BRANDING, CONTENT & ADVERTISING FOR CANNABIS BUSINESSES
Herbn Elements is a medically endorsed recreational cannabis dispensary in Seattle, Washington. Located in the neighborhood of Lake City, the major challenges facing this dispensary were stagnant sales and a lack of name recognition.
As a neighborhood pot shop in a low income area, we needed a way to bring in new customers and position the store as a clean, professional, affordable, and unpretentious dispensary targeted towards bargain hunters and medical patients.
SEO & Content Marketing
After stepping in as the in-house Marketing Strategist, I wrote a total of 50 blog articles to help improve SEO: two years later, overall web traffic has tripled and the number of unique users is up 234%. The most popular articles were called The Pros and Cons of Different Concentrates, and Can You Judge a Concentrate By Its Color?. Over time, the blog articles became more thorough, heavily researched, and sometimes investigational in nature. Some of my favorite pieces include:
Of course, we experienced the usual issues with social media accounts getting shut down, so we crafted a “play it safe" Instagram strategy which showcased high quality product photography (aka “nug porn”) and budtender profiles instead of packaged products. This strategy helped with name recognition and bringing in new customers, as Herbn Elements was named one of the The 12 Best Dispensaries in Seattle by High Times magazine, and voted as Washington's Best Dispensary for Deals by Leafbuyer.
Since implementing this “play it safe” social strategy, we watched as most of the other local cannabis retailers lost their Instagram accounts in semi-annual purges, and kept our account afloat for well over a year. Just to note, we still posted photos of packaged products on Twitter, Canfinder, and Massroots.
Lake City Book & Joint Pack Signing
In a cannabis industry and book marketing first, local author Thomas Kohnstamm set out to promote his new novel, Lake City, by working with Saints Joints and Fire Bros to release a limited edition Lake City joint pack. I had the privilege of working with Kohnstamm, his publicist, and the owners of Saints and Fire Bros to host the first ever book and joint pack signing at a recreational dispensary. Per I502 regulations, Kohnstamm couldn’t legally sell his book inside our store, and had to do it out the trunk of his car while Herbn Elements sold his joint packs inside.
As of this writing, the Herbn Elements website looks like it was built in the 1990’s… this is an unfortunate byproduct of nepotism, as one of the previous owners had their nephew hardcode the site. Though it is functional on a basic level, I’ve always been embarrassed about this website and don’t want it to reflect on my web design prowess; I’m not a coder, but I can tell when a website looks dated and un-engaging.
Herbn Elements is under new ownership as of January 2019, and the erratic new CEO has opted to rebrand [with 10+ new logos] and largely ignore all conventional marketing wisdom that hasn’t been distilled into a BuzzFeed article. I helped Herbn Elements break their record for web traffic (and sales) on 4/20/2019 before parting ways with the company at the end of the month.
INYO FINE CANNABIS DISPENSARY
Inyo Fine Cannabis Dispensary was the 2nd medical marijuana dispensary to open in Las Vegas, NV. Medical marijuana patients visiting from any state are able to purchase medicine from Nevada dispensaries.
Under our guidance, Inyo was able to reach more potential customers in their targeted areas (Las Vegas and Los Angeles), improve the website's Google ranking, improve social referrals across all channels, gain 78% more web traffic, and gain 10x more Instagram followers than they previously had.
Between November and March, product sales improved by 20% each month.
Vegas Nug Porn
In a city full of flashing lights and strip clubs, we thought the best way to get attention from the locals was through the use of "nug porn" on social media with highly targeted hashtags.
Because terpene test results were readily available, and because medicinal cannabis patients are always eager to learn more about their medicine, we included terpene profiles in the strain graphics and posted them alongside infographics about terpenes.
While thousands of medical marijuana entrepreneurs were in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl of the cannabis industry—The Marijuana Business Conference & Expo—we posted targeted social media promos and engaged attendees to bring them into the dispensary and help spread the word. Keynote speakers Steve DeAngelo and Greta Carter also stopped by Inyo for some Nevada-grown medicine.
Standard Flower Packaging
Packaging compliance in the state of Nevada can be tough; not only is there a hefty amount of information that packaging is required to display, but the law specifies a minimum 10-point font, a minimum label width of 2.75', and a minimum label height of 4' tall.
Meet Your Farmer
When former MMA fighter Steve Cantwell was appearing at Inyo to talk to patients about his licensed cultivation business, Green Life Productions, we consciously went against both companies' branding strategies in the interest of entertainment. The first person to like the meme, thankfully, was Mr. Cantwell himself.
All those packaging requirements apply to prerolls too. Not ideal, but at least it's an opportunity for branding. Here's a mockup for prerolls sold at Inyo Fine Cannabis Dispensary.
American Farms is a tier 3 outdoor cultivator in Entiat, Washington. View the American Farms MassRoots feed here.
