Dispensary Branding

Build a brand that not only connects with your target audience but amplifies your mission, and vision. Learn how to weave your company values through your visual identity, style, and copy to communicate with your consumers and create a brand culture.

Part 1: Brand Strategy Basics

Many people oversimplify “brand” to mean logo or name. While logos and name are important, they represent only a small part of an effective dispensary branding strategy.

Take a minute to think of your favorite brands. What characteristics do you associate with them?

  • Authenticity
  • Innovation
  • Quality
  • Value
  • Uniqueness
  • Unique Customer

These are just a few examples; the brand associations could be any of these—or plenty of others. More importantly, these are all characteristics you may want your customers and prospects to think of when they think of your brand.

Foundationally, your dispensary branding strategy should build a connection between your dispensary and your customers. Sound easy? Not exactly.

Few brands — including dispensary brands — manage to achieve these positive associations. With the cannabis industry booming and becoming increasingly competitive, it’s critical that you develop a cohesive and executable dispensary branding strategy to be heard above the noise.

Branding strategy is a massive topic that can’t be covered in a single piece. To ensure we give you plenty of great info, we’re going to address the essential components of a profitable dispensary branding strategy over several articles. In this article — Part I of a X part series — we’ll look at foundational branding issues like defining and understanding who your target audience is, communicating your dispensary’s mission and vision, and naming.

Your Target Audience: Start by Creating Customer Personas

If you identify your target customers as “anyone and everyone between 20 and 60,” you’re going way too broad. What you’re saying is, “I’m not exactly sure who our target audience is.” “Everyone” is not your target audience. This may be an extreme example, but it’s far more common than you’d think.

When you’re creating a brand, you need a unique voice, and you need to speak to a narrowly defined target audience. To target a specific audience, you should start by creating personas.

What are personas? A persona is simply a model you create that (very) narrowly represents your target customer. Personas help you identify who you’re targeting (based on demographics, personal histories, expectations); what their needs and buying motivations are; what their customer journey looks like (from interest to purchase to brand loyalty and brand advocacy); and how your brand fits into their life. Most likely, you’ll need to create several personas to cover the different customers you’re aiming to serve.

A persona contains information about:

  • Demographics: Age, education, location, income, etc.
  • Personal Histories: Interests, needs, and goals.
  • Expectations: What they expect from the customer experience and how they as consumers will interact with your brand at various touch points during the sales cycle.

Let’s use “soccer mom” as an example persona since most people are already familiar with this persona. While this persona encompasses a group, it is written in the singular. This helps create a more personal, dynamic feel and may help you better envision (and empathize with) your target customer. You can even name your persona if you wish.

Demographics: Late 20s to mid-40s; college-educated; suburban; affluent.

Personal Histories: She leads a health-conscious life and is active, though she also enjoys wine with her girlfriends. Before legalization, she hasn’t used cannabis since college. Her goals are both therapeutically and socially-motivated. She wants to treat insomnia, stress and anxiety, or pain. She also likes the social aspect that legal cannabis brings with products like vapes and chocolate edibles — products she doesn’t have to smoke.

Expectations: She’s looking for dispensaries that provide a spa-like or Apple Store experience. Price is far less important to her than quality and experience — she’ll gladly pay a premium (or drive further) to go to dispensaries where she feels comfortable and which carry organic or top-shelf products. She wants knowledgeable and approachable budtenders who can direct her to products that are uplifting, uninhibiting, and, in the case of edibles, tasty (particularly artisan chocolates). Once she finds a dispensary or brands that she loves, she can become very brand-loyal to the point of becoming a brand advocate.

Dispensary Branding: Communicating Mission, Vision, and Values

If you don’t know what the difference is between a mission statement and a vision statement is, don’t fret! Most people get confused or think the two terms are interchangeable.

Here’s a simple way to remember the difference:

Mission = Now
Vision = Future

Do you need to create two completely different statements? Not necessarily, and there are advantages to combining the two. For a retail dispensary, few people are going to visit two pages — which you see all too often.

