Center-Designed Butter Wants To Be The Coca-Cola Of Cannabis
by Rudy Sanchez on 11/16/2022 | 5 Minute Read
How mainstream is cannabis, anyway?
In North America, weed is now legal in all of Canada, 21 states in the US (plus Washington DC and Guam), and decriminalized in Mexico. While the availability of the kind herb has significantly expanded in recent years, there is still a little shadiness associated with cannabis.
Since cannabis is still federally illegal in the US, the cannabis brand landscape is peppered with countless brands mostly confined to their respective states. Due to its federal scheduling, interstate cannabis operations are usually illegal or tricky. Unlike Unilever, a cannabis business can’t simply transport raw materials or finished, packaged products from one state to another. Sure, some of the bigger brands are now multi-state operators with their products in several markets, but a single, national weed brand with the clout of a major CPG manufacturer remains elusive.
The opportunity to create a cannabis brand with the potential to be the first major player on par with Coors, Budweiser, and even Coca-Cola in looks and appeal came to Brooklyn-based design company Center when Michigan cannabis firm Butter asked them to build a brand with a conventional sensibility that’s authentic to cannabis.
“We believe cannabis makes people's lives better and can create a better society. As regulations are changing in states around the country, we wanted to build the first mainstream, mass-market cannabis brand,” said Alex Center, founder of Center.
Visually, a buttery yellow dominates the branding. The bright yellow is also uplifting and pleasant and stands out among the competition in-store. The wordmark includes a single straight bar across the two “t” letters, reminiscent of a bar of that yellow dairy goodness. The flower gets packaged in Calyx glass jars, which consist of 56% recycled glass. Additionally, the brand partnered with Detriot Wick to repurpose used eighth jars into candles (butter-scented candles, of course).
The branding aims for a spot somewhere between cannabis stereotypes and luxury. Center saw a landscape filled with local brands and cannabis presented as a wellness product or a sterile, minimalistic aesthetic. However, Butter’s identity is built on cannabis being something that enhances life and is social, as it positively impacts mental and physical wellness. Its consumption is commonplace at parties, concerts, or any other festive gathering, and it enhances our senses, making music, dancing, food, art—almost everything—better. It’s like life’s MSG in a lot of ways.
“Butter is something that makes things better. From bagels to vegetables, when butter gets added, things are significantly improved,” Alex said. “That’s how we see cannabis. It shouldn’t be something underground and stigmatized or luxurious and unattainable. It should be for the masses to make everyday things better. We wanted our images and video to show how cannabis is used and shared in fun, real moments.”
But the Brooklyn design company also wanted the brand to think bigger. Much bigger.
"We believe that Butter can become the Coca-Cola of cannabis.”
Of course, designing the “Coca-Cola of cannabis” is a bold proposition, especially for an agency’s first cannabis project. But Center’s experience with brands like vitaminwater gives his studio a big beverage lens through which to see other categories. Despite just being fizzy sugar water, Coca-Cola has successfully placed itself as a part of celebrations, festivities, and gatherings. According to Alex, no cannabis brand has yet to tap into that same spirit of being part of the fun that Coca-Cola has had for many years.
That means tapping into something universal. “I talk about this a lot, about how we approach building brands at the beginning of their journey and treating them as if they're iconic brands," Center explained. "Coke doesn't try to sell you too much on the liquid. It sells you on this idea of happiness, family, connection, joy, and coming together. You see Coca-Cola during the holidays, in a ballpark, a movie theater; it's these moments in life that Coke is there to be a part of and bring people together.”
Center wanted to approach cannabis with a big brand feeling and take it out of its regional confines. "We know that there is going to be a future where cannabis becomes national, and these regulations and these laws are getting looser every day, so let's build the Coke or Budweiser of cannabis so that we're ready for that moment," he said. "Maybe Butter is just sold in Michigan for the first year, but one day it will pop up in California and New York, so let's build a brand that not only anticipates that, but is ready for it.”
When it comes to destigmatizing cannabis, Center says most brands don’t get the messaging right. They try too hard to make cannabis something that it isn’t instead of celebrating what makes weed great and showing it shared rather than smoked solo.
“One of the things cannabis brands get wrong is that they try to make weed luxury or super-premium, Center says. “They have these pop-ups inside department stores that sell cannabis products now. And there are these cannabis retailers that either look like Apple stores, Medmen, or they look like botanical gardens or jewelry shops. Then, there are brands like Cookies playing to the low-hanging fruit of the category and what cannabis has already been.”
There are plenty of market and regulatory hurdles to overcome for a cannabis company that wants to possess the same big brand energy as the world's most recognizable soft drink, not to mention the lingering stigma some Americans still hold. But if you build a cannabis brand with mass appeal from the start, something that presents itself as both an experience and the ultimate social enhancer, you're offering them a pretty good head start.
One that's strictly butter.
Lifestyle Photography - Alex Brown
Product/Packaging Photography - Drex Dreschel
Styling - Julie Rose