Rebranding Pot: A Book Proposal
A book about the changing aesthetics of the cannabis industry.
My original plan was to write a book — on my own, as authors traditionally do. However, after countless rejections from traditional publishers who informed me the cannabis industry was too specific of a focus, and numerous proposals from pay-to-play publishers who wanted me to pay them thousands of dollars to publish my book, I decided to rethink the whole plan.
Let’s collaborate on a group publication.
The new strategy is to bring together the best brains tracking the changing aesthetics of the cannabis industry, wherever in the world they may be. Rebranding Pot can be a joint publication, edited real-time using the editing platform Canva. Interested in joining forces?
Overview of Rebranding Pot
In the U. S. and Canada, cannapreneurs — entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry — are employing increasingly sophisticated design strategies to position their brands. They are targeting a range of potential consumers — women, connoisseurs, skeptics, health nuts, millennials and (perhaps most interesting) those who have never used cannabis before. Rebranding Pot will feature the cannapreneurs who are responsible for the green revolution’s exciting examples of innovative branding and advertising, and will reveal how certain cannabis companies attract new consumers and position themselves in a burgeoning industry.
With the increased legalization of cannabis in the U.S. and Canada, aspects of the plant’s countercultural associations and negative stigmas have begun to dissipate. Replacing this taboo are new connotations, engineered through branding and supplemented by the sheer experience of the substance. Many of us are seeking new ways to relax, socialize, and improve our health. From the medical to the recreational, marketers are using design to communicate a need to a consumer base that can best be filled through cannabis.
For those who partake in legal cannabis, the question will arise: What role does design play in that decision?
Rebranding Pot is structured around the central assumption that aesthetics will play a significant role in how cannabis products are received by society as cannabis becomes legal in North America. Intelligent and elegant solutions will allow companies to disassociate themselves from the stigma traditionally attached to cannabis consumption, securing new consumers among the cannabis-curious. The book’s thesis will be supported by images, stories and case studies that showcase the range of branding trends surfacing as a result of the green rush.
In order to create an overview of the cannabis industry’s most compelling designs, Rebranding Pot’s case studies will focus on the people responsible for leading their company’s branding process. Through interviews and independent research the authors will explore questions such as:
- How are cannabis companies defining target audiences?
- How do these companies position their cannabis products?
- How do they catalyze contemporary trends or execute the unexpected?
What will be different and unique about Rebranding Pot’s approach is its focus on aesthetics. Up until recently, the imagery associated with cannabis was stagnant and drew from from established tropes such as green cannabis leaves, Bob Marley references, dancing bears and symbols from late 1960s and early 1970s cultural zeitgeist. Now, as legalization spreads throughout North America, designers are reimagining and updating the visual materials used to package and market cannabis products.
Rebranding Pot is about companies that are adopting sophisticated, innovative and unexpected designs when branding their products. Far from being “Bob Marley visual plagiarists” who recycle stereotypical images, the cannabis brands discussed in the book display remarkable ingenuity, sophistication and design sensibility.
While other cannabis-related books chronicle legal and political changes in the field, Rebranding Pot takes the reader outside the conventional scope of existing industry literature by focusing on cannapreneurs and shining a light on their chosen branding strategies. As a design historian interested in the intersection between design, politics, sociology, law, and business, I want to explore how these individuals are changing the aesthetics related to cannabis in the U.S. and Canada.
Rebranding Pot will make readers wonder: What will this industry look like once cannabis is federally legal? What does legalization look like?
Draft Table of Contents
Rebranding Pot will profile cannapreneurs from the U.S. and Canada. Each chapter will focus on a specific sector of the cannabis industry such as edibles, mechanical equipment, fertilizer, accessories, dispensaries, private equity companies, and subscription boxes. The book will also discuss how celebrities are leveraging their notoriety to promote their cannabis companies.
Rebranding Pot authors will conduct original research using online and print publications, in-person interviews, site visits, analyses of social media channels, conferences, and design publications.
Below is a potential list of chapters. This is all subject to revision as additional authors join the project. (I have used language from each company’s literature and website to describe them in this proposal.)
- Visual stereotypes: discussion of the visual signifiers of the past four decades connected to cannabis.
- Historical context: discussion of substances that were once prohibited or once strictly regulated (e.g. alcohol and tobacco products).
- Legal overview: discussion of which states have legalized cannabis and overview of strategies employed to promote American legalization.
- Pot Tech: new technologies that influenced the cannabis industry and its aesthetics (e.g. vaping, eJoints, websites, social media).
Chapter 1: Private Equity
- Brendan Kennedy, founder and CEO of Privateer Holdings, a Seattle, WA-based private equity company that owns Marley Natural (a cannabis brand based on the life and legacy of Bob Marley that sells flower, accessories, and body care products), Leafly (a website where companies and dispensaries can list locations, products, and strains) and Tilray (a medical cannabis grower and online dispensary committed to producing medical cannabis safely and reliably).
