Cannabis and coffee are similar industries in many ways.
Both markets grow from a strong love for a plant (cannabis/coffee beans), both have developed a multitude of processing options (THC activation methods/roasting levels) and their customers enjoy a wide variety of consumption methods (flower, concentrates, etc./espresso, drip, cold brew, etc.).
It’s natural for these industries to blend well. Cannabis brands including Willie’s Reserve and Jane West have launched lines of CBD coffees. Investment groups including Canaccord Genuity believe beverages infused with THC and CBD have the potential to become a $600 million market in the next four years.
Savvy cannabis brands should take note of these six artisan coffee branding practices to generate buzz around their cannabis business.
1. Get nerdy about your product.
There’s a pretty good chance that what excites you as a cannabis geek will get your customers geeking out, too, so let your geek flag fly on your menus, website and packaging.
From the plant species to the growing conditions to the harvesting process, coffee and cannabis users alike love to learn more about the plants they cherish.
Brandywine Coffee Roasters, like many craft coffee brands, inscribes on their packaging every delicious detail of their products, from the farmer’s name to the altitude where the beans grew. Eager readers devour it.
Telling customers the time of harvest doesn’t directly make for a better blunt or cup of coffee, but it creates a connection with the source of the product that enhances the consumer’s overall experience. Whether you grow, process or dispense cannabis, tell the story of how it is crafted for quality and potency.
2. Guide your customers to better consumption.
No matter if they are talking with a budtender or barista, no one likes being clueless about what to order.
Counter Culture Coffee has made coffee education a key component of their brand to save new customers from feeling like idiots. Across the US, Counter Culture cafes feature Training Centers for lessons on home brewing, cupping fundamentals and the long history of coffee culture. Coffee lovers leave confident and Counter Culture Coffee got to be their hero.
The innovative cannabis industry is always exploring new ways to consume the plant, from new processing methods to techy tools like Pax vape pens. Longtime cannabis users may be unaware of innovations that might enhance their established ritual. Think about what they may be missing out on but don’t know to ask about. Listen to your customer and be ready with both answers and suggestions.
3. Create a like-minded community.
As legalization and consumption of cannabis grows across the US, brands need authentic ways to get involved and make a difference. Make it easier for yourself by finding a few collaborative partners — iife and business are both better when you surround yourself with awesome people. The team at Stumptown Coffee in Portland, Oregon, are experts at co-branded collaborations that expand their brand beyond the coffee shop.
Stumptown partnered with Jacobsen Salt Co. to develop a line of coffee salted caramels; blended their cold brew into Mast chocolates and Tillamook ice cream; and went so far as creating a coffee-stout cheddar (yes, cheese!) with Rouge Creamery.
Co-branding introduces a brand to new audiences who may never otherwise learn about them. While cannabis has restrictions coffee roasters don’t need to worry about, there are still plenty of ways to get creative on partnerships with local artisans.
4. Stand for something more.
Activism is the heritage of the cannabis industry. It’s also common to find roasters driven by more than just profit. Many are cognizant of the environmental and socio-economic repercussions of the plant they love so much. For some, business practices that make a positive impact are integral to their brand identity.
Grounds & Hounds Coffee, with blends including Morning Walk and Sit & Stay, donates 20 percent of profits to animal rescue groups. Birds & Beans coffee helps to set aside bird-friendly habitats on coffee farms. Turn to your brand values to find innovative ways to make an impact that is true to your brand and will connect with your audience.
5. Stay true to your style.
Finding your own style while staying true to your story and mission will be the foundation of a strong brand in the fast growing cannabis industry.
Celebrate the individuality behind your brand. Feel like waking up to beautifully vivid illustrations? Since their launch in 2015 Brandywine Coffee Roasters has painstakingly screen-printed new artwork onto bags of their coffee. Inspired by their brand theme of “artfully sourced” ingredients, and their close location to the Brandywine School of Illustration, each illustration doubles as an up-sell with designs available as t-shirts, mugs and art prints.
Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee has taken a different approach to their packaging artwork. Each month, Dark Matter commissions a different artist to develop a bag design. Their colorful, anything-goes approach has resulted in a brand style that delivers instant recognition on retail shelves as the wildest thing in the coffee aisle.
The best way to create a distinct visual style that sticks with customers is to know what your brand stands for and who it is speaking to. After all, your brand design is there to give a warm and friendly Oh hey! to your core audience and invite them to share the wonderful experience your business is hosting.
6. Keep your brand uplifting and energizing.
While society perceives and regulates these two mood-enhancing, benefit-rich plants differently, the passion and celebration behind cannabis and coffee make the growing merger of these two industries a new frontier of possibility for brands.
The growing cannabis industry offers many opportunities unavailable anywhere else. By learning from other industries, and learning from their mistakes as well as their successes, smart cannabusinesses can build their agility to navigate the unique challenges without losing momentum.