What does it mean to brand a space? It means a few things, actually. If you ask a cowboy, it means burning a mark or symbol into the space on his animal’s rear end for identification. (Unfortunately, this blog is not about cowboys.) If you ask Seth Godin—not the worst person to ask about this, by far—he will tell you that “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” So, branding a space is the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. In his case, the product is your dispensary. Branding’s goal is to establish a meaningful, unique, and memorable presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.
Let’s take a look at a few dispensaries out there today who are setting the bar for how to effectively brand your cannabis business to attract and retain loyal customers and patients, and be a welcomed member of their communities.
The Clinic Colorado is a Denver chain of 6 dispensaries. They have made an effort to brand their stores with a color scheme drawn from their logo, and a clean, modern, professional atmosphere. It is a successful method at their Capitol Hill location, located at 745 E 6th Ave in Denver.
This store is a former automotive business of some kind, possibly a former tire shop or service station. The exterior has been painted lime green to match the logo, and makes The Clinic easy to find and welcoming to walk into. The exterior branding of the store even made its mark on the old metal fence posts around the parking lot, which received a healthy dose of lime green too. I love this attention to detail and willingness to work with the character of the location's past life. This also helps one to locate the dispensary and makes it clear that you can park in the lot around the store, because even the parking lot connects to the brand.
Upon entering the dispensary from 6th Ave, you step into a bright and clean waiting area, featuring another healthy dose of their lime green paint on the accent wall. Large windows fill two of the walls with simple, modern solar roller shades. These shades are a great, practical solution for businesses, as they allow in ample sunlight while reducing heat gain, providing privacy, and eliminating the use of mini-blinds or verticals (we have all seen enough of those, right?). The space plan in the seating area is a little tight and could use some more thought, but does provide seating for 5 people, a mounted flat screen TV to watch, and a water cooler. There is also tastefully selected photography of marijuana buds, which I think they utilized extremely well. The difference between using marijuana in your decor in a tasteful way versus a less than classy way can be subtle and if not featured well, can damage the professional look you may be going for. Their high-resolution, silver framed canvas prints add to the sense of place and quality of their shop. The black armchairs they choose for the waiting room are accessible to patients of all abilities; however, a wheelchair bound patient may have a difficult time feeling comfortable, especially if they came during a busy time. Without having to make any monetary investments in more furniture, this problem can be easily solved through proper space planning-- a skill a designer employs every day on the job.
Unlike the Capitol Hill location, their shops on Colfax and in the Highlands are built into old Victorian era homes, commonly found throughout this old City. Despite the age and character of the homes, The Clinic was able to brand these locations effectively as well, creating an interesting juxtaposition of history and now. At the Highlands location, the entryway of the former home dons a well-kept staircase leading up to offices, while the landing area has been converted into their check-in area-- complete with a bullet proof glass window.
The waiting area is a welcoming space that blends the house's character with The Clinic’s brand. The wood floors, ornate ceiling texture, tall white baseboards, and large window overlooking the front yard and street create a canvas for their signature lime green accent wall, white leather benches, complimentary red armless chairs, and merchandise displays. They also manufactured a unique barn-door style showroom door of steel, laminate, and white glass. It is a great focal point, as well as a space saving solution for their need to hide the view of the showroom from the street. Had they went with a typical swinging door, valuable space would have been lost in either the showroom or the waiting area.
The exterior branding of The Clinic allows patients to easily locate, and spend their money, at their stores. Creating curb appeal and clearly marking their locations with professional signage and branding--while still being discrete and safe (notice there are no pot leafs or green crosses in their logo) ensures that patients feel safe and comfortable when visiting The Clinic's locations.
Although I have spent the last 6 years walking into dispensaries in California, Arizona, and Colorado, I still feel differently when I walk up to a dispensary for the first time versus a wine shop, a liquor store, or a Starbucks. A high standard for dispensary environments has not become the norm yet, and business owners in our industry need to begin to think about and plan for the atmospheres and consumer feelings we want to create in our shops. The better off the industry is as a whole, the more profitable, permanent, and welcomed we will become.