The cannabis industry has come a long way from cheap plastic bag in terms of packaging. The materials that surround today’s infused products offer more than just storage. They provide brands an opportunity to convey aesthetics, information and peace of mind to consumers.
Packaging for cannabis-infused products requires a little more thought and a lot more effort toward compliance than the typical consumer item. Not only are these products brand new to most people, they can cause some serious side effects, both good and bad. Cannabis needs to be handled discreetly while still serving the purpose of opening people’s eyes to the positives it can bring to their lives.
As the people behind the final product, the industry has a vested interest in providing practical, beautiful, informational and safe packaging to our customers to complement the infused product itself. The general framework I have developed in launching our brands and when I evaluate our competitors, has five pillars.
Putting specific instructions for use right on the package is necessary for the success of any infused product. No matter how obvious it may seem, cannabis is new territory for many consumers.
The only “direction” most of us have on how to use cannabis came from suddenly being passed a joint as a teen. This means customers need to be educated on how to use our products. If brands really want to show the wellness aspects of the plant, then they need to direct the consumer on how to use the product in a wellness way.
For a recent product development project, we were looking for ways to elevate the dabbing experience, which many new consumers are not yet familiar with. We needed to explicitly tell the consumer that we want them to take a micro-sized dab (hit) at a low temperature because we want the consumer to experience the taste of our product much in the way someone would savor wine.
This step could also very well also mean disclosures. Packaging can provide protection for your brand by displaying the latest disclosures required by your local health and governmental agencies. Not only does this protect your brand legally, but it also demonstrates compliance to retail partners and customers.
Intentional dosing is so important in presenting cannabis as a wellness product. The risk of getting too high and being stuck on a sofa for hours with head spins is not something that anyone wants to experience, especially since we know the average cannabis consumer is close to 40-years-old with work and life responsibilities.
Dosing has two parts: the dose of the individual serving and the dose of the bottle. The dose information should suggest a starting amount of product to consume, whether that is a milliliter, a scoop, a dime-sized dollop or three puffs. Packaging should also let the consumer know what’s in that dose, specifically the amount of the cannabinoids, which are the active ingredients of cannabis. This is usually expressed in milligrams. Historically, total product potency has been expressed in percentages and ratios, which can be confusing for the average consumer, so any light your packaging can shed on that is welcome.
We as an industry should also strive to let consumers know what the total cannabinoid levels are in the product. This is the active ingredient that the customer is paying for. Transparency is the goal, especially when being used for therapeutic purposes where precision and consistency are key.
Nothing should be a surprise for the cannabis consumer. Your goal is to provide the guidelines for a positive experience. That said, your packaging should give a loose outline of how long the effects of your product will last.
This is especially important with edible products. Onset may take up to four hours and can last up to 12 depending on the consumer’s metabolism and a few other factors. So a solid package design will give the consumer some meaningful hints as to how long it will take for the effects to begin and how much time they might spend on this journey.
Branding is still new to this industry, and it is shocking how many brands don’t tell the story of the product or even mention basic things like why consumers should buy this product and what is the value proposition to your consumer.
You can and should convey the value proposition. These can be in ways that are not formal product descriptions. But avoid being too clever. A well-written headline is the most straightforward way to effectively communicate your brand essences and the benefits of the product.
I was trained at Procter & Gamble. Part of that included an exercise called “Surprise and Delight,” used to uncover the most fun and relatable attributes of any product. Just because cannabis is medicinal or therapeutic doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, witty or elegant.
This can mean telling the origin story of how the product came to be or capturing the farm-to-table aspect with stories of craft cannabis cultivators. Brands can also provide nice accessories like a decal or branded rolling papers to extend the brand identity once the product has been consumed.
By analyzing the five D’s during each phase of your product development, you’re bound to create something meaningful and beautiful that will both catch consumers’ eye and win their loyalty.