Inside the Vintage Designs of Bogart Hemp Cannabis Cigarettes
There's no shortage of 1960s-inspired designs in the cannabis world—just look at MAMUS Creative's Gold Clio-winning work on the Klaus brand recently—but here's a new branding project that exudes '60s cool, supporting a product that is itself eye-catchingly unique.
The product is called Bogart, and it's the brainchild of Jeff Gonick, a creative director who also worked on Seth Rogen's Houseplant. Bogart is a brand of high-CBD, low-THC hemp cannabis cigarettes—with a retro-modern design scheme inspired by old cigarette packaging, Italian restaurant signs from the '50s and '60s, and a color palette evoking mid-century California.
The product has an interesting positioning, too—no wellness claims, and a lower THC percentage that could appeal to people trying to quit cigarettes or find a more sessionable joint. The smokes come in easy-sliding pre-roll packs that including five .6g CBD hemp cigarettes. The brand also makes rolling papers, which come in a magnetic flap booklet.
Gonick worked with Foxduck Design Studio on the designs. We spoke more with Jeff about his inspiration for the product and its branding.
Muse: What was your motivation to develop this product? Did it have anything to do with your move from Brooklyn to the Hudson Valley?
Once I moved out of the city I didn't have a way to buy weed, so I turned the little shed behind my house into a grow room. When the bud I grew was ready to try, I realized it was half as strong as the stuff I would get at the dispensary, maybe less. A perfect failure. I could easily smoke a whole joint and not be so stoned I couldn't function. That was the seed of the idea. To start a brand with cannabis products where you could smoke the whole thing and enjoy yourself. I chose the cigarette style because I thought it looked more refined and because it positions Bogarts to be a cigarette replacement since they replicate the hand-feel of a cigarette, which is not a real term but I'm using it anyway.
Can you describe the vibe of the design?
I was watching Mad Men for the first time during the pandemic, and I think maybe that got the early '60s really stuck in my head. Everything in that era felt both entirely new and totally retro. To me that was kind of the goal, vibe-wise, to do something vintage modern. The inspiration I shared with the designer when we got started was a lot of cigarette packaging and Italian restaurant signs from the '50s and '60s. I really wanted it to feel like something you'd see sitting next to an ashtray on a cafe table in some random Italian town in the '60s. For the color palette, the idea was to capture the feeling of mid-century California.
What did you learn working on Houseplant that influenced you?
That it's really good to sweat the details. Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg] are two of the busiest people I know. They're making movies and TV shows and throwing ceramics and just insanely busy, but they still took the time to sweat the details of that brand and really make it great. Not just the big stuff like the packaging or design; they care about everything—every email and photo and funny headline. It would be really easy to just throw their name on it, but they care so much about every single thing they put out into the world, and watching how much thought and care they put into Houseplant was a great lesson for anyone doing pretty much anything.
The name Bogart ... tell us more about that.
Growing up, bogarting a joint was a bad thing. If you just sat on it smoking the whole thing, people would inevitably say "Don't bogart that" to get you to pass it on. I'm a big fan of finding the tension in an idea, or this case, a name. Turning the idea of "bogart-ing" on its head and making it a good thing seemed pretty interesting to me. Also there was a pretty great tagline built right in there. "Bogart. Go ahead and smoke the whole thing." This answer also gives me an excuse to sneak a tagline into this, which was one of my goals going into it. So thank you.
How does this product fit into the market? What does it offer that other cannabis brands and products don't?
Well, there's two sides to this answer. Bogarts are made with a very high-quality, organic version of cannabis flower that has been bred to have a lot of CBD and very little THC, so it's a more premium product. The cigarette tube itself is also pretty unique—it has a filter that feels like a cigarette in your hand, but it has a hole in it so you get a bit of the flavor of the flower. The other side of the answer is that the brand is very different—it's not about wellness, or about THC-ness, it's about enjoying a smoke. That comes to life in the experience, the sessionability, but it also comes to life in the promise of the brand. That life, at least some of the time, should be focused purely on enjoyment, which sometimes in the endlessly busy era we live in can feel like a very retro idea.
That being said, it's not really a product for people who don't already smoke. Our target is people who smoke cigarettes and want to cut back or even quit, and people who enjoy smoking a joint but don't always want to get super high.
Why Italian restaurant signs of the '50s and '60s? And what is that font?
I was looking at cigarette packaging from that era, and I came across an Italian restaurant sign somewhere and I kept digging around for more and more signs and references to give to the designer, Ryan [Keates], since I'm not a designer. I was worried I didn't have the right words to explain what I wanted and lots of visual input would be better. Lucky for me, he got the idea right out of the gate and has been making me look smarter than I am since we started working together. As far as fonts go, we have three brand fonts: Brick House, Axel Grotesk Bold and Impregnable. We also have a defined color system which is the palette we use for pretty much everything we do. I think it's good to have this kind of stuff to lead you so you aren't always following a different impulse or idea.
What's your marketing strategy for bringing Bogart into the world?
One thing I've learned from my 15-ish years in and around advertising is nobody really knows what is going to work, so you do a lot of different things and see what sticks. I'm hoping articles like this in places like this will start to get the word out. We've had a great response from the press so far. I'm working on some partnerships with a few possible retailers as well. I buy wine based on the label and I'm hoping this is the kind of product that wins at the shelf. I've also noticed that a lot of our customers post pics of the packaging and product, which is amazing, and hopefully that will continue to build things organically. We are early enough in our story that I'm still really excited when I see orders from complete strangers come in, like way too excited. I'm not sure if any of this qualifies as a cohesive strategy but maybe if I keep going people will forget the question? Wait, what was the question exactly?