Building a Cannabis Brand: A Creative Director’s Perspective

Posted on May 19th, 2022 to Branding

Earlier this week, we sat down with our rock-star Creative Director, Josh Cleaver, to get an inside look into the creative process. Here’s what he had to say…

When you’re developing a new brand, how do you adapt different styles for different businesses and audiences?

Josh Cleaver: I think there’s a lot of value in doing a lot of things well, you know. You have a brand that comes to you that wants the feminine flower look, and you can do it. Or a brand comes to you that wants the street art look and you can do it. So, it’s picking up on those more fundamental elements and being able to translate those into a visual identity that fits for that brand, as opposed to doing one thing well and having only clients that want a certain type of work coming for you.

How do you think that translates to what makes a successful brand or what customers want? How do you ensure both a street brand or a feminine brand resonate with the right customers?

JC: Well, I think it comes back to systems and delivering functional elements more than anything. So, we’ve basically worked on figuring out what are those primary elements that a brand needs to function in all these spaces in a cohesive manner. And there’s some push and pull within that set of parameters. But you know, there’s some basic sort of fundamental elements that are essential to making that work. For instance, you can break out individual items from a brand, because having an icon set that’s customized is really nice to have, because your brand gets used in all these different ways. Different colors, different treatments and different icon variations.

So it’s about translating the concept or the idea of the story of the brand to the way that it gets applied in real life?

JC: I think so. I mean, you know part of it is subconscious aesthetic. You know, there are certain things that give you the vibe of trust, or reliability, or edgy or whatever. Categorizing those looks and appearances is kind of the first step. We look at all those trends and we sort of categorize them. So when we hear somebody say that maybe they want an edgy, street art brand? Is it just like gritty texture ‘edgy’ or a little bit more of a classic retro feel?

And then that ties in with the brand attributes, which are the words that we want companies to identify that their brand relates to: trustworthy, loyal, whatever those happen to be. You then relate that to the mission, you know. Basically, it’s the translation of that language of how you describe the brand that you want to build and how that then morphs into a visual language to support that.

So how does that affect the name component of a brand? How do you use that to help companies name their brands or products? Is the name not important at all or is it the starting point?

JC: I think you can go both ways. It kind of depends on what kind of brand you want to build, right? Are you going to be a whimsical brand? Something non sequitur, where the name is just something and you’re going to go off in a completely different direction. And that disconnection is part of the brand attributes that you want to support.

Or are you going to sort of lean into the visual representations that are associated with the name choice? Some brands, there’s no way you’re getting around the visual component to the name. Because there’s a cultural association on multiple levels, so you have to respect that on some level. Whether you choose to lean into it and go that route or go the opposite route like it has to be in the creative exploration phase. How do we want to play it, you know? For example, having “flowers” in the name of your brand, are you’re going to lean into that, or are you going to intentionally play off the non sequitur nature and go in a completely different direction?

The client experience or anybody who is interacting with that name is going to have an association one way or another, because that’s just human nature. Thinking about the marketing demographic or client personas you want to target, it’s important to think about that all sort of comes with a name. Above all, we want to make sure that we don’t create a negative association somewhere in the chain. So the more we can think through the name and those potential associations, the better. So in that sense the name has extreme importance, because it requires that consideration and sensitivity.

Business Development Manager

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