The natural natural predisposition to things that feel human has been leveraged by designers on everything from Henry vacuum cleaners to Bonne Maman jam.

Procter & Gamble recently hit the headlines when it revealed plans to cull non-core brands and concentrate on ‘the consumer’. “We have to nail it with the brand promise,” CEO Alan Lafley said at the time. 

Many of us will think of communications as a way to deliver that brand promise, either in the traditional ‘tell’ way of the mass advertiser or the more contemporary way of being part of conversations with consumers. Indeed, P&G’s Always ‘Like a Girl’ campaign sparked a multitude of conversations.

But through harnessing creativity in subtler, more seductive ways, design too can play a role - particularly when strategic rigour, design flair and an understanding of how our brains decode the world are combined to take design beyond signposting.

‘Thin slicing’ - the ability for us to take huge amounts of meaning from even the subtlest point - means the devil really is in the detail. If you consciously design equity-building codes into your packaging, consumers will take them out, even if they don’t consciously realise it. This can be anything from sensuous curves in a structure to experiential cues in layered graphics.

It pays to be aware of the visual impact of cultural trends, for the brain learns by association. So if we want to associate ourselves with a particular cultural trend, building in visual cues connected to it will pay dividends. This might be anything from the world of fitness that Waitrose’s Love Life range leveraged for its take on healthy eating, to the machine and enamel badge cues that elicited the world of the barista and propelled Nescafé’s Azera to number one in the ‘micro-ground’ coffee segment.

And understanding we have a natural predisposition to things that feel human, even inferring personality from anything with human qualities, can also pay dividends. This has been leveraged by designers on everything from Henry vacuum cleaners to Bonne Maman jam.

In fact, by leveraging simple seductive touches as well as to goal orientation theory, design can be a subtle, yet powerful way to connect with the very minds P&G is looking to cement its brand promises in.

John Clark is planning director at Coley Porter Bell