To get an idea of mission and vision statements, let’s look at Apple. Everyone loves Apple. Well, maybe not everyone. But, a heck of a lot of people do. Using them as a case study, we’ll look at their “official” mission statement (that they announced during a recent earnings report). It’s bafflingly awful. It sounds like something that would come out of a junior college Marketing 101 class. Predictably, it made a lot of savvy marketers cringe.

Here it goes:

“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”

Boring, isn’t it? We’re not sure exactly who created that mission statement, but it doesn’t sound like Steve Jobs or even current CEO Tim Cook. Let’s contrast that mission statement with previous statements from Jobs and Cook:

Steve Jobs

"[Apple’s mission and vision] is to make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind."

It’s one line! But it’s meaningful, and it speaks to now and the future. Most of all, it represents Jobs’ personal ethos.

Now let’s look at the statement Cook shares with new employees, which does a better job at capturing both Apple’s mission and vision: 

Tim Cook

"Apple has always been different. A different kind of company with a different view of the world. It's a special place where we have the opportunity to create the best products on earth — products that change lives and help shape the future. It's a privilege we hold dear."

Cook’s statement is a little longer than Jobs’, but it perfectly captures Apple’s past, present, and future. And it captures Apple’s unique voice and values. It reminds us that Apple has always been unique and different (past). Likewise, Apple is a special place where they make the best products (present). There’s no talk of iMac, iPad, MacBook Pro, iPhone, etc. We know the products anyway. Their future casting: they want to change people’s lives while shaping the future.

It’s a much shorter statement than most companies, but it’s a lot more meaningful and memorable too. 

Naming Your Dispensary, New Product, or Service

You’ve probably already named your dispensary, but perhaps you’re rebranding. Or you’re introducing a new product line or service (e.g., “concierge service”).

Your brand name is essential. From a psychological perspective, your brand is a verbal trigger that your customers should associate with pleasant experiences while evoking positive associations and reactions.

When coming up with a new brand name, you’ll want to answer the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What will you offer them and how will it appeal to their needs and desires or address their frustrations?
  • How does your brand name differentiate your brand from competitors’ brands?
  • Does your new brand name evoke positive emotions and associations? Using our persona example — “soccer mom” — consider how they would react to strain names like “Green Crack” or “Herijuana” versus “Tangerine Dream” or “Maui Wowie.”
  • Is your brand name intuitively inspirational? Does it pique curiosity, and is it emotive?
  • Is your brand name easy to remember? Memorable brand names are simple; they’re not overly complicated. (And they’re easy to search for online!)
  • Is the new brand name something that can inspire your employees? Will they eagerly embrace the name?

Part 2: Visual Identity and Design

Visual identity, including visual design, should be an essential element of your branding strategy. Many people confuse branding and visual identity. However, the two are distinct. In this guide on dispensary branding and visual identity, you’ll learn why the strategic and thoughtful implementation of these marketing concepts are essential to your dispensary’s success. You’ll also discover how they differ and how they relate. You’ll also learn key strategies on how to develop a profitable visual identity strategy, including how to create logos that resonate with your customers, how to write copy that aligns with your brand, and the basics of developing an internal Brand Style Guide.

Before we dig deeper into visual design and identity, let’s start with the basics: the differences between branding and visual identity:

Branding: Here’s how Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the world’s richest man, describes branding: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” That’s an oversimplification, but it’s a useful big-picture way to conceptualize branding.

Branding guru, Seth Godin, expands on this definition:

Seth Godin

“[T]he set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”

Godin explains that your brand is the sum total of consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for your offering; their perspective on how your brand meets or exceeds expectations over your competition; how often they’ll choose your brand over other brands; and the relationship and connections they have to your brand.

Visual Identity: Your visual identity is how you communicate your brand’s personality and how you extend your personality and values through your branded elements. This includes every visual aspect of your brand that you create to communicate what your brand represents. Your visual branding assets should communicate and reinforce the feelings you want your customers to have when they engage with your brand.

