Dried flower product has always been, and continues to be, the most popular form of cannabis consumption worldwide. A Statistics Canada study from 2018 shows us that dried flower accounts for around 76% of all cannabis purchases in the country.

The majority of products launched in the cannabis industry are dried flower strains. Just like any other CPG category, the name of a cannabis product is incredibly important. So, how do brands in the industry name their dried flower SKUs? In this article, we’ll walk you through a quick step-by-step guide on how to name your strain.

Types of cannabis products used

Genetic Naming vs Effect-Based Naming

Before we dive into the steps, let us first emphasize the importance of being consumer-centric and address the big question of genetic naming vs effect-based naming.

The first set of questions that must be asked when developing any sort of marketing strategy is “Who is my target consumer? What are their wants, needs, fears, insecurities, and points of view?”. Once you can answer those questions concretely, you are ready to address the question of genetic naming or effect-based naming.

Genetic naming is simply labeling the dried flower product by the name given to it by a breeder, usually composed of an aspect from each parent strain. Some brands like DNA Genetics sell the strain “91 Krypt” under its genetic name. Houseplant (a brand born out of a collaboration between Canopy Growth and Seth Rogen) sells that same genetic as “Houseplant Indica” while Kingsway Cannabis sells the exact same strain as “Dayshift”. DNA Genetics is targeting hardcore consumers that know the genetic lineage of 91 Krypt. This is an example of genetic naming. Houseplant’s marketing is fully revolved around the Sativa/Hybrid/Indica distinction. This is an example of naming based on the morphology of the plant. Kingsway’s portfolio is divided into Dayshift (Sativa) and Nightshift (Indica) products, indicating which time of day each product should be consumed. This is an example of effect-based naming. 

If you are looking to appeal to cannabis enthusiasts and seasoned consumers, you should generally stick with a genetic naming strategy. These individuals are usually comfortable with purchasing their products from the informal market and have become accustomed to and educated about strain names and lineages. On the other hand, genetic strain names mean absolutely nothing to novice and uneducated consumers. 

Effect-based naming takes a few different forms. One example includes Tokyo Smoke’s “intent-based” naming system: Ease (CBD-dominant), Go (Sativa-dominant), Equalize (1:1 THC:CBD), Pause (Indica-dominant), and so on. Sundial Cannabis employs a similar portfolio strategy with their Calm, Ease, Flow, Lift, and Spark distinctions. One last example comes from Cove Crafted Cannabis (a recreational brand from Cronos Group). They opted to ditch their strain names and call their dried flower products Rise, Revive, Reflect, Rest and CBD. 

These effect-based strategies can be effective if you’re specifically targeting novice, under-educated and casual users that are not familiar with genetic lineages. 

Step #1: Understand What You’re Naming

Understand what you're naming for cannabis products

When you work in the marketing department of a cannabis company or you work at an agency with cannabis clients – it is essential that you have a basic understanding of the plant.

A genotype is the plant’s genes and is essentially a blueprint for the physical possibilities of a plant. Popular strains like White Widow and Sensi Star are genotypes. The observable characteristics of a particular genotype are referred to as a phenotype. Shape, smell, colour and resin production are all affected by the environment and all determine how a given phenotype will express.

When naming a cannabis product, you are naming the specific phenotype(s) that your growers or providers are supplying. That is why it is essential for marketers to see pictures of the plants they are advertising (and smell, examine and smoke them too, if possible). 

An example: you could have a particular phenotype of White Widow that expresses purple. It would be appropriate to name this strain “Purple Widow”, even if the genetics are simply White Widow.

In Canada (mostly due to regulation) cannabis is similar to other regulated consumer packaged goods. When naming a cannabis product, you are not simply naming just the flower itself. Your naming process must also take into consideration size, format, packaging, and the QA standards you employ. 

When it comes to size and format, how are you going to refer to the quantity of your product? A 3.5g container can be labeled as such, or it can be called a half-quarter (like The Batch for example) or an eighth. How does your consumer think and talk about cannabis products? Label your product in a way that speaks to them.

Step #2: Learn From The Traditional Market

Learn from the traditional market of cannabis products

The traditional market still has a strong foothold and large market share in Canada, even years after recreational legalization. As such, there are many marketing and product lessons to be learned from them. 

