Cannabis Packaging Designs Your Generation Would Buy

Martha Stewart made a name for herself in homemaking. Snoop Dogg did it with a rap music legacy and an affinity for marijuana.  

They’re both household names that combine to form a brilliant mix of traditional and progressive branding in the latest BIC Lighter advertisement

While Stewart’s conventional brand addresses an older audience, Snoop speaks to younger consumers with non-traditional uses for the same product. This fun, relevant marketing campaign shows that knowing your target audience and connecting with them is key.

When it comes to cannabis, the first connection the audience has with your product is the packaging. It’s how your brand is recognized, trusted, and known by consumers. It builds loyalty.

Therefore, it’s imperative that your packaging design appeals to the right audience. Cannabis consumers are a diverse group spanning multiple generations and packaging appeals differently to each group. 

To prove this, we collected the thoughts, opinions, and knowledge of experts in the field of cannabis design, packaging, marketing, and more.

If your cannabis brand wants to catch the attention of these consumers and build a household name, your packaging must be a powerful tool that appeals to each of their needs and interests.

Consider the Cannabis Strain Type

Cannabis doesn’t come as a “one size fits all” product. Plant strains come in different variations the same way there are different variations of apples or tomatoes. Each strain offers users a unique taste, smell, and overall effect. 

These tastes and smells come from a mix of compounds, generally cannabinoids and terpenes. They work together, interacting with the body’s cellular system to provide the common high effects cannabis is known for.

These effects often coincide with the designs for labeling and packaging. Brands will use colors and imagery as a way to distinguish between the effects each product has on the consumer.

Cannabinoids & Terpenes

The most famous cannabinoids associated with marijuana plants are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC provides the high associated with marjiuana while CBD is non-intoxicating and helps provide medical benefits without the high. 

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in plants that contribute distinctive smells and flavors to cannabis varieties. They play an important role in differentiating the various effects of each strain.

Terpenes also produce effects that range from calming to energizing, depending on the cannabis strain type. However, they are often confused with the terms “indica” and “sativa.”

While indica and sativa actually refer to the weed plant variation, consumers and budtenders use them to indicate the effects of the strain. Furthermore, many brands will use colors to illustrate the differences between the two.

Common Terpenes
  • Linalool
  • Myrcene
  • Ocimene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Limonene
  • Pinene
  • Humulene
  • Terpinolene
  • Bisabolol

While indica and sativa actually refer to the weed plant variation, consumers and budtenders use them to indicate the effects of the strain. Furthermore, many brands will use colors to illustrate the differences between the two.

Color is used to indicate instant recognition. It’s a way for brands to communicate the product’s purpose with customers before anything else. For cannabis strains, certain colors are visual cues often used to signify the effects of the product being displayed.

Let’s take a closer look at how these terms have been incorporated into packaging designs.

Indica Packaging Designs

Indica strains are often associated with calming effects. This is where it gets the nickname “in da couch,” a pun that insinuates users will be glued to their seats after using. They are a preferred nighttime strain, helping to unwind and relax at the end of the day by inducing a deep body high.

Common uses for indica include alleviating stress, anxiety, and insomnia. It also helps reduce nausea, assists with loss of appetite, and creates an overall relaxing sensation. 

Labels and packaging for indica strains utilize cool colors to showcase its chill effects. These can include:

  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Pink
  • Green
  • Gray 

This color pallet communicates the message that this product is comforting, soothing, and stress-relieving.

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Sativa Packaging Designs

Sativa strains are often associated with energizing effects. Said to give a “mind high,” sativa strains are preferred for daytime use and used to feel uplifted, focused, and clear headed. 

Products with this strain are ideal for consumers who are looking for a boost of creativity or looking to feel productive in completing daily tasks. It can help alleviate fatigue as well as stress and anxiety for some users. 

Labels and packaging for sativa strains utilize warm, bright colors to signify its stimulating effects. These can include: 

  • Red
  • Orange 
  • Yellow
  • Green 

This color pallet communicates the message that this product is uplifting, energizing, and euphoric.

