3 Ways Craft Coffee Can Wake Up Your Cannabis Brand

If you’re going to compare the industry to any other, craft coffee has seed to sale similarities to cannabis.

Both markets have a strong love for the plant (cannabis/coffee beans). Both have a multitude of processing options (THC activation methods/roasting levels). And both have a wide ranges of ways for consumption (flower, concentrates, etc./espresso, drip, cold brew, etc.)

Not to mention, both have their own lingo that can intimidate newbies.

…infused beverages could become a $600 million market in the next four years.

Canaccord Genuity

It was inevitable that these two passions would merge together, and in 2018, brands including Willie’s Reserve and Jane West launched lines of CBD coffees—and you don’t even want to see the delicious creations at Cannabis and Coffee, unless you’re ready to book a ticket to Toronto.

Investment groups like Canaccord Genuity, believe that THC and CBD infused beverages could become a $600 million market in the next four years.

So, savvy cannabis brands should take note of these three smart practices already in use to generate more buzz around their brand.

1. Get Gloriously Nerdy

There’s a pretty good chance that what makes you geek out about the plant is the same thing your customers geek out about, too. So, don’t be shy about it on your menus, website and packaging.

Tell a Story With the Plant Details

From the plant species to the growing conditions to the harvesting process, coffee and cannabis users alike love to know all the details about the plant they consume.

Craft coffee roasters like Brandywine Coffee Roasters in Seattle, WA, have long been heavy-handed with providing all the delicious details ready for eager readers to devour.

MistoBox, a subscription box of fresh coffees from top craft roasters, worked with us to create a custom icon library so their subscribers can comfortably compare their coffees.

Whether you grow, dispense or process cannabis into things like edibles or tinctures, share the details of the plant, process or people to tell a story of its quality and potency.

Does knowing the altitude or time of harvest make for a better blunt or cup of coffee? Not necessarily. But it creates an opportunity for the consumer to feel connected to the product, enhancing the overall experience. Not to mention the side effect of warm and fuzzies from learning something new about a thing they love.

Keep in mind, sharing information from a place of genuine interest is vital. Share only what inspires and sparks curiosity, then stop. This will help avoid information overload or boring customers to death.

Be a Guide to Better Consumption

As we all know, no matter if it’s a budtender or barista, no one wants to walk up to the bar feeling clueless about what to order.

Rather than letting new customers feel like idiots, Counter Culture Coffee have made coffee education a key component of their brand.

Counter Culture Coffee

Across the US, Counter Culture cafes feature Training Centers for lessons on home brewing, cupping fundamentals, and even the history of coffee culture.

Coffee lovers leave confident and Counter Culture Coffee get to be the heroes.

The crafty cannabis industry is always evolving new ways to consume the plant, from new processing methods to techy tools like Pax vape pens. Even longtime cannabis users may not be aware of new products and tools to enhance their usual ritual.

To find the best approach for your 420 brand, revisit your marketing data or Ideal Customer Profile and get refreshed on your core audience. Come up with ideas by thinking of their potential user level, what they may be too afraid to ask, or what may they be missing out on.

2. Create a Like-Minded Community

As legalization—and consumption—of cannabis grows across the US, brands will need to dig deeper into ways to get involved and make a difference in a way that doesn’t feel like bullshit.

Find a Few Collaborative Partners

Life’s better when you surround yourself with awesome people, and business is no different. Stumptown Coffee of Portland, OR have become experts at expanding their brand beyond the coffee shop by using co-branded collaborations.

Going beyond wholesale for just their own line of coffee and cold brew, 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 have even created a coffee-stout cheddar (yes, cheese!) with Rouge Creamery.

The latest Stumptown collaboration? A gorgeous cold-brew coffee bar inside the trendy New Orlean’s Ace hotel. This extra AF space was designed to express the Stumptown brand in an upscale level that fits the boutique hotel’s brand. To ensure their cold brew can handle the heat, stemware was specially designed for their cold brew creations.

Here’s what’s clever—instead if just being another product on a shelf as a wholesale supplier, Stumptown’s focus on co-branding creates a myriad of possibilities and opportunities.

