The Art of Branding & Identity


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AUTHOR: Glenn Johnson



The rise of social media has taught us that good storytelling and branding can go a long way to project success for any brand. They’re a gateway to customer conversations that when well done, can lead down a rabbit hole of discovery for any consumer to journey across your brand. Everyone loves an underdog, and in Cannabis more than any category represents an emerging class of new brands, new products and new experiences for consumers to listen, learn, sample and engage with.

The push-pull of the regulatory dance that’s occurring on a state by state basis in the US has unleashed a mashup of start-ups at every level of the industry’s verticals. Not everything is rainbows and sunshine however, and we’re all too familiar with seeing websites, social media, packaging and branding decisions that fall short in one way shape or form or another. It is quite honestly what drives me in my own work to address the needs of businesses as they’re getting started or pivoting into a larger scale.


From soil to oil, flowers and beyond, every brand has a unique challenge to overcome when it comes to your “branding” efforts. What people see, and what they remember may be two different things. For start-ups and entrepreneurs in the Cannabis space, there are some basic caveats that apply and should be used as a benchmark as you go about introducing yourself to the market in which you do business.


STEP ONE is to refine or define your Brand Identity. A company’s brand identity is what it says about who it is – the products or service it delivers, the quality it gives customers, its advantages over competing brands and what makes it unique. That’s a fancy way of being clear about who you are and what you sell. You will need to codify and agree upon a clarified brand meaning which aligns with your brand goals (setting these goals are manifold related to the market categories you serve, pricing and inventories, more on that later).


STEP TWO is your Brand Image, which is how a brand is perceived by the public, what they see, what they will remember–the overall Look & Feel of your brand. You want to work to ensure the brand assets align with your Brand Identity so that the end consumer, be it B2B wholesale or B2C Sales and social media makes sense and adds value to your business, whether its driven by price or perception.


STEP THREE is to align your “Branding” with the markets you serve and letting your brand live in the space in which you do business. Take the remarkable start-up NW Nectar, a Tier 3 Producer / Processor in Spokane, WA who, “works to provide great experiences to our retailers and customers.” Their collection of brands reflect a kickass appeal from the native northwest, from the Great PNW to their Lefty’s brand (which reckons back to the notorious “left hand cigarette,” which cannabis was once known as. Evolving beyond stigmas of yesterday to create something pleasantly nostalgic with an air of mystery and includes their portfolio is a bevy of wonders and includes Trips Kitchen, with its own unique iconography.



I bring you these thoughts, sparked by the remarkable infographic, The Art of Cannabis Culture, from the thoughtful folks at the They know a thing or two about the visualization of a brand from their extensive printing experience and have some terrific examples of winners in the category too, many you’ve heard of like Marley’s Natural and Kiva Confections to smaller brands from Cali like Lola Lola who’s colorful confections aim to: Enhance. Every. Experience.

There’s a lot to take in here, and it’s not laid out in any particular sequence, but the Optics takeaways are a great reference point for any brand. These tips dovetail well with the steps I’ve outlined above, which are in fact from the approach I’ve found successful working with brands of every size, from larger brands in Spirits like Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek’s small batch collection to smaller brands and start-ups in numerous verticals including Cannabis. It’s definitely worth saving and sharing with your teams as you go about building your business. I welcome your feedback in the comments, and any opportunity to ask me any specific questions via email if you’d like.


About Glenn Johnson

I am a Marketing, Branding and Communications Consultant w/ experience in high-touch luxury consumer marketing in the travel/hospitality, wine/spirits, fashion/beauty/grooming and Cannabis categories. My talents include Branding & Brand development, Business Building, Strategy and Brand Storytelling. I excel in working with Founders, funders, start-ups, and small brands.


Previously I was co-founder & moderator for the Creative Mind Salon series hosted at Soho House NY w/ industry innovators, creatives & decision makers from fashion, film, photography, music and digital industries which provided IRL intelligent discourse amongst highly-curated leading edge creatives. I can be contacted at Connect with me on LINKEDIN:


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