- Bruce Linton, founder and CEO of Canopy Growth Corporation, a Smith Falls, Ontario-based medical cannabis company that is publicly traded. The company has three subsidiaries: Tweed (a medical cannabis company that refines popular cannabis strains and breeds proprietary genetics), Bedrocan Canada (an international medical cannabis company that pioneered medical cannabis growth in Holland) and Mettrum (a medical cannabis company that educates and supplies physicians and patients across Canada with high-quality medical cannabis and cannabis products).
Chapter 2: Celebrity Cannapreneurs
The 16 celebrity cannapreneurs discussed in this article I published would be profiled together with any additional players who have entered the industry.
Chapter 3: Online Magazines
- Sirita Wright, Kali Wilder, and Safon Floyd, co-founders of EstroHaze, a New York City-based online publication incubated by CanopyBoulder that highlights the business and lifestyles of multicultural women in the cannabis industry. CanopyBoulder, a Boulder, CO-based seed-stage accelerator for cannabis startups that produce ancillary products and services. The company provides a $70,000 grant, a 16-week bootcamp and industry knowledge to startups in exchange for a 6–9.5% equity stake in each business.
- Jason Lazar, founder of Hemponair, a New York City-based online publication that serves as a gentleman’s guide to style, culture and cannabis. The publication fuses cannabis and fashion by featuring product reviews, launches, style, trends, people, culture, and events in both the fashion and cannabis worlds.
- Verena von Pfetten and David Weiner, co-founders of Gossamer, an online and analogue publication that “looks at the world — travel, design, art, culture, and food — through a green lens.”
Chapter 4: Accessories
Monica Khemsurov and Eviana Hartman, co-founders of Tetra, a New York City-based online retailer selling high-end cannabis accessories that is dedicated to elevating the aesthetics of the smoking experience. Tetra sells designer smoking objects like pipes, ashtrays, and lighters as well as home fragrances, vintage finds, and other accoutrements.
Chapter 5: Online Dispensaries
- Dona Frank, founder of Natural Cannabis Company, a Santa Rosa, CA-based dispensary with locations in Oakland, CA and Hopland, CA that offers cannabis delivery services and in-store pickup. The company collaborated with South African rap duo Die Antwoord to create Zef Zol, a cannabis product line that features vapes, vape refills, candies and lip balms and celebrates the link between creativity and cannabis.
Chapter 6: Nutrients
- Michael Straumietis, founder of Advanced Nutrients, an Abbotsford, British Columbia-based cannabis fertilizer company. Since 1996, the company has produced cannabis fertilizers that make it easier and less expensive for customers to grow bigger and better crops.
Chapter 7: Dispensaries
- Wanda James and Scott Durrah, co-founders of Simply Pure, a Denver, CO-based dispensary and edibles company that specializes in producing a healthy alternative to the traditional edibles market. James and Durrah are the first African-American couple in Colorado to own a dispensary.
- Josh Ginsberg and Rhett Jordan, co-founders of Native Roots Dispensary, the largest dispensary chain in Colorado with dispensaries in Denver, Aspen, Vail, Trinidad and Colorado Springs. The company provides high-quality medical and recreational cannabis products in locations with minimalist industrial interior design and trademark graphic wallpaper.
Chapter 8: Subscription Box
- Austin Heap, Ian Buczowski and Evrett Kramer, co-founders of Potbox, a San Francisco, CA-based monthly cannabis subscription service delivering high-quality, ethically-grown cannabis The company has since expanded throughout California, and provides a more sophisticated alternative to the various other ‘on-demand’ cannabis delivery services.
Chapter 9: Chocolate
- Peter Barsoom, founder and CEO of 1906 New Highs, a Denver, CO-based premium edibles company. Its products marry the benefits of cacao, cannabis, and ethnobotanical ingredients and are designed to appeal to responsible, informed, health conscious adults.
- Scott Palmer and Kristi Knoblich, co-founders of Kiva Confections, an Oakland, CA-based medical cannabis company selling chocolate that is potent, consistent, and enjoyable. The company’s chocolate won “Best Edible” at the San Francisco and Los Angeles Cannabis Cups in 2013.
Chapter 10: Hardware
- Jay Evans, founder and CEO of Keirton, a Surrey, British Columbia-based cannabis trimmer company. The company collaborates with dealers, customers, and leading producers and growers to develop specialty crop harvesting solutions with a strong emphasis on systems thinking and single piece flow.
- Future predictions: the possible directions that the cannabis industry will take due to new consumers, products and fads.
- How cannabis branding will evolve: how current cannabis branding trends will continue to develop and speculation about possible emerging branding trends.
- Federal legalization and the potential shaping of a new market paradigm: issues relating to cannabis legalization efforts on a state and federal level and the impacts of those issues on the cannabis industry.