It’s All in the Package: How Design Impacts Consumer Spending

By Noah Tomares, Senior Research Analyst, New Frontier Data

Whether it’s a restaurant entrée, a Vrbo rental, or swiping right for a New Year’s Eve date, presentation means everything. The same is true for cannabis retail marketing, where the competition is fierce for sales, and a winning customer experience can be what seals the deal for attracting premium newcomers and fostering customer loyalty.

What makes a consumer choose one brand over another? We know more than half (51%) of consumers cite a product’s advertised effect (i.e., “sleep,” “energy,” “chill,” or “create”) as their chief concern when considering a purchase. The potency/THC content and strain name are also notable, but branding goes way beyond information alone. Being able to evoke an appealing response as a customer eyeballs a package is essential for making a crucial first impression.

According to Harvard professor and marketing expert Gerald Zaltman, author of “How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market”, about 95% of all purchasing decisions are completely subconscious, and about 93% of buyers rely on visual cues when considering new products.

Among cannabis consumers, nearly 2/3 of them tell us either that they always (21%) or sometimes (43%) seek out their flower among particular brands. Moreover, most (52%) of them report preferring to buy an unfamiliar strain from a favorite brand rather than a preferred strain from an unknown brand.

In attempts to qualify the styles of visual elements which customers find most appealing, and to quantify those consumer segments likeliest to seek out specific brands, New Frontier Data surveyed active cannabis consumers (i.e., those having consumed in the previous year, and planning to again) about six different faux brands imagined in the forms of 1/8th-oz. jars, and asked them to describe and rank their responses. Check out the results:


  • The most popular jar was also that most directly related to cannabis for medicinal purposes, featuring the “Rx” abbreviation integrated in the logo with plain black lettering against a white background.
  • Brands should closely consider how consumers (per their targeted Consumer Archetypes) view cannabis and its desired roles in their lives before deciding how to package their product.
  • Regardless of their respective rankings, each design was described as something which a majority of consumers would reportedly purchase, which seemingly underscores a need for brands to pair a clear intention or compelling message with the packaging aesthetic.
  • As consumers become increasingly diverse and delineated in both their motives and methods for consumption, brands should aim to directly articulate how a given product suits a consumer’s goals, rather than settle simply for selling flower.

Retailers looking to adapt to the latest sales trends and purchasing behaviors should consider subscribing to Equio®, our cannabis business intelligence platform, to put the data in context. In addition to our straight point-of-sale data in the Retail Suite, and five dashboards of interactive data widgets included in base subscriptions, we give Equio® subscribers access to extended analysis and expertise on the data displayed — something that our competitors don’t necessarily provide to the same extent.


See for yourself: Download a complimentary copy of our Cannabis Consumers in America report. Interested in accessing Part I of the report series? Purchase an Equio® subscription to gain access to New Frontier Data’s entire library of Analyst Reports, and our five dashboards of interactive data widgets connecting you to the best-in-class retail, consumer, and market intelligence.