Co-branding opens their brand to new audiences who may not have otherwise known about them, and gives current fans new ways to savor the flavors that they love from Stumptown.

Stumptown x Ace Hotel New Orleans, LA

While there are a lot of restrictions on cannabis that coffee roasters and cafes don’t have to worry about, there are still plenty of ways to get creative and partner with local artisans. Edibles could be created with partnered ingredients like honey, cream or confections (as allowed by local laws). Growers can partner with dispensaries, edibles producers, and complimentary agriculture businesses. And dispensaries can work with local artists, educators, chefs, producers, and more to create co-branded products and events.

As always, check local regulations, but pairing up with other like-minded brands can be a creative and fun way to expand your brand with some of your faves.

Stand For Something More

Activism is a natural part of the cannabis industry, from states pushing for legalization to legalized states pushing for fair and better policies for businesses, patients, social equality and justice reform, and environment, to name a few.

But, the cannabis industry isn’t immune to issues plagued by other industries (hello, single use plastics).

Artisan roasters are also often driven by more than just profit and many are cognizant of the environmental and socio-economic repercussions of the plant they love so much. And for some, using their business to make a positive impact has become an integral part of their brand identity.

Grounds & Hounds Coffee, with blends including ‘Morning Walk’ and ‘Sit & Stay’, donate 20% of profits to animal rescue groups; while Birds & Beans coffee name their blends after American birds and help create bird-friendly habitats on coffee farms.

“Purpose-driven brands are able to develop much deeper relationships with consumers by connecting on issues that matter,” says Brad MacAffee, CEO of prominent NY-based PR firm, Porter Novelli. “Consumers believe it is no longer acceptable for companies to just make money, they expect companies to positively impact society as well.”

“develop much deeper relationships with consumers by connecting on issues that matter.”

Brand MacAffee, CEO, Porter Novelli

Finding innovative ways to make an impact that is true to your brand will help your business make a difference and stand apart from the rest. A great way to start is to look at all of the other areas that touch your business—water, air quality, local community, ingredients, waste, energy. Also, consider your core audience—what may be their concerns when purchasing or using your product? Are there other issues that are dear to the hearts of your clientele or business?

Look at as many possibilities as you can, then brainstorm ways your brand can integrate change or give back. Also, be sure to ask organizations about their needs before making plans to ensure your efforts make the biggest impact.

3. Stay True to Your Own Style

As the cannabis industry increases, finding your own style while staying true to your story and mission will be vital to standing out as the number of customers (and other businesses) expand.

Even with behemoths for competition, speciality coffee shops and roasters have found a way to co-exist with industry giants with rich brand stories and experiences.

Celebrate the Individuality Behind Your Brand

Feel like waking up to beautifully vivid illustrations? Created by their resident artist Todd Purse, Brandywine Coffee Roasters have painstakingly screen-printed fresh artwork onto bags of their coffee since their launch in 2015.

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.

Though the production demands and cost to create artwork for each roast or strain isn’t for everyone, this tactic does reap big rewards in excitement, exclusivity and collectability to a vessel that is otherwise thrown away.

Show a New Side to the Same Ol’ Thing

Because different folks have different ideas of what ‘the perfect morning’ looks like, Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee have taken a different approach to their packaging artwork. Each month, Dark Matter commission a different artist to develop a bag design. Their colorful, anything-goes approach has resulted in a brand style that delivers instant recognition on the retail shelves as the wildest thing in the coffee aisle.

The best way to create a your own visual style that sticks with customers is to get close with your Brand Strategy. Knowing what your brand stands for and who it is speaking to makes designing the visual conversation between the two easier to create.

After all, that’s what your design is there to do—give a warm, friendly Oh hey! to your core audience and invite them in for a wonderful experience that your business is hosting.

Keep Your Brand Uplifted and Energized

While these two mood-enhancing, benefit-rich plants are treated differently by society and regulation, 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.


Samantha Everett

Branding Specialist & Owner, Pretty Lethal Designs

Samantha Everett is the owner of boutique branding studio Pretty Lethal Designs. Led by a fierce team of female creatives, Pretty Lethal designs specializes in Strategy, Branding & Packaging design for cannabis and hemp businesses.

A version of this article first appeared on Green Entrepreneur