This is a message for those who are new to the Cannabis industry, or maybe not new. Whatever the case, we have a major branding problem. In every state that cannabis becomes decriminalized or legal, a plethora of new businesses spring up around the plant. As that happens, a swarm of bad brands are born. It’s not that the people have bad taste. Nor is it that they don’t have anything about them that makes them good at what they do. At least let's hope not. The problem is that as a society consuming branding unlike any other, we also typically have no basic education around the subject in our schools.

What ends up happening is that the moment that cannabis gets legal in a state, invariably, someone thinks they are a genius and they name their farm or dispensary “Green Alternatives.” Go ahead and search on instagram and see how many businesses are named that. I came up with four right away. I am sure if I scrolled, there are many more variations like Green Alternatives 420, etc… It was a good idea in 1994 when the first dispensaries and buyers clubs were opening in California, but it was only a good idea once.

So, I would like to spend a bit of time telling you what NOT to do when naming your business. I have outlined quite a bit about how to name in my four part series on naming and trademarking (Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4,) but I glossed over this part. Here goes.

• Stay away from the word green. Don’t even go for the faux intellectual idea of using "verde" or some other foreign word to say the word green. In fact the real rule here is, don’t use anything that describes the plant at all. Stay away from leaf, flower, roots… Just avoid it completely. No, your exception doesn’t work. Period. Just accept it. Trust me, life is better this way. :P
• Stay Away from any specific words that denote weed. Canna, Mary, Mari, Kanna, Cannabis. There are literally thousands of Canna-this’s and Mari-that’s, Whosakannas and Whatamary’s all over the world. No, you can’t use the latin word for it. No you can’t use the Hindi word. No, you can’t say it in Hebrew. Stop. You can’t use the word. That’s the end of the story.
• The same goes for Natural, Wellness, Alternative, Apothecary, Healing, Health, or any other generic wellness term. Don’t use it. It’s not okay. Seriously. Stop.
• How about the word Elevated? Highly? Lifted? Any word describing the effect. Let's apply the same rule. NO. NOPE. NOT ONCE. NOT NEVAH.

Let’s just say this. The point is to find something original. Something true to you that is NOT common. Maybe you grew weed outdoors for years and you refused to wear shoes when working with the plants. There are so many unique naming possibilities from something this simple. Barefoot, Strongfoot, Holy Ground, Naked Feet…
Maybe your mom had a brass pipe that you loved. Old Brass, Mom’s Brass, Brass and Fiber… Any of these are better than Verde Farms or Green Mountain Medicine or whatever other generic name that might be brought to the table.

So, what needs to be done here is to look at the landscape, look at anything and everything that is common or everyday and AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS. A day on instagram searching cannabis hashtags can get a lot of this work done. If you have already gone down the wrong road, then you likely know how much of a pain it is when you are trying to distinguish yourself from ten other similar companies with a similar name growing at a similar rate. The longer you go without rebranding, the worse it gets. The best thing you could possibly do for your business in the long run is rebrand. I know the pain you feel when considering that. If you plan to build something worth selling though, or even more, worth keeping in the family for a long time, I contend that you should build something that will stand out.

Differentiation is the key. What makes you different? This is what I am asking us to think about. When it comes to branding, we have to stop thinking about the things that we all have in common. We all have the plant in common. We all have health and wellness and revolution on our minds. The question is, what do you have that is really unique and great? This question needs to be answered in a very real and consistent manner. If the answer is, “I don’t know.” That’s okay, but you have to answer the question. If you really can’t, then you should consider going and working for someone else who already can. Go commit to a badass that really has their handle on things. Learn. Grow. Get better. There is no shame in becoming a linchpin in someone else’s organization. We need linchpins more than ever. Not everyone has to start a business. Not everyone has a great idea. But everyone needs linchpins.

This all ties together. Branding and naming has to start with three things.

Know thyself.
Know thy enemies.
Know thy friends.

In other words, know who you are and how you fit in the landscape of your industry. If you can’t completely describe the industry from top to bottom and how you fit and provide something everyone needs then you have schooling to do.

One thing I can tell you for sure. You are not “Green Wellness Heart Center.” That doesn’t say anything. It’s just a really complex way of saying “Weed Store,” which defines everyone who sells weed, not just you.

It’s time to do the work. If you know someone starting a business or who has a poorly branded cannabis business, would you mind sharing this with them? Guaranteed, it will save a major headache lasting years, and tens of thousands of dollars at the minimum if they read all of my posts on naming.

Peace, Love and Rock’n’Roll

Jesse Barney

February 18, 2020