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).

Become Your Own Client: a Primer for Website Redesign

When it comes to working with our clients and prospects advice, we’ve probably all been guilty of not following the mantra “practice what you preach”. We get so caught up in the daily functions of our business and the needs of our clients that our own image begins to show a few cracks of its own. In such cases, it’s time we start taking a dose of our own medicine.

Take The Langton Cherubino Group for instance.  A New York firm specializing in marketing strategies and communications programs, the Langton Cerubino Group recently redesigned their website to adhere to the standards they hold so high for their clients.

“It’s hard to turn the equation around and become your own client.” (David Langton, Principal, Langton Cherubino Group)

As a design communications firm which specializes in branding and identity, the firm asks their clients a number of initial questions before developing a working solution for them. During the redesign, they turned these questions inward, essentially making themselves their client.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What impressions do you want to make?
  • What information do you want to convey?
  • What does this project have to do in order for you to consider it a success?

By making this effort to address their own needs and target new prospects and visitors, it seems the firm has developed a great formula for a successful website design: one that is easily accessible, has a structure designed for the visitor rather than the firm, includes engaging links and content, is optimization for search engines and gives the firm the ability to add new content quickly.

After answering these questions, it was time for co-founders David Langton and Norman Cerubino to begin developing a website redesign that made the best impression of their work. To gauge the success of the project, new requirements of the website were outlined, including:

  • An easily accessible design.
  • A structure based on what their visitors are interested in seeing rather than just what the firm wants to show.
  • Various links and content that engage visitors to learn more about individual projects.
  • A search function to increase traffic to the site.
  • The ability to add new projects and content quickly.

While working towards achieving the goal they outlined, the Langton Cherubino Group treated the assignment as if it was one they took on for a paying client, conducting weekly meetings exploring the underlying details of the site redesign, conducting market studies of competitor sites, designing drafts of potential solutions and holding critiques to assess their viability. The result of all of this work culminated in a systematic solution with a form follows function approach.

Another requirement of the redesign was making the new website searchable and accessible by well-known search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. The old website, which was built in flash and not easily recognized by key search engines, hurt their online visibility to a degree. The new website, based in HTML and includes both key words and descriptive text, has increased its recognizability with key search engines and has made the site easier to find for their visitors.

“We now have a more robust web solution.”