You’ve probably assumed that the pot leaf will have some role in your cannabis business’ branding. Whether you’re a plant-touching dispensary or an ancillary vape pen brand, the ubiquitous pot leaf leaves no room for doubt regarding what you do and the customer you serve.

But is incorporating this imagery into your brand identity truly a wise decision?

There are a number of things to consider when branding your cannabis company, and something as seemingly obvious as using a pot leaf can carry big implications along with it. You’ll want to fully consider every angle before you incorporate that five-blade leaf into your brand identity.

Every state has different laws when it comes to cannabis companies, impacting everything in the branding process from advertising to signage. Some states, concerned about the status of the Cole memo under the Trump administration, err on the side of caution and regulate cannabis advertising just like, if not stricter than, tobacco and alcohol. This has led to some significant restrictions on what can be included on signs, especially regarding the pot leaf.

For example, concerned Washington state legislators recently changed the law to ban imagery such as pot leaves from signage, but logos are still permitted. Now, if your logo incorporates the pot leaf, there’s a gray area. While the logo may be considered different from signage, do you want to go through all the effort to redesign, reprint and replace signage with a modified logo if your legal counsel advises that you may be in violation?

In such a rapidly-changing market, cannabis businesses should assume that changes to the law may take place, especially around an object as explicit as a pot leaf. If the industry is trending toward advertising rules similar to the tobacco and alcohol industry, less-explicit symbols, abstract representations or other imagery suggestive of a pot leaf may be a preferred route.

Think about the image you want to establish

Dispensaries and other cannabis businesses are actually eschewing the leaf and other symbols which they consider too embedded in “stoner culture” to reach the newly-opened market of 21-and-over users. The industry’s trends suggest that subtlety is more effective, desirable and attractive than blatant, in-your-face imagery, trading in pot leaves for plays on its familiar shape.

The legalization of cannabis also means that many of your new customers may be approaching, seeing or consuming cannabis for the first time. Not everyone will be familiar with the culture of cannabis, and might even still feel wary about making their first purchase. It’s worth considering whether or not you will be intimidating potential clientele by so explicitly incorporating cannabis imagery in your logo.

It may limit you professionally

Much like running the risk of alienating clientele, using in-your-face branding could potentially scare off other businesses that want to work with you. Though legal for recreational use in eight states plus Washington D.C., cannabis is still a touchy area. That said, cannabis businesses still need to work with professionals both inside and outside the industry. For example, cannabis businesses have a difficult time finding banks willing to take their money, and a pot leaf might isolate those professionals.

Deciding if using the pot leaf is right for your cannabis business

Depending on circumstances such as your business goals and target audience, using a pot leaf might not be a big deal. However, it could also cause too much turbulence and alienate too many customers, potentially hampering your success.

Before you move forward with that design featuring the cool-looking little leaf, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • Will my target audience feel uncomfortable with the pot leaf imagery?
  • Will a pot leaf discourage others from partnering with me because they don’t want to be associated with this imagery?
  • Does a pot leaf fit in with the image I want to build for my cannabis business?
  • If the law limits or bans pot leaf usage in the future, will this adversely affect my marketing plans?
  • Will I still like the pot leaf imagery in my logo five years from now?

Perhaps you want to play it safe, or perhaps you are satisfied with a calculated risk that may pay off in the end. The answer is different for every business, but what’s important is that usage of a pot leaf is not a given.

Wondering about your options? Contact us and request to speak with Brie, our creative director, who can offer some advice as you make this important decision.