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The Secret To Standing Out On The Shelves

How cannabis brand Kikoko markets their tea with a feminine touch.

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In 2014, travel writer Amanda Jones approached graphic designer Julia Flagg Leaver about building and designing a cannabis brand unabashedly for women. The company would be founded on the simple credo of "not adding more crap to the world," says Jones. The tenet would become the guiding principle behind Kikoko, a line of cannabis-infused, effect-targeted teas, tinctures, mints, and honey.

Courtesy of Kikoko

Kikoko stands out on California shelves for their conspicuously bright colors and distinguishing illustrations. In a crowded market space, a product's design choices not only serve the purpose of aesthetically identifying it from competitors on the shelf, but these intentioned choices are also chiefly responsible for creating the coveted sense of synchronicity between the product's outer appearance and the brand's messaging.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Kikoko

We spoke with Kikoko co-founder, Jones, and Chief Design Officer, Flagg-Leaver, to learn more about the decision process behind the products' packaging.

For women, by women

In a market dominated by cannabis products designed for men and those identified as stoners, the Kikoko team sought to create a brand "unabashedly for women." In 2015, the majority of cannabis products lacked color and artistic design—targeted at seasoned-cannasseurs not the canna-curious. With existing packaging mainly depicting pot leaves or dizzying hippie prints, Kikoko Chief Design Officer, Flagg Leaver, went to work creating an approachable product targeted at women. 

Flagg Leaver says that the brand wanted to create a "feminine sensibility of beauty," through brilliant coloring, vibrancy, and organically-inspired patterning tailored toward women. By leveraging bright hues of blue, red, green, (or, in the case of the Positivi-Tea, all three), and pert female-centric language, Kikoko positioned their products as approachable and appealing to women of all ages. Also, Kikoko's signature sassy writing style, which can be found on the tins, often features cheeky female-centric statements such as "Find your T-Spot." 

Image Credit: Courtesy of Kikoko

Interestingly, despite their unabashed marketing to women, thirty-percent of Kikoko customers are men. Apparently, men are secure enough in their masculinity to buy a funky floral tin of tea, or a pink and orange-packaged HoneyShot.

All about mood

Kikoko decided to position their line of teas as benefit-targeted, offering choices for those looking to address specific health concerns. This is different than the usual binary cannabis choices of sativa or indica. To determine the specific needs, Kikoko interviewed hundreds of women. They turned out to be sleep, pain, anxiety, libido, and low mood.

Their Sympa-Tea, CALM mints, DAY tincture, and CALM honey are all done with a soothing green-blue color scheme to connote a sense of calm. Tranquili-Tea, tinctures, honey, and mints are entirely different designs, but they are all done in blue. Mood products are bright and sunny, and their Sensuali-tea is red and hot pink for a self-professed "va va voom."  

Anchored in variability 

During the design process, Flagg-Leaver had a revelation that "rather than becoming a stagnant brand, Kikoko would do something that is anchored in variability, so people come back because they are intrigued to see what's different." This credo differs from many other cannabis brands, who pride themselves on consistency and repeatability. But Kikoko saw this as another way to set themselves apart from the competition. 

So how does a brand go about ensuring design variability? They hired different female artists from across the globe to design each unique product line. Each artist was given a color scheme to work around and then left to their own creative devices.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Kikoko

For example, botanical artist Susan Black, hailing from Pugwash, Nova Scotia, was tasked with the HoneyShots' floral pattern design. Sally Tagg, one of New Zealand's finest outdoor sculpture artists, crafted the iconic Kikoko mandalas, and Lisa Congdon, an international artist and 40 Over 40 to Watch, 2015, is responsible for the quirky and playful designs of Positivi-Tea, Sympa-Tea, and Tranquili-Tea.

Sustainable packaging

Flagg Leaver says that they wanted packaging that was so bold, colorful, and vibrant that after you finished the product, you wanted to rip off the label and reuse the tin as a beautiful vessel on your table for years afterward. 

After seeing other cannabis packaging that “made you feel like you had to hide it in a closet somewhere,” Flagg Leaver wanted sophisticated, fun, energetic, tins to package Kikoko's 10-pack teas. This multipurpose mission lent itself directly to Kikoko’s laser-like focus on sustainability efforts. 

The company prides itself on its 6 Unbreakable Rules of Doing Business. Rule #3: “There’s enough crap in the world these days, and we don’t want to add to that.” Nearly every one of Kikoko’s product lines is made from sustainable, compostable, 100 percent plastic-free packaging. The company has pledged that all product packaging will be 100 percent compostable or recyclable by the end of 2020, a feat that has not yet been achieved by a cannabis brand.

"We want people to be able to reuse this package or be able to recycle it for others to reuse,” says Jones.