Label PRomotion | Labeling Marijuana, Edibles Leaves Room for Promotion

Marijuana purveyors in Colorado, generally considered the most progressive state for implementing retail (a/k/a recreational) sales, must adhere to in-depth state-mandated labeling disclosures. To date, there has been little design or pizazz tied to marijuana labels. This is typical of an industry in which product demand is so high that sellers haven’t needed to be preoccupied with branding—at least not yet.

In an evolving arena where marijuana retailers, growers, and edible product manufacturers are chiefly concentrating on compliance with myriad state regulations around everything from licensing to label legalese, many labels are printed one-color on Avery adhesive labels formatted for home printers.

Since January, when marijuana retail sales started in Colorado, fewer than half of all retailers ultimately planning to be in business have opened. The stores that have opened are jammed consistently with eager buyers.

That likely will change as more retail centers open and the initial buzz about recreational pot dies down. At that point, branding for certain stores and products will take on newfound significance. Increasingly, retailers and manufacturers alike will need to be more competitive to keep their operations robust. Marijuana edibles in generic packaging sitting on the kitchen counter today can become a powerful link to dynamic branding tomorrow.

Labeling marijuana and edibles: 3 ideas to consider

So, how do you begin label branding and marketing in an industry that initially requires no promotion? And what lessons can more well-established brands learn from this process?

  • Crowdsource branding and label design ideas. With stores teeming with buyers, there are ample opportunities to enlist ideas and input. So far, many stores are rationing access to avoid overcrowding. While people are waiting, it can be a great time to engage in a conversation or ask people to jot down their ideas for labeling marijuana and edibles. Besides serving as excellent marketing research, this could be transformed into a promotional contest, where the most novel and intriguing ideas are shared via social media streams, press releases, and the like—creating early buzz for a brand that ultimately will need to stand out from the crowd.
  • Decide who you are. Lily Tomlin said, "When I was growing up, I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize I should have been more specific.” The time to figure out who and what you are is now. From that determination, everything else—including marijuana label design—can follow. Questions to consider include: How do you want to look in the eyes of the buying public? (Some intel can be gleaned from engaging in the market research addressed above.) Are you interested in looking professional and high-end, earthy, low-key, retro (as in flower power, tie-dyed shirts, et al.), wild and crazy, trendy, medicinal? What age-centric issues should be addressed (e.g., will baby boomers tune in or turn off to the Woodstock-era look)?
  • Collaborate with a really inventive designer. Once you’ve clarified your identity, designing a visually impactful marijuana label that meets the state’s strict disclosure requirements may require heavy-duty brainpower. There’s a limited amount of space, and using it very wisely can make the difference between being so-so and compelling. While there will be tendencies to design “homegrown” labels, this really is a time to let topline professionals do their magic. Otherwise, the branding may wind up looking amateurish and convey an image exactly the opposite of what the brand seeks. As with everything, there are exceptions. If your desired image is homey and down-to-earth, that amateurish, obviously nonprofessional look may be just the ticket.

While all these steps can be helpful to building a foundation in a fledgling industry such as retail marijuana, in reality perhaps everyone can benefit by re-examining their brand—and rebuilding/rebranding where necessary.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Since 2008, he has worked with Lightning Labels, a Denver-based all-digital printing company specializing in custom labels and stickers, as a content developer specializing in expert advice articles. Lusky presents common-sense ideas grounded in doing what’s real and right for managing and enhancing public image.

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