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How Diageo is using design to grow its Africa business

With Africa now accounting for approximately 13 percent of Diageo's global net sales – which has more than doubled over the last 10 years – the drinks business is now investing in design in the region to realise its growth ambitions.

Diageo is applying its design thinking to brands in the region including Guinness, which saw sales soar 15 per cent in the first half driven by strong performance in Nigeria, growth in Kenya, Cameroon, and Ghana after an overhauled marketing mix including new packaging.

Speaking to The Drum Diageo design leader global brands, Kerrin Lumsden, said that the business is raising standards “massively” across the region and hinted that Diageo is soon to announce news of new projects.

“It’s been a bit hit and miss in the past I think in Africa,” he said. “There’s big financial rewards to our brands growing well, particularly with the emerging middle-class market and therefore we are investing more thinking time, more money and more in design to bring to life beautiful looking packs which appeal to our consumers in these markets.

“I think we’ve step changed and design is a lovely hybrid of understanding local cultures and local influences and the expertise we have as global branding design people, so the mixture of those two elements is really exciting. It gives it a unique language and we are now finding for some of our work in Africa we’ve got other markets and regions looking enviously at us and seeing what they can learn from us in our region so that’s the exciting part and we’ve hopefully changed people’s perception of what design should be for African brands.”

Elsewhere across design Diageo has strongly been influenced by the craft movement in beer and gin as well as taking cues from the luxury sector and applying its storytelling and heritage to its reserve brands, such as Johnnie Walker and Tanqueray No Ten.

“We’ve probably taken a lot of our learning from luxury, and the storytelling, and craft and heritage and the way they dramatize in a beautiful way. We’ve filtered that into our premium brands and some of our other brands so there is a trend of learning from luxury. It has definitely changed the look and feel of our brands dramatically over the last six to seven years.”

Lumsden is chairman of The Drum Design Awards which takes place on Wednesday 27 April. For more information, check out the website here.

Natalie Mortimer

Natalie is The Drum's fashion, design, luxury and food & drink reporter.

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