Thinking about Branding…

Cannabis is a commodity. You have to differentiate. 

→ differentiate your external presentation

→ differentiate your customer service

→ differentiate your product

 differentiate: make something appear different or distinct

These elements (your presentation, your customer service, your product) contribute to your brand.

It is important to have a cohesive brand. If you have nine different logos, nine different communication styles, if your store looks like a “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it truck-stop,” your bud tenders are each offering different styles and levels of customer service, and if your product is indistinguishable from all the others, it is going to be increasingly difficult to compete.

Let’s revisit the nine shower heads analogy.

This story is usually used to illustrate how being cheap can be extraordinarily costly. The story goes that instead of purchasing one quality shower head for a bathroom remodel, the homeowner bought the cheapest one he could find. When that shower head developed an incurable leak after a few uses, he went to the garage and fished out a low-flow shower head he got at a home show. This shower head was so forceful he could not stand under it and soaped up cowering at the opposite end of the tub. So another inexpensive shower head was purchased, this one with a handheld unit attached. After a few months every time he switched from the attached head to the hand-held the thing flew off the holder. He just couldn’t remember to remove the handheld and hold it firmly in his hand while turning the head of the attached unit to initiate the hand-held. This was probably because turning the unit from one setting to another took two hands. After being smacked in the head by the flying hand held too many times, another shower head was purchased. And so it went until there were nine unused shower heads taking up space in the garage and one very expensive unit installed in the shower.

Today we use the story to illustrate the folly of inconsistent messaging. For example, in the graphic representation of your business, if you have one flyer that looks like this:

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And another flyer that looks like this:

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And a magazine ad that looks like this:

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And storefront signage that looks like this:

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And t-shirt graphics that look like this:

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And business cards that look like this:

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And expo banners that look like this:

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And website art that looks like this:

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Well, you could maybe see how customers might look like this:

Businessman confusing

Your brand messaging must be cohesive. This includes the messages conveyed through the external (graphic) representation of your brand, customer service, and your products. 

Brand Messaging: Graphic Representation

The external messages of a cohesive brand speak in a unified language with similar colors, similar type, and similar iconography. If your dispensary brand seems to have many personalities, as exhibited above, you should invest in creating a library of unified visual assets you can use across all engagement channels (e.g. web, mobile, print, signage). This doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. Use the equity you have in your existing brand. Take the best of what you have and move forward. Think of it as brand evolution. Unifying your iconography, photography, and written content is a great place to start. In brief:


The iconography most often encountered by your customers will be your logo. Think about the perception you form of each business as you look at the logos below. What perception do you want people to form when they see the logo for your business?









When using photographs, the best way to present your people, place, and products is professional photos. The most common objection to professional photography is the cost. Yes, professional photography can be expensive, but look at the following websites that invested in professional photography:


Beard’s Floral

and one that did not.

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The verbal and written content that accompanies the graphic representation of your business reinforces your message. A unified presentation that includes compelling memorable design and consistent verbal and written messaging will distinguish you from your competition.

Graphic representation includes all the things customers see before they walk through your door. Strong visual standards and unified messaging that speaks in the persona of your business help customers understand what they are going to get when they walk into your dispensary. What you present visually informs your customer’s perception of your business.

Brand Messaging: Bud Tenders (customer service)

As the direct point of contact customers have with your business, bud tenders play a large role in your branding, marketing, and public relations. Often the business owner, grower, stakeholder is not behind the counter and after quality products, the person behind the counter is the most important element of your brand.

Branding includes bud tender protocol:

→ what they say

→ how they look

→ their knowledge relevant to your business (credibility)

Your bud tender is the ambassador for your business and is your customer’s advocate. There are limited channels through which the cannabis industry can advertise, which makes the bud tender even more essential to your branding mix. A typical cannabis customer is seeking a relationship with his or her bud tender. They want someone who engages them, who listens to them, who dispenses quality products and good advice.

Knowing the persona of your desired customer helps define the persona of your business. This is, of course, circular: the persona your business presents helps define the type of customer you attract. Your bud tenders should match the persona of your business in:

→ what they say

→ how they look

→ their knowledge relevant to your business (credibility)

Successful bud tenders focus less on selling and more on forging great relationships with their customers. Repeat business and good referrals stem from a bud tender that is perceived as a trusted advisor. Once they walk through your door, customers become a valuable asset in your branding. Happy satisfied customers bring in more customers.

Finally, what is the environment in which your bud tender stands? When your customers walk through your door does the reality match the perception? Are they entering a swap meet? Engaging in a coffee table transaction? Entering a clean, well organized establishment to purchase curated and crafted products from an expert they trust? Continuing the perception you created visually (graphic representation) throughout the shopping, buying, and follow-up experience reinforces your brand.

Brand Messaging: Products

Cannabis is a commodity. Everyone is going to make the same claims about their products. The key is to deliver. Your products must meet the quality standards you claim.

Brand Messaging: Promise

Ultimately your brand is the promise you make to your customers and none of this matters unless you deliver on your promise.


Many thanks to Chris Parks Design for sharing logo examples.

Many thanks to Ryan Hendrix Photography for sharing Lucky’s and Beard’s.

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Call Wil at 855-711-2009