Does the Cannabis Industry Understand Data and Brand Design?

Phil Flickinger, Moderator — Partner, Big Rock Ventures
Trevor Hubbard — Founder, CEO and Executive Creative Director,
Dave Evans —  Founder, Optimist
Daniel Stein —  Founder, EVB/Essential Good
Amanda Denz —  Co-Founder and CMO, SAVA


As advisory board members, sponsors, and consultants for San Francisco Design Week, we are always looking for unique ways to contribute. Big Rock Ventures asked us to join their panel on “Can Design Save Cannabis” and we jumped at the chance to talk about an industry we’ve been advocating for and helping develop for years.

Since legal adult-use in California, many predictions of where we would be have simply not come to pass, while a few interesting surprises have emerged. Below, check out a few of the topics we touched on.

Where Are The Suburban Housewives?

When cannabis was first legalized in California, many thought we would see droves of homemakers hit their local dispensary and trade in the wine glass for a pre-roll. Unfortunately, that never materialized. Still in its nascency, the cannabis industry has work to do to bring new audiences into the tent.

CBD As the Entry Point

One shift that panelists agreed they’d observed was the proliferation of CBD in everything from activewear to skincare to lattes. Without needing to work through the intimidating task of going to a dispensary as a newcomer and engaging with a well meaning and incredibly knowledgeable budtender, consumers are taking baby steps with their facialists and baristas. And this is getting them canna-curious.

Data-Driven Product Design

What conversation in San Francisco would be complete without the mention of data? With several years of seeing what works and what doesn’t, the cannabis industry is better suited today than it was before to design products that meet specific needs for targeted audiences. With alcohol sales not expected to rebound from COVID-19 until 2024, there has never been a better time to create, launch, evolve and grow in the cannabis space.

Making a Moment

When do we reach for a drink? Cannabis has been waiting for its moment, but how do we make our own? By observing people’s learned behaviors around alcohol consumption, companies can better develop and brand new products that meet these occasions, from Happy Hour with friends to the NightCap. But most importantly, using data to design products that are occasion replacers. This means designing products with budtenders, delivery services, and new audiences in mind based on behaviors.

Packaging is Not Branding

Does the cannabis industry have a branding problem? Yes and no. Beautiful packaging is essential, but the true challenges are educational and experiential. Which, of course, are brand problems with creative solutions, grounded in deep discovery and solid brand strategy. Creating products that are first, best or different, then starting to own mental real estate in a customer’s mind. Branding is perception and experience, not just your logo and your cool, sustainable, package design. 



Summer 2020