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How Diageo’s head of design is harnessing visual recognition to drive marketing effectiveness

Diageo is investigating ways it can apply visual recognition learnings to its design strategy in a bid to boost the effectiveness of its brand marketing.

The drinks giant, which counts Guinness, Baileys and Captain Morgan among its portfolio, is currently carrying out a “significant body of work” to understand the importance of its brand assets such as wordmarks and logos in its marketing. It's something which Diageo's global design director Jeremy Lindley told The Drum is one of the most powerful ways design is currently influencing the business.

“Something that we have particularly developed over the past year is understanding more and more the impact that visual recognition has,” he explained. “We discovered more about the way the human brain works and how we recognise something visually. Visual assets, which include wordmarks, are very powerful in this area, but the unique mix of how things are designed and put together triggers recognition much faster than reading something alone would do.

“We now understand a great deal about that, we’ve build that into our approach to marketing and we’ve trained our marketeers – so that’s had a quite big impact in driving stronger instant recognition of our marketing materials… that’s probably one of the most powerful areas of impact that design has been having on the business recently”.

Design plays an intrinsic role in the marketing mix at Diageo, which means that unusually Lindley reports to the drinks company’s chief marketing director Syl Saller. Over the past eight years Diageo has worked to improve its design credentials and output to the point where it now is embedded across the business and forms the core of many of its training modules around marketing and innovation.

More broadly, design has enjoyed something of a renaissance across the FMCG category in recent years, with Lindley asserting that it's increasingly becoming recognised as a significant contributor overall to the marketing mix.

“As media proliferates, and as brands are represented more and more on different channels and in different media, I think as marketers we’re all recognising how powerful visual assets and consistency can be to help the work be recognised and that’s a mix of colour and texture and such like,” he said.

Despite passionately advocating design’s function within the Diageo business, Lindley added that you can’t step away from “the clear and obvious impact that it has on packaging and the bottle, those really clear points that consumers see".

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