Though you may not know of them as Diageo, you certainly know of them by other names. The people behind Guinness, Baileys and Captain Morgan’s are taking strategic moves to use the principles of design at the forefront of their marketing campaigns.

 You may be thinking “well, duh.” It is of course common knowledge that when it comes to selling a product – especially a product that is most often sat among its competitors on a shelf, the packaging powerfully sways consumer purchase decisions.

What must be remembered is that this company produces three of the most famous drinks in the world. Is St Patrick’s Day even St Patrick’s Day anymore? Or do we all just silently register it as International Guinness Day? Can you think of another drink so strongly associated with an entire nation of people? Before you start: no, the relationship between Australia and Fosters doesn’t even come close.

Similarly, when and where do you think of Baileys? Do you like Baileys? Don’t lie to yourself. Nobody likes Baileys. And yet, I guarantee you had some this Christmas. Is there a festive house in the United Kingdom that doesn’t stock up on Baileys like the rapture is coming October through January? Despite the fact that year on year, nobody drinks it until they have completely bled the house dry of anything else?

Finally, the comeback of Captain Morgan’s was sudden and silent. It was like Captain Morgan himself had blown a dog whistle that only the cool youth could hear. Suddenly, nightclubs and their £1 shots were completely passé and the only bars worth attending were the ones with dark rum. Captain Morgan’s is currently the #3 highest selling spirit and the #1 highest selling rum on the market:

“The mischievous appeal to this brand is primarily due to the Captain’s portrayal on the label. The label shows the Captain standing in a buccaneer pose, with one foot resting on top of the barrel. His sword is on the ground and he has a grin on his face, suggesting that he is up to no good. Updated in 2010, the Captain now has a more rugged and authentic look.” Much like most of Britain’s trendy unshaven 20-30 year olds, no?

The point is, these people know what they’re doing. So, for them to turn around and state that they’re undertaking a “significant body of work” to understand how drastically watermarks and logos affect consumer purchase decisions, means that they’re probably onto something.

The digital revolution placed designers on a seesaw. On one hand, there are a million more channels to design for, with a much larger volume of content required. On the other: clients can sometimes overlook the importance of design in favour of the nouveau and viral prestige that social media and content marketing campaigns offer.

“Something that we have particularly developed over the past year is understanding more and more the impact that visual recognition has,” says Jeremy Lindley, Diageo’s global design director. “We discovered more about the way the human brain works and how we recognise something visually. Visual assets, which include word marks, 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.”

While design has always been fundamental, when it comes to a campaign, there always seems to be something else in the driving seat. In the Mad Men days, copy was the driving force of marketing. In the 80’s, it was video advertising. In the 00’s, it was digital. With design now being the top exported service in the UK, is design finally having its day? Its moment?

Lindley seems to think so: “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 recognizing 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.”