Rebranding Pot | New Book Project

New Book Project

Rebranding Pot

Adriana Kertzer

But once in a while, a truly unique situation comes along. Systems and constraints shift dramatically, unleashing incredible opportunities to reimagine entire industries, cultures and experiences. Such is the case with the cannabis industry, where legalization is quickly proliferating and opening up the floodgates for design and business model innovation.
— Nicole Bacchus, “Design Expert: Why The Cannabis Industry Is A Designer’s Dream,”

Book Summary
As cannabis becomes increasingly legal in the U. S., what design strategies will “potpreneurs” employ to position their brands? This book will feature true stories of potpreneurs who make up the green revolution. It will also address how marijuana companies are branding themselves in order to attract new consumers.

With the increased legalization of cannabis, aspects of its counter culture associations and illegal stigmas have begun to dissipate. Replacing the taboo, is both the shear experience of the substance, along with what the branding will attempt to tell consumers the experiences are good for. From the medical to the recreational to the aphrodisiacal, marketers will attempt to tie design to positioning the product such that fills some psychological want or need in a way that other products currently do not.

Through its use of case studies, Rebranding Pot will offer an overview of the visual landscape of the marijuana industry and survey the most interesting contemporary examples. The book will ask: How are cannabis companies defining target audiences? How do these companies position their marijuana products? How do they brand these offerings? How do they catalyze and execute the unexpected?

Some of the questions Rebranding Pot will tackle include: What does the marijuana industry in the U.S. look like now? What might it look like in 20 years (and if it becomes legal on the federal level)? And ultimately, how does the design of marijuana brands inform our understanding of visual markers of legality and illegality? How does the branding of marijuana inform our understanding/acceptance of it as a recreational substance? What do the approaches to branding assume about the wants and needs of their target consumer?

Across the U.S., entrepreneurs who are betting on the increased legalization of marijuana consumption are developing pot-related businesses and carefully branding them. The business world needs Rebranding Pot in order to understand how a burgeoning industry will attract new consumers and create a new design language.

Rebranding Pot is about companies that are adopting sophisticated, innovative and unexpected designs when branding their products. Far from being “Bob Marley visual plagiarists” who recycle stereotypical visual tropes associated with marijuana, contemporary cannabis brands display remarkable ingenuity, sophistication and design sensibility that should make us wonder: What will this industry look like once marijuana is legalized? And what does legalization look like? They’re in places that have legalized marijuana production and consumption such as the frozen cities of Alaska, the dynamic streets of Colorado, and the sunny towns of California. They are catering to potential women consumers, connoisseurs, skeptics, health nuts, millennials, and — perhaps most interesting — those who have never used cannabis before. The latter is an untapped market that could be incredibly lucrative and would likely be the key to the survival of marijuana companies in the long run.

What’s different and unique about Rebranding Pot’s approach is its focus on aesthetics. Up until recently, the aesthetics of cannabis were stagnant, drawing consistently from established tropes (green cannabis leaves, the colors of the Jamaican flag, and Bob Marley references, dancing bears, and symbols from late 1960s and early 1970s cultural zeitgeist). In other words, the imagery was dated. Now, as legalization spreads throughout the U. S., designers are reimagining and updating the cultural and aesthetic material that accompanies marijuana.  

Rebranding Pot will benefit all potpreneurs who are investigating ways of positioning their product, defining their target audiences, and making branding decisions. It will also benefit established companies such as traditional pharmaceutical companies that are already ramping up their R&D facilities so they can benefit from cannabis’s increased legalization. It could also benefit homeopathic companies that are manipulating their branding and packaging so that patients will accept cannabis as viable treatment option.

While other pot-industry-related books chronicle the changes in the field, Rebranding Pot takes us outside the conventional scope of business writing by focusing on 10 potpreneurs and shining a light on their chosen branding strategies. As a design historian interested in the intersection between design, politics, sociology, law, and business, I want to explore how these individuals are changing the aesthetics related to marijuana in the U.S. My case studies will focus on specific entrepreneurs who are adopting diverse advertising, branding and packaging strategies in their cannabis businesses. 
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