The winners of the 2020 DBA Awards showcase the transformative power of visual communications, writes WARC’s Chiara Manco.

The DBA Design Effectiveness Awards recognise the role that design plays in driving business growth, enriching people’s lives and society as a whole. As their website states, the Awards “are not about design, they’re about the difference design makes.”

Organised by the Design Business Association (DBA), the trade association for UK design businesses, the Awards are global, and the 2020 winners are now available to read on WARC. From brands using design to refresh their offering, local companies embarking on a head-to-toe rebrand and newcomers launching on the market, these papers are a showcase of best-in-class visual communication.

Refresh: turning heads and driving business

This year’s winners featured a number of global brands introducing design innovations to drive up intrigue and purchase intent. The Grand Prix winner, stout brand Guinness, showed how a point-of-sale eye-catcher can effectively engage consumers at the crucial decision-making moment. Recognising that its standard fount – the on-bar tap unit – was not standing out among competitors’ on bars’ counters, Guinness created the Hero Harp: a new fount shaped as the brand’s iconic asset.

Complete with golden strings and a white light emanating from its core, the Hero Harp not only caught punters’ eyes, but also conveyed an image of craft and quality, right at the point of purchase. Released across the UK, Ireland and Australia, the fount was adopted by 22,860 outlets – 75% more than the target – and delivered substantial year-on-year sales increases.

Meanwhile in Europe, liqueur brand Baileys looked to appeal to a younger audience and drive sales outside of the Christmas period through a new summer variant, Strawberries & Cream. The bottle’s playful aesthetic borrowed from the confectionery category – positioning the liqueur as an ‘adult treat’ – and was in line with the visual codes of food and drink content on social media, appealing to a millennial audience. As Baileys was working on a limited advertising budget, the full-sleeve design in bright colours also allowed for greater stand-out on supermarket shelves, helping to drive impulse purchase.

Strawberries & Cream became the most successful product innovation for Baileys, delivering 3% of the brand’s total sales. The variant recruited millennial consumers to the Baileys masterbrand and won a Silver at the 2020 DBA Awards.

Reinvent: conveying a new positioning

Among those showing design in action through a rebrand was the Gold-winning UK brand Flawsome!. The brand, which makes juice from unwanted fruit, realised it had to differentiate its positioning as more and more competitors were entering the ‘imperfect’ fruit and veg space. It started by changing its name from Get Wonky, which had inherent negative connotations, to Flawsome!, encouraging people to see the potential in food that would normally be wasted. The no-waste message was carried through the whole relaunch, with bottles made from recycled glass (looking imperfect just like the saved fruit), and all product illustrations created from recycled magazine cut-outs.

As a result, Flawsome! sales increased by 540% and its distributor network grew from six to 17 wholesalers. Beyond business success, the juice brand saved 639.4 tonnes of imperfect produce, contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions equivalent to 737 return flights from London to New York.

Still in the UK, expanding business forced East-London soda brand Dalston's Soda to abandon hand-bottling in favour of cans – a delicate move given the whole brand had been built on the ‘hand-made’ claim. Through a complete redesign, Dalston's shifted the focus from ‘hand made’ to ‘made with real fruit’ across all touchpoints. Recyclable packaging allowed the brand to hold onto its sustainability credentials, while the colourful, street-art-style aesthetic kept it rooted in its East-London origins and preserved the authentic brand personality that resonated with its young and hip consumers.

Dalston's Soda experienced a 100% increase in outlets stocking it, going from 2,000 to 4,000. The success empowered the brand to launch a new product range six months ahead of schedule, and earned it a Silver at the DBA Awards.

Launch: building a brand from the ground up

A brand’s visual identity is its calling card and several DBA winners showed how new-to-market brands launched with impactful propositions. In the UK, a healthy vending machine launched as the celebration of technology with a human touch, starting with its name – Mother – which evoked the human desire to nurture and nourish. Moving away from the traditional health-food aesthetic, the vending machine ditched natural imagery in favour of a slick interface, which users could seamlessly navigate to explore snacks’ nutritional information before purchase.

Three years after launch, Mother now has 83 machines in operation – 22% over its target – and enjoys average annual sales 3.4 times larger than traditional vending machines. The paper won a Gold at the DBA Awards.

Meanwhile, Indian cooperative IFFCO launched on the US market with a brand of pet-food products made from rural buffalo farmers’ unused meat. Surrounded by bigger and more sophisticated competitors, Honey I’m Home compensated for its lack of glamour with a focus on its natural credentials. Packaging featuring bees, honeycomb patterns and a cartoon dog appealed to the environmentally-conscious, and earned the brand a Silver.

Within the first year of launch, Honey I’m Home managed to secure distribution across 36 of the country’s 50 states, and by year two it was present in 45 of them. In the first 10 months, sales were 80% above targets.

How design makes brands

Memorable assets and imagery are essential elements of successful brands: to be chosen, you need to be recognised and remembered. Regardless of brand size, budget and provenance, the 2020 DBA Design Effectiveness Awards winners are a source of inspiration on how to craft or evolve a unique identity.

All winners of the 2020 DBA Design Effectiveness Awards are available to read on WARC.