01 April 2021

Design as a powerful asset in the fight for relevance

Design is one of the most powerful assets in a marketeer’s arsenal in the ongoing fight for relevance. It is a touchpoint that every single customer and potential customer interacts with in some way.

It can help us in multiple ways but we like to think of it as essential to:

  • Being seen and standing out in a sea of sameness (improving mental and physical availability)
  • Being memorable (through amplifying and creating brand distinctive assets)
  • Being explicit (or even better implicit! J) about what we are (functionally) and why anyone should care (emotional)

And we don’t just mean dramatic wild re-designs… Even subtle changes to design with some careful fine tuning and craft can really move the brand dial on relevance.

So as a topic very close to our hearts, we wanted to share the four most common ‘relevance’ related questions we get asked to tackle in our design briefs.


1. Brief challenge: The market has moved on around us so we look boring, staid and old fashioned

Many of our briefs often follow on from research that a brand looks old-fashioned and boring in a category that has evoled and moved on around it. Think gluten-free ten years ago (that looked more like a pharmacy) versus where it is now. The shifts are not always apparent year-to-year but over two to four years, there is often a big change.

Case study: Webbox Naturals’ range of vet approved food and treats are made with 100% real natural ingredients, but its packaging didn’t reflect this best in class status. Its branding was getting lost on shelf and didn’t appeal to the more image conscious pet parent.

We undertook semiotics on the naturals pet market that showed the move from residual and dominant codes around the countryside and brown/beige, to more emergent codes of natural borrowed from the ‘human’ world where vibrancy, bold and brightness dominate.

Our new design says natural loudly and proudly, with a new natural iconic asset and vibrant colour palette that shouts to be bought on shelf. It also injects a bit of playfulness and fun into the category to reflect the treasured relationship between the pets and their owners.

Webbox Naturals before and after

Webbox Naturals - before and after

2. Brief challenge: We need to show our relevance and defend our higher price next to similar own label competitors

Brands increasingly need to elevate their design to really push out against their biggest competitor which, in many categories, is own label. And nowadays, own label products are brands in their own right, with their own equity, so this is not always an easy task.

Case study: Napolina is a household name. A comprehensive range spanning a number of ambient categories makes it THE Italian brand for many, but it was being squeezed by own label - seen by consumers as purely an ingredients brand. Our role was to elevate the brand and clearly show why it was worth paying more for against a new brand platform of ‘for the love of Italian food’.

Inspired by a cultural truth connected to Italians and their ability to effortlessly put together a handful of the finest ingredients with love and flare, our final creative direction reflected this with a clean elegant design that looks effortlessly premium.

Against its distinctive black backdrop, proud and confident photography heroes the quality of the ingredients. The Napolina crest and Italian flag provide clear markers of authenticity, and small developments to the brand mark aid legibility, build brand equity and reinforce its positioning.

Napolina can range

Napolina tinned tomato range

3. Brief challenge: How do we convince new people to see the brand differently whilst retaining our existing users

The holy grail of marketing. Move the brand in a different direction to appeal to new potential buyers, while retaining consumers who have been using the brand for years against a particular need.

Case study: Symington’s asked us to reposition the Mug Shot brand from a ‘better for you’ low calorie snack heavily bought by the Slimming World community, to a deliciously satisfying mugful for every day snackers.

We knew Mug Shot had to quickly communicate enjoyment and that real emotional satisfaction of comfort and warmth through design, so we created a bold aroma device to capture that moment. It also unites the brand mark and food photography, which was switched to a top-down perspective to highlight the food and flavour credentials that consumers are looking for.

Finally we retained core health claims on pack, which was important to reassure existing buyers that the product was not changing, but made them more recessive to allow the photography to shine.

The full range of Mug Shot products

4. Brief challenge: Help, we’re misunderstood by consumers. We need to tell our product story better through design.

There is often a misconception about brands that is deeply rooted in historical brand perceptions which, despite efforts through communications, is hard to shift.

Case study: Crisp ‘n Dry is the UK’s number one cooking oil brand. Research showed it had a strong association with deep fat frying and subsequently was seen as low quality – certainly in comparison to other edible oils such as olive, coconut and sunflower oil.However, the product is actually 100% rapeseed oil (from the yellow flowers with which British fields are adorned) so it had a really strong product truth to shout about.

Our new visual brand identity, with the addition of a tractor ploughing the rapeseed fields and flowers circling the name, brought the 100% rapeseed, and more natural, message up front and centre. As the brands #1 distinctive asset, we retained the colour red but introduced pops of white and yellow, and more iconic product photography to really hero the amazing food it helps to create.

Crisp 'n Dry - before and after

So, driving relevance in packaging briefs can come in many forms, but it is possible to achieve without having to completely reinvent your brand or throw out your existing positioning. Often it just needs some fine tuning, a clear insight or focus area and, critically, a dose of creative flair and imagination.

Our five considerations for impactful design that drives brand relevance would therefore be:

  1. Standing out in a sea of sameness is critical. Disruption is a great word for this but meaningful disruption works better than disruption for disruption’s sake.
  2. Use semiotics to help understand what the design codes are within your category (and outside of your category) and how they are evolving so you are prepared to be relevant in the future.
  3. Find your core product or brand truth, then really focus on bringing this to the fore. Less is more when it comes to claims.
  4. Treat your distinctive brand assets like precious gems – understand them, then nurture and amplify them further. Don’t let anyone take them away!  
  5. In the pursuit of the new (new consumers to target, new trends to follow), don’t forget about your brand buyers and what is important to them.


If you’re currently facing a brand challenge, then please get in touch at We’d love to help you win your fight for relevance.

Tessa Hill