Equally as important as the emotional connection (discussed in the first installment of this series) and the clarity of purpose (as discussed in the second installment), are the methods of expression used in developing a brand’s identity.
I like to think of the emotional appeal of a brand as the why, the clarity of purpose as the what, and the expression of brand identity as the how. The how is comprised of scores of subtle decisions: product nuances, tone used in copy writing, color palette decisions, visual symbolism, channels of communication, etc.
All of these factors collectively create an immediate impression for potential customers. Within seconds, consumers make a subconscious decision as to whether or not a given brand is relevant to their self-identity. When a brand knows it’s why and it’s what, the how translates clearly. When the former are not immediately apparent, inconsistency in both visual and verbal communication is the result. But when a brand gets it right, it speaks to us on a personal level.
In cannabis cookery, only a select few have been able to achieve this level of branding mastery.
The team at Seattle-based edibles maker The Goodship Company has been branding to the beat of its own drum since its founding in 2014. The self-described “bakers, makers, artists, and believers in good” have set the tone for product quality and branding excellence in the Pacific Northwest. The transition from celebrated cupcakes to cannabis cookies has been remarkably polished for the company, staying true to their core values of using locally-sourced, high quality ingredients and delivering a consistently enjoyable experience. CEO Jody Hall took some time out to elaborate more about their branding process for us.
What process did you use to develop your brand? Was it developed internally or with an agency?
Our brand was developed in collaboration with an agency – a great local spot called Mint Design in Lower Queen Anne. Our process started by laying out our goals for the brand, what story we wanted our brand to tell and how we wanted it to make people feel.
It was important to me that the look and feel of our company and products matched the quality and experience they provide. I wanted the design to feel fun yet professional, sophisticated yet playful, and to break away from the existing market standards around pot products. We are trying to help shed the taboo that surrounds marijuana and help bring it into the light. We wanted the look, design, and color to say “sophisticated good times,” and to communicate trust, professionalism, and (adult-only) fun.
What are the defining characteristics, core tenets, or ideological values of your brand?
From a Goodship company perspective, we have an ideology that’s centered around three main values: being pioneers in the industry, helping to change the world for the better, and fostering human connection.
We believe that marijuana legalization is generating once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to become a pioneer in a brand new, socially impactful industry. We have the chance to have a seat at the table that is shaping the future of pot culture, and that’s really an exciting place to be.
We think that the view of marijuana is as a “sin” is inaccurate, and that marijuana actually has the ability to impact people’s lifestyles, creativity, and social experiences in really positive ways.
Finally, we believe that humanity in today’s day and age is really craving connection to one another. Marijuana is about a lot more than just getting high; it offers an incredible way for people to come together, enjoy one another, and connect. Ultimately, marijuana allows you to disconnect to in order to connect — disconnect from all your daily distractions in order to connect more fully to people and to the world around you.
How do you think effective branding benefits the consumer? How does it benefit businesses?
Effective branding benefits the customer, most simply, because if the brand matches the product, it helps communicate that product’s story. Marijuana doesn’t need to be represented with a skull and crossbones. Instead, it can be enjoyed legally, safely, and responsibly. And the branding of marijuana products and companies has lot of power, if not responsibility, to help shape that perception. Our intention is for our products to be branded and packaged in such a way that you can be proud to bring them to a dinner party in lieu of a fancy bottle of wine. We’re excited to say that we’ve just started to see this perception shift in the market, with pot being less about getting stoned and more about a fun, yet classy social experience.
What are some of the most effective ways that you use your branding to promote your products?
We call our brand a creative collective, and it’s intended to be infused (forgive the pun) into the community as a supporter and friend of local businesses, arts, and culture. Our marketing strategy is less about traditional advertising and more about grassroots connections and becoming a part of everyday culture and lifestyle. We’ve brought on several great local artists to create artwork for the brand. The Goodship has also sponsored events like Capitol Hill Block Party, the Out of Sight Art Fair, Bumbershoot, and The Stranger Genius Awards. As we grow as a company, we hope to continue to increase our support of Seattle’s awesome art and lifestyle projects.
We’ve also extended our brand into a lecture series called The Goodship Academy of Higher Education. The series encourages intimate conversations with some of our region’s most brilliant minds, covering topics from space travel to re-animation to modernist cuisine. The intent is that both audience and speakers alike are “on the goodship” (aka stoned). We look at the world through a different lens when high, and we think that it is a fun and enlightening experience to combine altered states of consciousness with big ideas. We believe that projects like this help promote our brand and its values without the need to heavily use traditional advertising.
Are there other companies in the cannabis industry that you feel have branded themselves exceptionally well?
Yes, definitely. We think that companies like Craft Elixirs do a great job, and create delicious products too! From a packaging perspective, we also love Sitka and our personal favorite in the flower world, Vashon Velvet. Turning to retail stores, we love the Green Head Cannabis brand, a Vancouver-based shop. As well as Uncle Ike’s, Green Theory, Ganja Goddess and Dockside. The list is long, we could go on and on!
What common missteps or pitfalls would you suggest to companies looking to build a brand in the cannabis industry?
I think that the cannabis industry is in a complex transition. It’s moving away from a narrow customer base of heavy marijuana users and medical-only users to a much broader market of curious newcomers or infrequent imbibers. I think it’s easy for a cannabis brand to underestimate the wide range of potential customers it has. For people looking to build a brand in the cannabis industry, I recommend focusing on pot future instead of relying too heavily on pot past. It’s a really exciting time, and I’m eager to see how the industry takes shape as legalization spreads across the country!
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