While choosing the right colors is an important factor when creating your cannabis design, it’s not the only one worth considering.

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A Few Tips on Cannabis Packaging

In the last 20 years cannabis has had a much wider appeal among audiences both young and old.

New infused products are finding their ways to the retail shelf every day, meaning brands will need to design labels and packaging that stands out among their competitors.

Here are some additional tips to remember when it comes to labels and packaging.

Cannabis Appeals to All Legal Ages

With the cannabis industry growing each year, more and more products are making their way onto dispensary shelves. This widens the market and continues to bring in consumers of all legal ages. 

“[Cannabis] can be for any age group, all consumers across the board,” describes Debi Facey, a Toronto-based cannabis content creator who is well versed in the cannabis market and has her certification in food, beverage, and pharmaceuticals.

According to Facey, current Canadian regulations only allow for generic designs due to compliance, further highlighting why US cannabis brands should know their audience and be open to all facets of design.

While each generation has their own niche for appealing designs, this doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t find other creative approaches to cannabis labels and packages engaging.

“You want to relate [the packaging] to what they’re familiar with,” highlights Jessica Cole, founder and “high hostess” of the company White Rabbit High Tea in Los Angeles, California. “Different packaging appeals to different groups.”

At her customized events, novice and experienced consumers of all ages are welcome to come together and encounter cannabis in a fanciful, Alice in Wonderland-like fashion. There, different brands get to feature their products and packaging to a small, diverse audience of potential customers.

Avoid Stereotyping

One crucial step brands should avoid with their audience is stereotyping.

“It’s so important to remember that generational stereotypes aren’t truths,” says Cynthia Marts, Digital Marketing Specialist at Cultivera, a leading provider of vertical software solutions for the cannabis supply chain.

Cannabis users come from all backgrounds, so there’s no set standard for what designs appeal to who. A Baby Boomer with a preference for a more pharmaceutical looking brand might also enjoy the brightly colored Gen Z design of a product and purchase both.

It’s true that consumers can check some stereotypical boxes but that doesn’t mean they will check all of them. Designs for other generations can transcend the commonalities found in each age group. 

Marts continues. “As a [cannabis] marketer or entrepreneur, you’re looking to address their needs, wants, and interests, and to do that you can’t make assumptions based on a general idea of what [certain generations] are said to like.” 

Brands will want to research who their audience is to avoid painting them all with the same brush with assumption-based judgements.

Cannabis Packaging Designs for Gen Z

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When it comes to the youngest cannabis consumers, Gen Z has a unique experience unlike previous generations. This is because, for many of them, cannabis has been legal in some form their entire lives and they have greater knowledge and trust in the product.

Gen Z consumers who can legally purchase cannabis are in their early to mid 20s. They engage in more enjoyable recreational than medicinal use and want products with fun, innovative designs to reflect that. 

What Does Gen Z Packaging Look Like?

Gen Z consumers lean towards inhalables over other forms, the main drivers for this being ease of use and popularity. Prerolls, flowers, and vapes are prominent purchases. Some common preferences found in packaging include: 

  • Loud, flashy colors 
  • Retro designs
  • Bold patterns & shapes

Many Gen Z interests circle around influencers and celebrities with values that match their own. Industries like music, fashion, and gaming have gained the most engagement, and many cannabis brands have taken note of this for their label and packaging designs.  

For example, Pure Beauty incorporates their cannabis packaging with their clothing. The product labels are designed with bold, vivid colors, plain backgrounds, and minimal imagery for a modern, eye-catching look. This same pattern is then showcased on t-shirts, sweatpants, hats, and more to link the brand’s design and market more products.

Another brand Loud+Clear takes its influence from the music industry and the vape culture found with a younger market. Using bright, fluorescent colors, product flavors standout on the package to correlate with their brand’s identity to amplify the experience at any event. 

Cannabis Packaging Designs for Millennials & Gen X

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While younger Millennials can filter into the spectrum of what appeals to Gen Z, older Millennials and Gen X are more interested in a modern looking package design. 

