Your art has less than three seconds to grab your prospect’s attention with your packaging. “Pretty” packaging won’t cut it and “ugly” packaging can often make or break your sales. So what you need to know is that having the right art on your packaging doesn’t have to be rocket science. You don’t need to know every thing. You don’t need to become Michelangelo or Picasso to understand art. You just need to know a few core concepts that you can take away from this article, right here and now.
Because we’re in the ever-changing cannabis industry, product packaging is especially important. There are two major reasons for this.
- Cannabis product advertising is severely restricted and limited. As of now, cannabis products are not routinely advertised on mainstream TV, radio, magazine, and newspaper outlets. Cannabis consumers very often first come to know about products when they are already on the shelf. Essentially, you have not had the opportunity to work on brand image beforehand, like other industries are able to. This is why your packaging has to work extra hard to convince consumers to notice and feel emotionally connected to your product.
- Compliance and Child-Resistant Safety mechanisms are a huge issue. Cannabis packaging compliance laws have been established in order to prevent accidental usage by children and others. These compliance laws are essential to regulating the packaging and labeling of cannabis products. The goal of the law is to make sure that sales are only delivered to authorized individuals. The core of any of the laws, regardless of state, is to make sure that the packaging cannot be easily opened by children and that it also is unattractive to children. Each state is slightly different, with some states, such as Colorado, prohibiting words like “candy” and cartoons on cannabis product packaging.
So how do you make your product packaging unattractive to children, but attractive enough for adults and still profit? Traditional brand packaging design is built on the idea that your consumers make logical, rational and well-informed decisions. For the most part, that is true, but there is also a much more reactive, emotional and instinctive part to your consumers. Eye-tracking studies have revealed that on average, only about seven words are read throughout the course of a single shopping trip. Purchases are made intuitively, based on familiarity of the location, shape, size and color of packaging. Best sellers in packaging appeal to emotion and the reptilian brain, which is the reactive decision-maker. All of this happens in a split second, before your consumer has had a chance to use logic in their purchase decision. So what is the part of the brain that really makes the purchasing decision? The subconscious mind is the real decision-maker here.
BioMotive Triggers In Your Art: Cannabis Packing Magic
The subconscious part of the brain reacts to sensory cues by generating certain emotions. These emotions precede any action. There are all kinds of triggers that can motivate your consumers to purchase your product. These primal cues can help you connect your brand with your consumers in such a way, as to produce positive feelings of loyalty and trust towards your brand. If you think about it for a minute, it works the same way for a person who goes on a first date or on a job interview. Don’t we put on our best clothes, selecting the right outfit for the right occasion? Don’t we pick out certain colors that might enhance our mood or send certain messages to others? For example, colors like black and gold signal prestige, premium quality and service. Yellow can be seen from the furthest distance and signals feelings of caution, alertness and danger. This is why our traffic light has a yellow signal.
Red psychologically triggers passion, enthusiasm, anger, warmth, movement and action. Think about how the idea of a dozen red roses delivered your spouse would signal one thing, as opposed to a dozen white roses delivered to a friend in mourning.
Clothing for people is by principle the same as packaging for products. In fact, clothing, much like packaging, can signal compliance in others. Think about how a man dressed in a luxurious business suit may be treated, as opposed to a man dressed in shorts , t-shirt and flip flops. If both were interviewing for a lifeguard job at the beach, with all qualifications being equal, who do you think would win the job? Now imagine both of these gentlemen interviewed for a job as a bank manager. Which of the two men do you think would be taken serious? You want to “dress up” your product for the right market, or “occasion”.
Instinctive triggers can be designed right into your packaging through what is known as BioMotive Triggers. There are many key combinations that you can think about using in your packaging methods. They are all inter-related and can be boiled down to four major core concepts. Not only will these triggers help you to connect your brand emotionally with your market, but you’ll also be able to sell more products.
In order for your brand to be successful, you must have a distinct point of view. Artistically, this needs to be fully expressed in a unique, but clear way. At a glance, your packaging should make it easy for consumers to understand who you are, what you are, and why they should purchase from you. While an image could be worth a thousand words, the right art on your packaging is worth a million sales or more. So you want to be sure that your art work communicates all of the important things at a glance. Remember, you only have three to seven seconds. Of course, you want to be certain that what your packaging represents is something you’re going to deliver on, in order to ensure repeat sales. So let’s look at the four core principles:
- Stand out – Covering the shelf and having the “loudest” artwork and colors won’t cut it. You have to make your brand the signpost to whatever category it is in. A point of orientation is needed, so that you will draw the eyes to your product and communicate the essence of what your brand stands for. One method to stand out is by using pointy, sharp shapes, like cusps. Cusps trigger feelings of alertness, danger, can caution. Another method is to use your art work in a naturally memorable way, by using the golden mean ratio for your proportions. This pattern can be seen all throughout nature, including flowers, movements of the planets, and even in our human psychology. Technologist and innovator, Ray Kurzweil, in his book, “The Age of Spiritual Machines”, states that the the human brain is a pattern-recognition machine. We naturally seek out familiar patterns, inherent in our own nature. By using the patterns of nature to package your cannabis product, you’ll be light years ahead.
- Be simple – The most effective designs are simple. In a sea of information noise, consumers are often visually agitated to the point where they have virtually no attention span. Moments of auditory and visual calm magnetically attract consumers, because it is so rare now. You also want to keep psychological triggers in mind with your images. Curves and round shapes communicate softness, femininity, sensuality, and playfulness. Squares and perpendicular lines communicate masculinity, preciseness, sharpness, and stability.
- The 21-year-old Test – This test has been modified and actually comes from what is known as the 5-year-old test. Essentially, if you can accurately describe your brand to a 5-year-old kid, send them into the store, and have the kid return with your product, then you’ve passed the 5-year-old test. However, since we are dealing with cannabis products, this test has been modified to the 21-year-old test. Essentially, you want to create an iconic connection with your product through your packaging. The key to this is to have a distinctive look. For example, you could tell a 5-year-old kid to go and get the salt with the girl with an umbrella and a yellow rain coat on it. He or she will bring back Morton Salt. Alternatively, you could instruct him or her to get the blue pack with the black and white cookie on it that has splashed milk on it. He’ll bring back Oreos. It’s important here not to get confused about whether or not these packages are attractive to children, as we have already covered compliance. However, the point here is to make it memorable, easy to spot and iconic in the minds of consumers, so they’ll come back looking for your product week after week.
- Trigger strong emotional engagement – When your brand makes people feel something, they act. Think about this, when someone looks at you, you’re going to feel compelled to look back at them, in order to determine if they are a friend or foe. This is a survival instinct we all have. Our brains instinctively look for patterns that signal safety or harm, pain or pleasure. This is the most powerful force in product Nothing is more important than eye contact. Next time you’re at the store, take a look at some of the products and their packaging and see how many images there are of people who aren’t making direct eye contact. In fact, it’s a good idea to look and study your competitor’s packaging, especially the ones that are thriving.
With the above points in mind, it is important to really understand your market and who your consumers are. The cannabis industry is huge, with many smaller industries within it. There are also different categories of cannabis consumers with different preferences, needs and spending patterns. Art work that may work in one category may not work in another. In addition, you’ve got to deal with compliance laws, when making sure to profit. That’s not always going to be easy. However, the key is to study, learn and draw from multiple disciplines across all major sectors of the industry. In fact, it’s a good idea to draw from a latticework of mental models, derived from all major disciplines. In this way, you’ll be able to harness the natural pattern-recognition tendency of your consumers to create and design the most stunning and profitable art for your cannabis packaging products.