05 An Afternoon at the D&AD Festival

By Alex Blyth, Editorial Director

Where are the most exciting opportunities for designers in the months and years ahead? You could make a pretty strong case for:

  1. Creating brands in the nascent cannabis market
  2. Helping brands connect with consumers on ever evolving social media.

Ok, number two isn’t exactly new. It’s been one of the major opportunities for designers for years. But as reach and engagement by both consumers and brands continues to grow so does the need for designers and their creative solutions.

Number one is the major new market of the moment. With cannabis now legal in 50 countries, today’s $24bn market is set to grow to $63bn in 2024. The commercial opportunity is vast and the winners here will be those who successfully connect with consumers through brand and packaging design.

And on a warm sunny May afternoon over a couple of sessions in a corner of this year’s D&AD Festival in London’s Brick Lane, you could find some of the world’s experts talking through exactly those topics.

Designing cannabis brands is an interesting challenge. As the creatives, Stephan Roux of It’sNotRocketScience London and Rohan Bayat of Blackhat Creatives, pointed out you’re severely restricted on what you can say, as well as how and where you can say it. They agreed, though, that these rules actually spur creativity – “It’s like the bad old day of the Eighties where there’s so little you’re allowed to do you have to get genuinely creative”.

Dimitri Freeman, Co-Founder of Freeman International, talked of the stories he’s using to connect people to his products. The brand was named in memory of his great-great-grandfather, the Jamaican native who was freed. He talks of his product’s provenance and quality, and of how his hemp farming is healing the damage done to the land by industrial farming. What’s more, as a carbon offset project, plating hemp achieves in 12 weeks what a forest would take two years to achieve.

There are stories to tell and with the help of designers like Roux and Bayat, businesses like Freeman are starting to tell them.

The following session was equally fascinating. ‘Creativity beyond the grid’ – The Brighter Side to Influencer Marketing, led by Head of Creator Solutions at Whaler, Jo Burford.

Burford took us through the ever changing world of social media and how to create successful partnerships between brands and social media audiences. As consumer desire changes and platforms update, we learnt how important it is to stay ahead of the trends rather than following them blindly. Key takeaways included:

– Your Feed is to tell people what you’re about, your Stories are to show them why that matters to you, and IGTV is where you turn fans into super-fans

– Gen Z (and therefore a growing number of brands) are more interested in nano-influencers (2-10k followers) who are engaged with a community than they are in micro-influencers (10-100k followers) who only issue messages

– You should be looking for an engagement rate of around 10%; that percentage matters far more than the number of followers you have

– The term “influencer” is a dirty word both among influencers themselves (who prefer to be called “creators”) and at IG HQ, where apparently they never use the term

– People broadly agree that it’s probably time to call time on the public Like button; Instagram’s testing of its removal has been controversial but today’s panel and audience seemed generally to accept that it has a detrimental effect on the well-being of people in general and young people in particular

Those were only two sessions in another outstanding D&AD Festival. Every year we leave invigorated by its unique blend of outstanding work, intriguing ideas, and brilliant, lovely people. Thanks D&A


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