Amidst the aggressive growth of the cannabis market, a team of savvy entrepreneurs had a patented product concept that they instinctively knew had massive potential and a shared desire to help the world overcome the stigmas that would surround it. The problem? They weren't entirely sure what their product-market fit was or how to build a brand and launch experience that could drive demand for it.
Through our unique Brand DNA methodology and brand studio model for working collaboratively with ambitious founders like FlowerPod’s, we were able to create a highly differentiated brand and product experience that would position HUUE™ as a first of its kind innovation, capable of rallying the entire cannabis category around a new format – one that could effectively lower the barrier for entry, meet the everyday needs of high-performing individuals, and make the future of wellness through cannabis a reality for all.
Knowing how many physical, emotional, and legal barriers actually surround launching a successful brand in the cannabis space (let alone creating a new product format), we needed to make sure every decision we would make surrounding both the product and brand strategy was highly informed by real-world data. To accomplish this, our team began by conducting a deep, multi-pronged market research sprint. We carefully analyzed patterns across leading industry reports, trends, and store sales data. We did field ethnography in our ideal market, mystery shopping dozens of dispensaries to better understand the typical “customer journey” that’s heavily guided by budtenders and in-store associates. We also conducted several focus group studies with various potential audience segments to better understand their fears, needs, efficacy, consumption habits, language patterns, and aesthetic sensibilities relating to cannabis usage and comparable wellness products. One thing became abundantly clear: all roads led to one cross-segment regardless of their age – those who self-identified as high performing individuals.
Our work didn’t end there, though. Taking note of the surging popularity of Clubhouse at the time, we decided to make an unconventional pivot and further round out our research efforts by hosting the first-ever focus group study event on the emerging platform, where we tapped into the expertise of business owners in the cannabis category to navigate the appetite and potential challenges we would need to overcome to successfully launch in market.
Once we determined the overarching strategic direction for the brand, we had to develop key pillars of the brand’s essence – the most important of which was the name itself. With a new brand and product format, we needed to establish a simple, yet memorable name that could distill the brand’s identity down to a single word. Where most naming exercises start and end with simple text and trademark availabilities, we felt that for a brand charged with so much potential, this simply wasn’t enough. We wanted our test audiences to be able to see a name candidate, say it out loud, hear it in context of everyday conversation, and communicate back to us what feeling it evoked for them. To do this, we created a series of what we now affectionately call “FOGOs” (Fake Logos) as a quick way to test and learn how viable a name could be in practice.
Through several rounds of testing, legal searching, and arguably 40 viable candidates, we were able to land on “HUUE,” a playful misspelling of the word “Hue” – a multi-dimensional tie back to the functionality of this product being full-spectrum cannabis designed to target specific needs throughout the multi-faceted lives of the high-functioning audience we’re looking to appeal to.
We believe that even brands tied to physical products and services need to be built “digital-first” today. That meant making sure that the logo was equally as scalable as it was iconic, regardless of application on a mobile device, product packaging, billboard, or otherwise.
Conceptually, we handcrafted a light and airy logotype that leaned heavily on the letterform of the “H”, creating various ways to interpret its deeper meaning – from the physical act of our audience moving endlessly from one thing to another without stopping, to visualizing it as the middle of a flower vaporization device smoothly emitting the vapor that would ultimately create a sense of balance and control.
In all of our early research studies, the elevated, aesthetic sensibility of “modern apothecary” unanimously tested best across every audience segment. When considering the role that most brands play in their everyday and a perceived benchmark for success, participants consistently recalled the calming, premium look and feel that brands have created across every facet of their lives – from their phones to their morning coffee. When given the choice, cannabis proved to be no different. Having landed on a name that directly plays into color as a core motif in the brand’s DNA, we were able to find a vibrant, yet refined visual language that lent itself to creating our own unique color wheel designed to help simplify the way our audience would shop for and understand each product’s intended effects, while also creating a system that could scale infinitely as we introduced new blends, flavors, and collaborations into the product portfolio.
Leaning back into various speech patterns and phrases we heard throughout our focus groups and listening sessions, we established a brand voice and naming convention that authentically mirrored the language of our actual audience. This resulted in a unique product line-up that’s fresh, action-oriented, and colloquially relevant.
Although the team had an early proof of concept, there was still a lot of work to be done to vet, validate, and iterate when it came to the final product experience. We needed a solution we could take to market that would find the best balance of user experience, technical feasibility, and production cost. Through multiple rounds of rapid prototyping and user testing, we identified the most critical aspects of usability and consulted with the team on how we might best create a holistic product experience that could deliver on all aspects of the brand and our intended target effects, while still creating the flexibility to expand the product offering over time. This meant everything from visiting cultivation sites and advising on specific strain combinations to working with device and packaging specialists around the world.
