Thursday 12 November 2009
Innocent Branding: Lessons in brand building from Innocent’s Creative Director
Perhaps the most laid back speaker that the London Business Forum has ever hosted Dan Germain, the bearded Head of Creative at Innocent, took to the stage at BAFTA to tell the story of a smoothie company called Innocent.
One of the country’s best loved brands, Innocent started making smoothies in 1999 and from selling 24 bottles on the first day now sells over 2 million a week. Germain was at the LBF to share some of the things he had discovered along the way, and to explain that by thinking differently a successful brand can be built from nothing.
The key to running a successful business, explained Germain, is to have a really deep sense of purpose and “making it the centre of everything you do.” He cited the example of a company called Longaberger based in Newark, Ohio. Longaberger make baskets and, just to make it really clear that they love making baskets, their office building is one giant basket, http://www.longaberger.com/ourCompany.aspx.
Making smoothies out of fruit is what Innocent love doing. The ideas are dreamt up at their headquarters, Fruit Towers in west London. “It’s all about knowing your theme” said Germain.
Innocent now have offices in London, Dublin, Paris, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Stockholm and Salzburg but they have never lost sight of their sense of purpose. If that were to ever happen, explained Germain, that would be when he gives up, “You’ve got to keep the company ethos even when you grow.” Of course business is about making money but that shouldn’t be the core purpose. Innocent wanted to make it easy for people to be healthy and to get natural healthy drinks to consumers. This wasn’t just about selling lots of smoothies says Germain, “You do it because you believe it’s important, and because you want to.”
Part of building a successful brand said Germain is ensuring you have a tone. He has always viewed it as essential to employ a writer to ensure that everywhere there is writing, particularly on the back of their packaging, the tone is thoroughly ‘Innocent’. This friendly tone is echoed in their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media outlets.
Social media, suggested Germain, needs to be used creatively. People are bored of obvious sales tactics being used on sites such as Twitter. At Innocent they once blogged about an employee’s new white trainers and the trials and tribulations of avoiding muddy puddles and kicking footballs. “That story” said Germain, “was so much more popular than, ‘Hey, we’ve got a new product on our blog.’”
The most important thing in building a business, concluded Germain, is not being afraid to make mistakes: “We learn all the time, every project that we’ve worked on we’ve screwed up in some way.” In the Q&A he fielded some awkward questions, including one where he was asked if he thought it was appropriate that people perceived Innocent’s drinks as organic. “It doesn’t concern me” replied Germain, “we don’t go about trying to deceive anyone […] I think there’s a bigger job to do before going on to being organic.” This “bigger job” is actually getting people to eat and drink more healthily and get their 5-a-day.
Another question focussed on Innocent’s new veg pots, which it was suggested weren’t selling that well, “It’s the fastest growing part of our business” contested Germain. Germain would also like to see Innocent move into producing more food and “good food.” He feels there are a lot of areas in the food industry that are “being done a disservice.” It seems that Innocent have greater ambitions, so watch this space.