Thought Leadership

Cereal Killers: Is Responsible Design the Death of Brand?

Could health warnings invade our kitchen tables? Is Tony the Tiger at risk of extinction? And could the need for responsible design signal the death-knell for ‘brand’ as we know it?

Michelle Whelan, Geometry



The cereal category is under threat. And it’s not the only one. Debates are raging on everything from the dangers of too much sugar, salt and alcohol through to challenges of sustainability, recycling and responsible labour. Geometry looked into what this meant for the notion of ‘brand’. Could health warnings invade our kitchen tables? Is Tony the Tiger at risk of extinction? And could the need for responsible design signal the death-knell for ‘brand’ as we know it?

The latest in Geometry’s series of Captivate thought leadership events, and the first for 2019, took a look at the role of design in helping to solve these challenges. Geometry hosted a panel discussion inviting clients to hear the opinions of leaders in this area. The panel, chaired by Chris Ambidge (Head of Brand & Design, Geometry UK) included Jeremy Lindley (Global Design Director, Diageo) and Natasha Delliston (Consultant Brand Planner & Semiotician). A timely debate given McKinsey’s recent report revealing that companies most focused on design, grow by 10%, the first time a number has been put on the impact of design.

Brands are increasingly asking how best to highlight positive information, whether it’s nutritional guidelines, environmental credentials or ethical sourcing. You only have to look at the news to understand why. According to Public Health England, children in the UK exceed the maximum recommended sugar intake for an 18-year old by the time they are just ten years old. Following consumer demand, Kellogg’s UK has recently introduced traffic light labelling on its cereal packs. This is also something that the alcohol industry has been looking into, with Diageo leading the way.

The panel discussion took place at Geometry’s offices in Paddington and was concluded with an informal Q&A with all of the speakers. At the event, Geometry launched an exhibition entitled Cereal Killers, born out of the very same challenge: what if you couldn’t feature Tony the Tiger on packs of Frosties? Ranging from the absurdist to the plausible, Geometry explored how the designs came to life with the creation of their own brand ‘COCO NUTS’, complete with cheeky character Nibbles the Squirrel. The master pack deliberately copied the direct and often naïve design codes of the cereal category, with nine supplementary packs exploring how the brand could evolve.

The breakfast panel was part of a series of events that are put on by Geometry, called Captivate: A New Perspective.


Jeremy Lindley, Global Design Director, Diageo

Natasha Delliston, Consultant Brand Planner & Semiotician

Chris Ambidge, Head of Brand & Design, Geometry UK  

Guest Author

Michelle Whelan, Geometry



Michelle Whelan joined Geometry UK as CEO in May 2017. With innovation at its heart and a full suite offering at the intersection of tech, creativity and life experience, Geometry UK is the flagship agency of WPP's brand activation network, with teams in 56 markets. In her role, Michelle is responsible for the vision and growth of the 250 strong agency. Her ambition is to put data and digital innovation as the heart of the customer journey to truly understand human behaviour and stimulate change that will benefit Geometry's clients.

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Design Branding