When it came to packaging, there were a lot of factors to consider. Product integrity. Freshness. Child-Proof Locking. Labeling. Compliance. Discretion. Visual aesthetic. Ease of use. All limiting factors that most cannabis brands struggle with in some way shape or form.
Since this was an entirely new product format that needed to deliver an elevated, highly accessible experience to those with little to no experience with cannabis or flower vaporizing, we couldn’t afford to compromise on any of these.
Working closely our friends over at Kacepack, one of the industry’s leading package sourcing and production vendors, we were able to prototype and produce a series of custom tins for the brand that could address virtually every issue. Embossed, child-proof tins printed with their respective color gradients would be used to create something iconic, travel-friendly, and easy to use. Custom blisters would be made to house 7 individual pucks without worry over sticking or crumbling from movement. Each blister would be covered with a resealable, smell-resistant sticker that could be easily peeled back to remove one puck at a time. Finally, each tin would be sheathed with a double-sided belly band with a pre-designed surface for labeling. This allowed us to maximize the branding while minimizing the required legal copy and facilities labeling.
Finally, consumers would be met with a subtle, unique brand message on the inside of every tin lid to create a small moment of surprise and delight to round out their HUUE™ experience.
Since we deliberately tried to diffuse many of the stigmas surrounding cannabis, especially for those new to the category, we leveraged our in-house content production team to plan and shoot custom assets that would effectively show off the unique product format and most common use cases in an approachable and reassuring manner. The majority of content would be centered around inserting HUUE™ into the everyday lives, activities, and routines of high-performers at every life stage. Where someone might normally be enjoying their morning coffee before diving into a hectic workday, we’d swap in a quick “sip” of HUUE™. Instead of a wine-filled girl’s night in, they’d be celebrating with HUUE™ in hand. Happy hour with some brews and a HUUE™? A perfect glimpse into the future we were looking to build.
While many cannabis brands have been limited by their ability to navigate digital channels due to heavy platform regulation and federal restrictions, we saw it as an opportunity to drive awareness and increase lifetime value by creating a centralized point of education for consumers on HUUE™, regardless of their entry point.
Everything – from social media and signage to the tins themselves – leads consumers back to a content-rich digital experience that gives them the knowledge and support they need to get the most out of their HUUE™ experience while offering the data-rich insights that can continuously inform the brand’s messaging and content strategy as we test and learn in various markets.
If the early research showed us anything, it was that the devices were actually the biggest barrier to entry for both newcomers and current cannabis users. They’re expensive, inconsistent, and have a steep learning curve to use. Keeping this in mind, we were able to help the team secure a partnership with Grenco Science, Inc., one of the leading device brands in advanced vaporization technology, to produce an easy-to-use branded flower vaporizer that could perfectly complement the HUUE™ product for launch.
As we moved toward our initial soft launch in the Massachusetts market, it became clear to us that, for the time being, the success of HUUE™ would be heavily reliant on any given store’s ability to create intrigue and would need to reinforce budtenders’ expertise in educating incoming customers on the benefits of the product format over other options on the market, including but not limited to oil vapes, edibles, or traditional flower.
The problem? The “Dispensary Experience” is wildly different from store to store. Where some are very clean and minimalistic, others can be very eclectic with an abundance of visual stimuli from the wide array of brands on display. That’s not even considering the insight we uncovered that many of our ideal customers aren’t even the ones making the purchases directly. They’re instead relying on friends, partners, colleagues, and in some cases their children, to purchase on their behalf.
Keeping this in mind, we decided to produce a full kit of on and offline assets for sales teams to support the proper set-up of HUUE™ on online ordering systems, while offering stores signage, swag, and motion-driven display units that could support associates’ ability to educate customers quickly or invite them to learn about HUUE™ on their own.
To further lower the barrier to entry and incentivize trial among shoppers and those they are purchasing for, we created a custom-branded starter box set that includes one of each HUUE™ tin, pre-packed with a heavily discounted HUUE™ flower vaporizer and quick start guide.
Having received such strong positive feedback from early user testing on both final brand and product, we’ve seen firsthand how special HUUE™ actually is. We wanted to make sure that despite being a new brand coming into an already saturated market, we could capture the attention of some of the most prolific influencers in the MA cannabis market ahead of launch day. To do this, we invited the top sales associates, editors, content creators, and business owners to experience a “HUUE™ House” cocktail party at a private estate in the Berkshires.
Catered by celebrity chef, Tyler Anderson, guests were greeted with a fully immersive, “Mad about HUUE™” experience, filled with food, merch, product education, networking, and their very own take-home starter box sets.
If you are interested in learning how we could do something similar for your business, you can email our SVP of Growth, Jeff Mard or simply fill out our contact form.
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