Branding for Blunts: How would Ad Agencies Brand Marijuana?

Proposition 19, the recent initiative to legalize marijuana for the masses in California may have failed, but that’s not stopping ad agencies, firms and potential future growers of the “cash crop” from thinking about how to brand pot should it ever make its way onto convenience store shelves.

Just what might a carton of joints look like? How magazine advertisements try to persuade you to buy one brand of pot over another? Newsweek recently asked two of New York’s most well-established ad agencies, Pentagram and Mother, to show their take on what pot branding might look like in the future. Package designs, billboards, print ads, even images of an iPad weed recipe app are all available for your viewing pleasure in a slide show on Newsweek’s site, presenting us with some interesting –and humorous – ideas on how pot products might be branded across various mediums.

Northern Lights, a pot brand developed by Pentagram, takes its name and design inspiration from the effects of a well-known, award-winning strain of marijuana. The brand’s mascot, Onehit the Wonder Moose and his smoky breath, representative of the Aurora Borealis (aka the Northern Lights) adorns packages billboards and magazine ads that focus on the lighter, more humorous side of marijuana use.

Mother shares a similar vein as Pentagram in its approach to pot branding, but with a very different look and feel to their designs. Mother’s Finest, is a pot brand composed of various blends similar to tobacco products by Marlboro or Camel, with each blend having its own unique appeal. With branding reminiscent of art and design of the 60s, psychedelic patterns and heavy serif fonts are used throughout environmental displays, packaging and signage. Color is also used as a signifier of the mood that each blend is best suited to.

“We imagined ‘Mother’s Finest’ to be the Marlboro of weed and established an occasion based marketing and packaging approach to give consumers the exact high they were looking for based on the activities of their particular day” (Mother New York).

A Delicious New Package Design for Häagen Dazs

Old Packaging

New Packaging

Undergoing its first packaging redesign in a number of years, Häagen Dazs recently teamed up with the brand strategy and design gurus at Sterling Brands to create new packaging with the purpose of improving the ice-cream brands’ shelf appeal.

Consumer research indicated there was no need to refresh the brand’s current logo or color scheme, so designers created a new interpretation of the brand’s recognizable features, ultimately developing packaging that is arguably more attractive, contemporary and appealing.

“We want to make sure that we maintain our positioning as the super premium ice cream,”
(Jason Merideth, associate brand manager, Häagen Dazs).

Significant design changes include replacing the outgoing burgundy background with a light gold one, which not only makes the text on each carton easier to read, but really lightens up the appearance of each carton. The banner graphic was also tweaked, wrapping it horizontally around the carton.

A ‘tasting notes’ section, much like one you might find on a bottle of wine, has been added on the back of each carton and describes the taste experience of each individual flavor. Typographical changes include implementing a sans-serif font in place of the italicized serif font listing the product flavor and making the brand’s all-natural benefit more prominent by placing the “all-natural ice cream” promise directly underneath the flavor name.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes is the emphasis on photography, which is not only designed to reflect the quality of the ice cream, but to further increase the appeal of each product.

Apparently, the redesign has been successful. Since it’s launch in February 2010, Perception Research Services studies have found that this new packaging has improved individual flavor ‘shopability’ of the Häagen Dazs brand by over 20 percent.