Visual identity includes all of the following (and any other kind of visuals your dispensary creates):

  • Logo
  • Fonts
  • Product packaging
  • Marketing materials
  • Store interior
  • Photography style
  • Advertising

Bottom line: Branding is macro and visionary. Visual identity is micro and tactical.

One of the biggest mistakes cannabis dispensary marketers make is to view a logo as their dispensary’s brand. Yes, your logo is vitally important to your brand, but it’s only one component of a larger whole. Branding goes above and beyond your logo, but given how influential a logo can be on how your customers remember and think of you, let’s talk about logo first. 

Create a Logo that Connects With Your Customers

On one end of the spectrum, cannabis dispensary marketers can put too much stock into their logo. On the other end, some dispensaries don’t invest enough into logo design.

While your logo is a single element of your overall branding strategy, it unifies all the other elements. It serves as a trigger to your audience to communicate who you are. So whether you’re designing or redesigning your dispensary’s logo or one of your products or services, be sure to invest the time and money into doing it right.

Here’s a simple roadmap on how to do it:

  1. 1. Who is your audience?
    The style of your logo should reflect who your customers are. If your ideal customers are design and tech-savvy Apple fanboys and girls, you’ll want to design a hip logo that appeals to their aesthetic preferences. If your customers are primarily medical patients over 40, then you’ll want to go for a more conventional look, a logo that communicates trust and stability.
  2. 2. How do your competitors’ logos look?
    Imitating your competitors is clearly not the way to go. The reason to look at your competitors is to see how you can differentiate yourself from them. However, you may want to draw inspiration from companies outside the cannabis industry. For example, if your customers are health-conscious and holistic, look at what innovative companies are doing in industries related to health and holistic healing.
  3. 3. Sketch out your initial designs.
    Create some initial designs (at least three concepts) that you think would best represent your brand. If you’re not artistically inclined, have a graphic designer help you. Keep in mind that most graphic designers are not branding specialists. You’ll want to hire a professional agency who focuses on branding to bring your initial concepts to reality.
  4. 4. Get Feedback.
    Solicit feedback from a diverse group of people. Don’t limit yourself to professionals or employees who will carry their own biases. Seek out feedback from friends and customers. You’re not looking for a simple, “It looks great!” or “I don’t like it.” Ask for more constructive feedback, such as how your logo makes them feel, what emotions it creates, and what associations it brings up.

Important words of advice:
While we mentioned creating a “hip” logo if that’s what would appeal to your audience, don’t go for something too trendy that will look dated in two years. Aim for a balance between hip and timeless. That can be a challenging exercise, but it also underscores why hiring a branding expert is so crucial.

Also, don’t get overly emotionally attached to a design. This is easy to do, especially when you’ve been involved in every aspect of the design process. But after you get feedback, you may find that the logo you became so attached to doesn’t resonate with people like you thought it would. That’s okay! Keep plugging away. 

Part 3: Copy and Copywriting

Copy is another area that is too often neglected. Dispensary owners and marketers are busy; it’s easy to focus on other aspects of your business. However, the written word is powerful and presents an opportunity for you to shine among your competition.

 However, the written word is powerful and presents an opportunity for you to shine among your competition.

If you look at website design and marketing collateral from other dispensaries, you’ll often find copy that’s disjointed and lacking cohesion. The tonality and voice vary considerably from asset to asset. Usually, this is because most dispensaries have several people writing copy, including internal staff and contractors. And no one took the time to define how the brand should be represented in written materials. Consequently, when anyone writes copy, they’re operating in isolation without clear guidance.

To ensure cohesion across your written assets, make sure to put together a copywriting document that provides clear guidelines on how you want your brand represented. Also, make sure when you hire copywriters, you work closely with them to provide feedback. Most companies hire writers and then divorce themselves from the process. Big mistake! Only you know exactly how you want your brand represented.

Your guidelines should:

Define Your Cannabis Brand Values

What characteristics of your brand and products do you want customers to think of when they read copy from your dispensary? What are your brand’s core values?

