Improve Your Cannabis Packaging

May 26, 2017 Branding, Cannabis, Design

With recreational legalization, the Cannabis industry is becoming increasingly competitive. More players are entering the game and the battle for space at dispensaries is heating up. If you want your brand to succeed in this new market it’s important to recognize that packaging is more than just putting your logo on a bag or box. Packaging is your brand’s form of communication and packaging is how your brand talks to your consumers and distributors.

In order to understand how and what your brand is saying you need to put yourself in your consumer’s shoes. Think about walking into a dispensary and seeing walls full of product. How does your brand get noticed in a sea of competition and how does your brand say “Pick me! Pick me!”.


Photograph of the walls at Highway-7 in Tacoma Washington

Rule of 5’s

The first way to evaluate the impact of your packaging is to consider the rule of 5’s. The rule of 5’s is an age-old technique used by retail decision makers when choosing what to carry in their stores. This technique allows retailers to quickly know what their consumers will gravitate towards and you can use the rule of 5’s to improve your brand’s chances at retail. The rule of 5’s has three parts and is as follows:

  • 5 Seconds – We make a lot of purchasing decisions throughout the day so as a consumer, we don’t want to waste time making them. Your consumer should be able to recognize your product offering in 5 seconds. Make sure the communication on your packaging is quick and to the point without a lot of fluff and noise.
  • 5 Feet Away – Most consumers stand 5 feet away from the retail shelf. The communication on your packaging should be large enough to be visible from 5 feet away. If you are selling cookies, the word “cookies” should be front and center on your package.
  • 5 Lines of Communication – Nobody likes a heavy talker that drones on and on, same goes with packaging. Your package shouldn’t have more than 5 lines of communication on it. If you are offering: Gluten Free, Organic, Non-GMO, Low Calorie, Homemade, Low Dose, Allergen Free, Hormone Free, Flavorful, Tasty, Affordable, Quality, Crunchy, Charitable Granola Bars, pick at most the 5 points you want to drive home and get rid of the rest of the babble.

Evaluate the Competition

Now that you have streamlined and sharpened your communication, take a look at the other fish in the sea. Prior to developing the design of your package, you should know who your competition is and what they look like. Perform a store audit by visiting your local dispensaries. Have a conversation with your Budtenders about which brands are performing the best and have the best shelf velocity. Study those brands. What colors do they use on their package? What types of communication is on their package? The goal here is to innovate, not duplicate but by evaluating the competition you will start to see some consistencies.

Take a look at this shelf set for water below. Who are the disruptors and what are they doing to catch your eye? Which brands are recessive and why? Now do the same evaluation for the shelf sets that your product will be featured in. What can you do to stand out in the ocean of competition?


Make Me Feel

Consumers like packaging and branding that makes them feel. Feel what? Anything. Sometimes opening a package can make us feel like we are opening a present. If the purchase of the product means some of the money goes towards a charity it makes us feel good when we buy it. If the packaging looks really luxurious but the price point is really low, we feel like we are getting a good deal. If the package has a great brand story on it we feel like it’s authentic. If a consumer is environmentally conscience and your packaging communicates that it’s biodegradable than your consumer feels like they are “doing their part” by making this purchase decision.

Think about your own brand. How do you want your consumers to feel when they buy it, open it and use it? What types of things can you do with your packaging design to drive home these feelings?

Invest in your Packaging

You have a great brand name and a quality product. You are proud of your offering and have put a lot of time and money into developing it so don’t put it in a cheap prom dress. Your package is the spokesperson for your brand and a consumer experiences your package before they even experience your product. If the packaging looks cheap, it influences the way the consumer feels about your product itself. Don’t assume consumers will overlook the quality of your packaging because of the quality of your product. The quality of your product will get you return business but your package gets the consumer to pick it up the first time.

In order to get your packaging right, hire a professional. A great professional design studio will help you to navigate unknowns like custom structure design, special treatments, print estimates, overseas production, minimum quantity orders etc. The right studio will work with you to make decisions that save you time and money. They will negotiate pricing and timing with your vendors, understand things like one-time setup fees, and can offer cost saving solutions without sacrificing quality.

Don’t use a Digital design firm to design your packaging. That’s like hiring a painter to fix your roof. Digital communication and packaging communication are two different languages and there are several nuances to creating a package outside of the design itself.


Now it’s time to do your homework! Visit your local dispensaries, know your competition, develop your 5 brand points, decide how you want consumers to feel about your brand and hire professionals to give your brand its voice. Put as much time and effort into your packaging as you do in your product and you will quickly see a return on your investment.

Purple Line Media is the premier packaging design studio for the Cannabis Industry. Contact us today for help with your branding and packaging needs.