It’s wise to never judge a book by its cover. That being said, cannabis products aren’t books and customers are going to judge them on look alone for sure. For Caliva’s designers, including Senior Designer Andy Trejo, how the products looked was a huge consideration. Their consideration spawned into a multi-industry search that spanned medical and adult use cannabis, alcohol, tobacco and even the cosmetics industry.
The final result is what you find at Caliva and on our online menu. Here’s how it all came to fruition:
Standing Out as a Brand
The key aspect to branding is consistency. Without it, your brand lacks continuity that stops the customer from immediately recognizing your product. For Caliva, its research across many industries found that top brands were not only consistent, they were also bold. As Trejo explains, “Make sure you’re representing your brand the same across all channels. Don’t be afraid to be bold or loud, just make sure it’s consistent across all brands.”
It didn’t take long researching to realize that multiple brands used the traditional Jamaican-themed colors, or emphasized a “heavy hitters” theme to no end. Not only did it defeat brand recognition, it also pigeonholed those brands into the marijuana space. For Caliva, it sought to stand out from the industry while not being too serious of a product. The answer became clear after touring the shelves of dispensaries: colors and tone. Trejo noted that,
“The bright colors are what we decided to use to stand out. We noticed that on shelves across dispensaries that products with the biggest colors and simple packaging stood out. Sometimes, toning it down and stripping it out is beneficial.”
Going further, as a brand that also sells its products in other dispensaries across California, Caliva took consideration to stand out to customers without overwhelming dispensaries with big branded products. The key was to make the dispensary ok with selling Caliva products without customers forgetting the brand name.
As Trejo explains that Dog Walkers and Toasties were intentionally made to look different than other products like the House Doobies or vapes. By changing the prominence of text on the packaging, Caliva was able to satisfy the dispensaries while appealing to customers at the same time.
“We had on the Toasties and Dog Walkers that the product name was the first thing you saw on the hierarchy without driving the Caliva name. Before, it read ‘CALIVA’ and then ‘Toasties.’ Now, it’s “TOASTIES by Caliva, ” which made other dispensaries comfortable carrying our products.”
The same could be said for all of Caliva’s products. With the House Doobies, the team designed a straightforward package that let each dispensary and person see it for what it is: a good ol’ doobie. And with products that didn’t directly deal with cannabis, like the vapes, the team created a simple and clean design that gave the products their own identity within Caliva’s growing house of brands.
Designing the Caliva Line
The design process behind each Caliva product is different. When designing the latest design for Toasties, the team had two considerations: size and standing out. In addition to making the packaging more compact, the company sought to update its graphics and standing alone from its sister product, the Dog Walkers.
In that case, the groundwork had been laid to some extent before the project began. With other products, Trejo said the process began from scratch. “We even got to making hand-cut physical models to show the real thing.” The planning began for some in the summer. But much of the work occured during a busy one and a half month stretch that led up to legalization day on January, 1 2018.
You might think that after such a hectic period of work that Trejo and the team would have time to rest. That isn’t the case, however, as California regulations now require new packaging to meet childproof and reusability statutes. Dispensaries that bought products prior to January 1, 2018 can sell them as-is. However, that supply will run short sooner than later. It’s now up to Trejo and the Caliva design team to conceive the next line of packaging. To meet state demands, it takes outside-the-box ideas.
“It’s challenging trying to figure out childproof solutions for products that have been on the market. It’s a combination of taking current technology and childproofing manufacturers and possibly adapting for solutions. Or, completely using a current solution and making it fit to use.”
While the team has ideas that allow for the packaging to look and feel similar, we’ll have to wait and see what their creative end result will be.
The Keys to Packaging Success
In addition to studying similar markets and staying consistent, it’s important to factor all decision makers in the process. Sometimes, the design process includes many voices — some that don’t understand the space as much as others. These voices can be higher ups, including owners and stakeholders.
“Make sure you’re communicating with all stakeholders involved through the process,” Trejo emphasizes. “Make sure they have any insight to give you on the design.”
It is important that the Designer includes these high-level stakeholders in discussions at all levels of development. While they may not be experts in certain fields, their wisdom about the brand and industry is valuable. A failure to align can result in weeks of progress being thrown to the side.
By including their opinions, as well as taking bold, consistent risks with your packaging, your brand is poised to stand out on shelves. Going against the grain to establish your own visual brand helps sell the top-quality products you offer. Align your production and packaging to represent a full-tilt grade-A business that dispensaries and customers alike will recognize right away.
–Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn based freelance writer who understands Fweedom.