Clarify Your Voice

A consistent tone of voice is essential with brand copy. A company marketing technical products might adopt a confident tone that reinforces its values innovation and market leadership.

Create an Editorial Style

Brand copy must also have a consistent editorial style. Copy that reinforces values such as friendly or easy to use should feature short sentences and simple language. If you are writing about a complex technical product branded as innovative, use a logical structure with clear headings and bullet points to ensure that customers understand the concept.

Highlight Your Brand Promise

Your brand copy will make or communicate promises to your customers and prospects. Are you the cheapest dispensary around? Or are you the most sophisticated?

If you’re an upscale brand, for example, you don’t want to constantly talk about how cheap you are (and then have customers compare you to discount shops). Instead, you should focus on appealing to a more discriminating clientele. You may talk about value, and you can still offer deals and promotions. Who doesn’t appreciate deals? But you’ll want to use language that distinguishes your brand from other dispensaries.

Define Branding Messaging

Develop a standard description of your dispensary, top products, and services so that every time a consumer engages with your brand — including your website, billboard ads, marketing emails, etc. — your messaging is consistent and cohesive.

Part 4: Putting It All Together, Create Your Cannabis Brand Style Guide

After you’ve invested all this time, energy, and money in creating and implementing a branding strategy, you’ll want to make sure your team is aligned with your vision. One of the best ways to do this is to create a Brand Style Guide. This should be your dispensary’s marketing bible. And everyone who is a stakeholder in your branding efforts (including executive and marketing personnel, staff, and contractors) should know this guide inside and out.

Here are the essentials you should include in your Brand Style Guide:

Start with a story

Stories resonate with people. They add dimension and relatability to your company. Kick off your style guide with a brand story that shares what your brand is all about. This will include your vision, mission, and core values. But more importantly, it should reflect your brand’s personality.

Logo guidelines

You’ve taken time and effort to create a logo that represents your brand, protect it! Share minimum and maximum sizes, acceptable color variations, appropriate usage, and do’s and don’ts so that your logo is shared appropriately and always looks its best.

Color palette and fonts

Everything created for your brand should adhere to your specifications, even the color of the fonts used. Select fonts reflecting your unique identity. No wingdings or Comic Sans! Include Hex codes and RGB values, a hierarchy, styles, weights, sizes, and specify purposes for each as necessary.

Define your brand voice

Provide appropriate examples including what you like and what you don’t like (e.g., informative but not know-it-all, clever but not egotistical) as well as acceptable words and unacceptable words (e.g., cannabis vs. marijuana or weed).


What style or styles are appropriate? Include dimensions for web images (e.g., “featured images”). How often do you see a Google My Business (GMB) site or Yelp! listing and the photos look like they were taken on a 10-year-old iPhone? Take the time and invest the money in creating professional looking assets that reflect your brand the way you intended and share how and when they can or should be used.

Ready to achieve results?

Let’s start a conversation.

The fundamental branding principles we discussed in this article can be applied across your entire branding ecosystem. You’ll carry these elements and the guidelines you’ve created across every platform. (At least that’s what you should be doing!) This not only includes the obvious, like your website and marketing collateral, but these branding elements should be shared in any visual asset you create, from advertising, email marketing, and SMS to business cards and signage.

Doing branding right takes time, commitment, and money. But the investment will pay off in the end. Think of the most successful and memorable brands: Apple, Starbucks, Google (aka Alphabet). These companies may be completely different, but they share one thing in common: powerful branding.

If you’d like help with your dispensary branding or visual identity strategy, we’d be happy to connect you with our preferred cannabis branding partner. Fill out the web form below and answer a few simple questions about your goals. We’ll make sure you hear from our partner within 24-48 hours.


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Let’s take an in-depth look at each digital marketing channel.

Given the unique position of the cannabis industry, we’re only covering the digital marketing channels that are permitted to use by ancillary businesses, brands, dispensary owners, mobile applications, producers, processors, and websites. There is a legal gray area when marketing cannabis companies, and you should regularly reference the laws within your state before starting any campaign.