For these 2 generations, ages range from late 20’s to mid 50s. While the age gap is wider, the allure to cannabis packaging circulates around the same aesthetics. 

“There are so many products on the market,” states Sandra Guynes, MSN, RN, and Nurse Educator at The Kush Nurse. She consults and educates cannabis patients with her demographic including families and seniors. “I think that packaging is really what people see and interact with first.” 

What Does Millennial & Gen X Packaging Look Like?

Millennials and Gen X cannabis consumers gravitate toward packaging with a more contemporary look. “The younger consumers tend to go for that more chic, trendy packaging,” continues Guynes, “you know, what’s all glitter and gold.”

Labels and packaging for Millennials and Gen X users try to showcase a more authentic look for a more mature markert. Edibles, like drinks, foods, and gummies, are prominently used with these groups and benefit from this type of design. Some common preferences found in packaging include: 

  • Gold & metallic colors
  • Luxury-brand appearance
  • Modern, chic design

Lilli Keinaenen, sustainable packaging and branding designer at Changemaker Creative, calls this the “Luxury Market.”

“[Cannabis] packaging takes cues from fashion brands, wine, etc,” she says. Brands focus on colors like golds and metallics when designing their packaging for an air of elegance. Keinaenen explains that they “give products a shiny, fancy feel,” which creates the experience that consumers are buying a high-end, designer product.

For example, Lulus Edibles signature logo of metallic gold pops on a solid black background for a grand, sleek appearance. The muted tones used for the product’s description don’t overshadow the lustrous cursive writing, allowing for an overlay that emits a feeling of sophistication and exclusivity.

The brand Bloom Farms exudes an elegant look with a neutral color palette and metallic foiling leaf design. The abstract elements highlight the uniqueness of the product, giving it a high-end feel.

Cannabis Packaging Designs for Baby Boomers

A THC and CBD infused tincture with a clean, white packaging and simple text

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Rounding out our final generation, Baby Boomers can be the hardest to appeal to when it comes to cannabis. This is due to growing up in an era where it was illegal and held many taboos.

However, many Boomers, aged 57 to 75 years old, are beginning to see cannabis as a holistic treatment instead of a stigmatized drug. Health and wellness benefits, like easing chronic pain and ailing conditions, are at the forefront of their increased use. 

As they’re less familiar with cannabis than younger generations, brands for Boomers will want to focus on building trust through their label and packaging. They can do this through clear messaging and clean designs.

What Does Baby Boomer Packaging Look Like?

Packaging for Boomers exhibits a look similar to medical products, with an abundance of white space for text and images to avoid confusion. Clean designs are less juvenile looking and more along the lines of what is found in a local pharmacy.

For example, Care By Design circulates the same colors for each of their products, with plain designs and product information printed directly next to the company’s logo. Many products host a pure white background with minimal embellishments for an overall clinical appearance. 

Some common preferences found in packaging include: 

  • Pharmaceutical appearance
  • White space & clean colors
  • Health & wellness appeal

While smoking was very popular for the Boomer generation, many tend to avoid inhalables when it comes to cannabis. Jessica Gorman, founder of SeaWitch Medicinals in Rhode Island, explains. 

“Older consumers who are just trying cannabis for the first time definitely avoid smoking,” she says. This can be due to many reasons, from distrust to difficult use to health concerns with inhaling smoke. 

Gorman notes that low dosing appeals to older cannabis users as well. This may explain their reasons for purchasing items where the amount used can be easily controlled. She says, “Tinctures and drinks are very popular…with people over 50.” Topicals are another area of high demand as they are easy to apply and absorb directly into the skin.

Wrapping Things Up

There are many elements that go into creating the perfect cannabis label and package design for your product. This is especially true when marketing to a certain generation.

While there are common design concepts found in each group, labels and packaging can appeal to anyone legally buying cannabis.

Knowing the interests of your audience is a huge advantage in creating visually aesthetic packaging, grabbing your customers attention, and overall elevating the design of your cannabis brand.