James Thompson
Aug 24, 2016

Design cuts a direct line to the brain

James Thompson discusses one of the few marketing tools that can override rational thought.

James Thompson
James Thompson

Got a few dollars to spare and looking for somewhere to invest? You could do a lot worse than invest in a forward-looking design agency. A necessary disclaimer: my own personal investment decisions are case studies in mis-timing and bad judgement; read on at your peril. 

By rights, there should be a mass migration of talent from traditional advertising agencies to the world of design. No sane person is declaring advertising to be dead, but its role in a marketing mix is certainly diminishing as channels fragment and messages multiply. The role of Agency of Record looks like it is migrating to development and curation of ‘the big idea’ and orchestrating content supporting that idea.

Professor Byron Sharp, at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing at the University of South Australia, argues scientifically that firmly lodging your brand in its audience’s “memory structures” is one of the first jobs of a marketer. One of the shortest routes to the brain is surely the eye. Case studies show how ill-judged design changes create more problems for consumers in terms of simple recognition and brand identification, let alone relevance and appeal. The challenge for design, not just to provide registration and provenance, but also meaning and experience, is one of the most important in modern marketing.

At the How Design Live conference in Atlanta in May, I talked about how design is one of the few marketing tools which has the ability to override rational thought, creating that ‘got to have it’ reaction. In our shifting environment, the two things brand managers know they have to hold onto are the brand’s reputation and great design. 

Invest in a design company now—but, as I said at the outset, beware my advice.

James Thompson is global managing director of Diageo Reserve (Diageo’s luxury portfolio). Follow or tweet him @JamesThompson1

Related Articles

Just Published

2 days ago

Purpose, laughs, and boppable tunes: Spikes jury ...

SPIKES ASIA X CAMPAIGN: Presidents and members of several Spikes Asia juries share the top trends they spotted in the jury Zoom rooms, with video examples.

2 days ago

Crash Course: How to tell engaging short-form stories

To round off a week of creativity-themed content during Spikes Asia X Campaign festival, this Crash Course provides useful tips on how to build story arcs and create thumb-stopping campaigns for short-form.

2 days ago

Lessons from Tesla, Apple and yoga (yes, yoga) in ...

SPIKES ASIA X CAMPAIGN: Creatives need to drive relevance for sustainable options, instead of virtue-signalling about sustainability, argues Gulshan Singh of FCB Interface.

2 days ago

Spikes Asia Awards 2021: Campaign's contenders 3

As the juries make their final selections ahead of the March 1 winners announcement, Campaign Asia-Pacific's editorial team has once again scoured through the 2021 shortlist to pick out the work we expect to win.