Little Jays Social Media Promo
Little Jays Packaging Design
Believing that customers are interested in a quick and discreet way to consume outside of vape pens and edibles, I expressed an appreciation for the companies putting out packs of joints, but lamented that most of them were too big for one person (at the time, most prerolls were close 1 gram in size).
Targeted towards hikers and college students, our idea was a pack of mini joints that comes in a crush-resistant container. The branding, though shying away from pot leaves and tie die, unapologetically but tastefully embraced the multi-age "cannabis culture" that most every other Washington brand was afraid to touch.
There are plenty of one-gram "premium" prerolls using top shelf indoor flower, and Little Jays are just some well priced mid-grade outdoor doobies in reasonable proportions. No biggie.
Little Jays Paper Mockup
After the product concept and packaging were approved by the client, a quick physical mockup was made using paper, tape, and 1.33 grams of Trainwreck to ensure that the dimensions were correct, if not viable.
The finished product went over well with I502 retailers, and was nominated for "Most Creative Marketing Initiative" at the 2015 CannAwards.
In-Store Display Card
At retail, this stand-up graphic was posted next to stacks of Little Jays.
While the idea of a 'baker's batch' wasn't new in Washington, packaging it in a food grade muslin pouch was. We designed the Baking Kit packaging to look like it belongs in a spice cabinet.
Baking Kit and Adult Snacks
Original prototypes (with paper "labels") for the Baking Kit, and the future line of edibles called Adult Snacks.
While the Great Americans series was received well overall, this Nate Dogg quote was hands down the most popular graphic, receiving more likes and shares than the others.
Formerly the #2 producer of flower in Washington state, SPARK joint packs by Life Gardens have turned out to be their most successful product. The mockup shown on this page is one of many packaging design iterations they received in January of 2015; the final design they went with was not done by Sesh Marketing, but bears an uncanny resemblance.
1st Edition Flower Packaging
Inspired by web 2.0 and the pharmaceutical industry, Life Gardens' bags were designed to be clean, professional, and easy-to-understand. The strain classifications were colored coded (similar to the Leafly scale, but with the inclusion of orange for sativa-dominant, blue for indica-dominant, and gray for high CBD).
Moments before the first labels were about to be printed, the owner asked to add verbiage about the company's historic first crop. The words were added in the style of a rubber stamp.
The online strain guide was built by discerning connoisseurs for pot snobs and novices alike; strains were color coded and organized by classification (with a detailed description for each category), and each strain block included flavor profiles, a description of the effect, and lab results (when available).
This was one of the first times in the I502 industry that Washington cannabis strains were described using wine terminology.
2nd Edition Flower Packaging
After the first iteration of packaging, it became evident that the clear side of the bag needed to showcase the strain name and lab results as well, so the updated bag design included the branding and static compliance information. Dynamic information is placed on the clear side, above the product.
2nd Generation Packaging
Early SPARK Mockup
One of the original prototypes for SPARK by Life Gardens.
CANNABIS TRAINING INSTITUTE
A respected online training institution serving the regulated cannabis industry.
Budtender Certification & Job Fair
Print marketing materials and a social media contest to promote an online training institution's in-person training event.
How Much THC Would it Take to Die?
How Much THC Do You Get From a Joint?
Cannabis Training Institute wanted to stand out at a Vegas trade show by handing out gold condoms, designed to look like matchbooks, with "education is my shield" written on the back. Ask and you shall receive.
THE G.CAR COMPANIES
Much like the Sesh Marketing website, former employer Greta M. Carter needed an online presence to showcase her accomplishments in the cannabis industry and attract new clients.
The G.Car Companies website chronicles Greta's experiences in the cannabis industry, allowing the user to jump to any year. Nearly all the clients that followed mentioned that they were entranced by the story and read it in its entirety.
The vision was to help Washington's I502 (recreational) marijuana producers and retailers by creating a centralized marketplace for wholesale cannabis sales. While the online platform was being built out, I was wholly in charge of designing a print version of the Because Freedom catalog. View the complete catalog here: Because Freedom.
THE CANNY BUS
The Canny Bus is a now defunct medical marijuana delivery service that operated in the San Francisco Bay Area. After enrolling as a patient and raving about my experience online, the owner recruited me to help with the marketing efforts.
(aka "Super Meds")
Roll A Dutch Style Cone Joint in 5 Minutes
Hey, if you don't need my marketing services right now, at least let me teach you how to roll a joint. This is a method I've perfected (and since improved upon) since learning to roll in Amsterdam several years ago. The video was self-produced on a shoestring budget and has since earned over 43,000 views.
I received grams of new (featured) strains and asked to simply write an honest review on StickyGuide. It truly was some of the best product I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing, and I enthusiastically shared that fact with the rest of the Bay Area.