Can branding rid CBD of its cannabis links?

Michael Wolff and NB Studio collaborated on the identity for CBD brand Lady A, which is vying for a position in the upmarket wellbeing sector

NB Studio and Michael Wolff have developed a luxurious aesthetic for CBD brand Lady A, including the name itself. The brand sells tinctures, balms, capsules and vape pens, and was founded by Alexandra Dunhill, great granddaughter of tobacconist Alfred Dunhill, in response to her observation that there was a lack of CBD brands focusing on, or made by women.

The branding includes packaging with a premium feel, a clean website design and a refined visual identity, including a new logotype that, like the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford’s new design, centres around an elegant, robust serif. The identity includes a range of marbled, colourful backgrounds that feel natural and fluid, and is the closest the branding comes to evoking the mind-altering effects often associated with smoking cannabis, the plant from which CBD is derived.

There is evidently a growing market for CBD: the Kardashian-Jenner clan endorse it, Ben & Jerry’s wants to infuse ice cream with it, and the industry has been forecasted to be worth $20 billion by 2024.

As far as branding is concerned, subtlety is still clearly key for most companies. Even the term is abbreviated from cannabidiol, despite saving little time on pronunciation. It’s not uncommon to see seemingly technical language heroed on product packaging, particularly in the health and beauty market: ceramides, keratin, collagen – why not cannabidiol?

Perhaps the full term is too reminiscent of the very word that the emerging, lucrative CBD marketplace is trying to shake off, with a large helping hand from design. The majority of popular CBD brands instead have ambiguous names and tasteful designs that steer well clear of cannabis leaves and stoner tropes.

The minimal packaging for CBD oil brand Trip was described earlier this year as the “Glossier for CBD”. Prior to that, Pentagram unveiled an uplifting identity for CBD-infused water brand Fountain, with branding that veers ever so slightly towards the trippy end of the spectrum with wavy graphics and a sunset palette. Yet even there, the cannabis element would be discreet enough to escape the casual passer-by.

Although CBD is said to offer health benefits (others warn it’s a fad), a significant factor in this distancing from cannabis will no doubt be questions that continue to surround it, around health or legality. On top of this are the negative connotations that many attach to cannabis – something neatly eschewed through design as these brands try to appeal to a burgeoning audience.

With branding that resembles a high end serum or candle – the kind that would sit quite comfortably in high end department stores – the likes of Lady A indicate that CBD’s journey into the mainstream is well on the way.