Guilty until proven Innocent

At a talk last week on â??Creative Fearâ?? by Jonathon Ford of London Agency â??Pearlfisherâ??, I had the crushing misfortune to sit through my seventh rendition of the â??how Innocent drinks startedâ?? story. I would give you a synopsis of the story here in case you havenâ??t heard it, but for the fact that there are only seven people in the country who donâ??t know it and they all live in caves (with no Wi-Fi access). I would urge those in charge at Fruit Towers to make up a new story, if only to save the sanity of those of us who are subjected to it on (what now feels like) a daily basis.

It seems that â??Innocentâ?? are now the most frequently referenced brand success story from which we can learn. As a result weâ??ve seen an explosion of copycat design styles, though most of the imitators are missing a vital point. Success will come from learning from Innocents approach, not from copying their â??outcomesâ??. By outcomes I mean their design style, their tone of voice, their copy style – which is where most of the dumb copiers seem to be looking.

How did they appproach the issue of their brand? Well to me it would seem they didnâ??t. At least not at first. Of course all the guys starting the company are savvy and from a marketing and media background, but Richard Reid, one of the company founders, insists that from the outset they have been keen to â??keep the main thing the main thingâ??. For them this meant making a great drink which was better than anything else on the market. Their packaging, tone of voice, and everything that communicated about Innocent seems to flow from this very simple idea, not as a bolt-on or seperately pre-conceived marketing strategy.

So what can we learn from this? In many ways the brand, currently seen as their strongest card, could become their downfall if it becomes something in its own right. Why? Because it then becomes a driver in the company and successful organisations need to be driven by what they do. Of course communication is important, but if it doesn’t flow from something substantial of genuine significance then that’s where companies ‘brands’ fall apart – (not in the incorrect placement of a logo or incorrectly reproduced pantone). If Innocent want to be smart about how they progress from here, they should employ designers to think about shaping what the company does, not just how it communicates or what it’s bottles look like.

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