If you have bred a new strain, tell a story with your name. That story can be as simple as “we mixed Blue Dream with Orange Kush so we called it Blue Kush” or it can be as meaningful as “our head grower’s name is Karl and he loves blueberries so we dedicated this strain to him and called it “Karl’s Sweet Blue”. 

Generally, it is a good strategy to reference something about the physical characteristics, origins, or idea behind your product. In such a regulated environment, one where consumers cannot examine or smell the product before purchasing, naming your strain after the aromas and flavours it produces is a sure way to successfully communicate to enthusiasts and terpene lovers. Names like “Creamsicle”, “Ice Cream Cake” and “Florida Lemons” paint a picture in the mind of the consumer of what they can expect when they crack open the jar. Additionally, referencing the physical characteristics (colouration, trichome growth, bud structure, etc) is another sound strategy.

Step #3: Consider IP

Consider IP for cannabis products

Considering IP is mostly only a concern if you and your team have bred a brand new strain or launched a novel product in the space. 

If you have created a new strain, there are a few questions you must ask yourself before launching a campaign. Do you want to own the strain name? If you are trying to create a unique brand around your new cultivar, it is better if you come up with a name that is completely novel to the industry. You can own this strain and your competitors will not be able to simply grow the genetic better than you if they do not have access to it.

An example of a Canadian cannabis company that is successfully building a brand around one of their strains is Habitat Life and their “Cake” cultivar. Although it is grown, packaged, and marketed exclusively by the Habitat team, this unique Cake strain has its own social media accounts and branding. Cake is a great example of building IP in the cannabis space and winning the hearts and wallets of consumers.

Step #4: Consider Social Responsibility

Consider social responsibility for cannabis products

The cannabis industry is full of strict marketing regulations and potential PR disasters. You need to be careful and culturally-mindful when naming any dried flower product in today’s environment.

Is your name in any way deceptive or misleading? Good marketing just exposes a bad product quickly. Make sure that the dried flower product you are promoting lives up to the expectations that you set through your marketing, branding, and naming strategies. 

Be mindful of Bill C-45 and the rules governing the promotion of cannabis products in Canada. Is your name likely to appeal to kids? You cannot name a strain “Lucky Charms” or “Fruit Loops” and even some confectionary names are forbidden. For example, several brands including Gage and Simply Bare shorten the word “Cookies” down to “CKS”, likely to comply with regulations. Health Canada’s biggest concern when it comes to cannabis marketing promotions is appealing to youth. Remember this. 

Does your dried flower product name encourage irresponsible consumption? You cannot reference a state of intoxication – meaning no cheesy strain names like “So High” or “F’d Up”. You also can’t reference other controlled substances, especially illegal ones. That means “Green Crack” is a big no-no. Some Canadian LPs have opted to name their Green Crack genetics “Green Cush” or similar names.

Naming Your Next Cannabis Strain

This article was authored by Colin Bambury (founder of ADCANN) in collaboration with Matt Coulson, founder and chief consultant at Profound Cannabis Design and Marketing.

Matt Coulson is a communication professional that specializes in cannabis product marketing. Working both agency and client-side, Matt has led the creation of multiple successful cannabis brands and products including Tilray High Park’s disruptive value-portfolio “The Batch”, and VIVO Cannabis “Fireside”, “Lumina”, and “Beacon Medical” brands. Matt also led the development of several successful cannabis products including Canaca’s THC distillate vapes, Northern Dew, White Widow Haze, and The Batch’s Quints.

Profound is a virtually-based, contactless, creative services company aimed at helping Canadian cannabis innovation and marketing teams unlock sales and revenue growth with more inspired product innovation and more persuasive product marketing communication.

You can learn more about Profound and their services at www.profoundcannabisdesign.com and you can contact Matt at matt@profoundcannabisdesign.com.

Colin Bambury

Colin Bambury

Colin Bambury is the founder and head editor of ADCANN. With roots in the industry since 2016, Colin has lead marketing initiatives at some of the world’s largest cannabis media companies, retailers and producers. His work has been published in a variety of digital and print publications and he continues to be the primary content creator for ADCANN. Colin prides himself on breaking stories and exploring lesser-known, niche topics related to cannabis marketing.