consulting an expert
Kary Radestock brings more than 20 years of award-winning print and packaging expertise to some of the top brands in the world. She launched Hippo Premium Packaging in order to fill a need for professional, compliant packaging, brand development, and graphic design to the emerging cannabis industry.