Every brand needs an ecosystem


The Innocent Village Fete, now every brand will want one. Image courtesy of Martin Isaac.

I had the great pleasure, along with the entirety of the North London Croc wearing classes, of spending Sunday at the Innocent Village Fete in The Regent’s Park.

All the usual stuff applies about how lovely Innocent are (too lovely perhaps?) but what interested me was the brand ecosystem that Innocent is nurturing around themselves. Not least, because I have talked about many of the companies in this ecosystem in the posts on Dynamic Micro Brands.

Image courtsesy of Fimb.
Before we get into understading the workings of the Innocent ecosystem its time to give credit where credit is due.This event, which was Fruitstock (a free festival in Regent’s Park for Innocent acolytes) and is now the Innocent Village Fete (a ticketed event to control numbers) is all Innocent’s own work – an event they have created themselves and from scratch.
None of your ‘ohh look that thing is popular with the kids so lets sponsor it’ nonsense but a complete brand world created for the explicit purposes of consumer immersion and built up over a number of years. Of course Innocent will say ‘hey go easy we are just having some fun and trying to put something back’, which they are but you’d better believe an event like this functions as a brand baptism for the tens of thousands of visitors. Each one emerging from their ‘dunking’ that bit more convinced about the part Innocent seeks to play in their lives.
Of course Innocent is no longer a dynamic micro brand, it ‘owns’ the UK Smoothies category with something like an 80% share and if it can only reach out from the Croc wearers nothing will stand in its way. They are starting to scare the shit out of the UK beverage market big time.
But coming up behind Innocent are a clutch of brands that, though still small,l share a huge number of similarities with Innocent namely authenticity, product performance, a point of view and a stonking brand idea.
They are brands like Little Dish and the like.
They were there not to sell or even to cross sell (a crass practice that I know thatthe CRMers amongst you love) but to oross pollinate a set of values for a group of customers who love their brands to have a position they can buy into. It’s a pretty safe bet that if you like Innocent you are going to like Dorset Cereals and the identity value that it bestows on you.
Incidentally for all that these brands care about the triple bottom line they are not deep conviction brands but, like Innocent, mezzo-ethical. They care too much about ideas, identity and product performance to be hardcore green.
Add into the mix some perennial stalwarts of the Croc wearers repertoire like the Guardian and Dyson for a bit of credibility and authority and you have something I think resembles an ecosystem, each brand being fed and feeding from the others.
And I loved the whole bang shooting match.
But then I would wouldn’t I.

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10 Replies to “Every brand needs an ecosystem”

  1. its funny that the people that are most critical. Are often the biggest advocates of things that are actually really good
    nice post. Upset I missed it

  2. Who, then, would you consider to be an ethical brand?
    I’d be curious to see evidence that having “deep conviction” and ethics causes a business or brand to discard concern for i”deas, identity and product performance.” Where has this happened?

  3. Personally I think you missed the best of the ecosystem brands present and that was for Penguin books.
    I thought their library was a terrific idea/experience. It was just so pleasant sitting on a bean bag, reading The 39 Steps, sipping cider whilst listening to an accoustic set.. almost heavenly.
    Not sure what you thought, but I certainly felt this presented a vision of how a modern day library could behave. All the stuffinness that one associates with many libraries simply vanished, it was a lovely celebration of books.
    Oh and the other great brand presence was (one of your perennial favorites and mine too) Hendricks sublime gin. Admittedly I am slightly biased since they sponsor The Last Tuesday’s Society a haunt of mine, but hey how can refuse free gin?

  4. Great Post
    Have you read the journal article by McAlexander and Shoulten on Brand Communities around Jeep, it sounds exactly like what Innocent is doing.
    I really like this idea of a ecosystem of brands. They set the signs of a sub-culture that the consumers then buy into.
    But in the end who drives sub-culture brands or the consumers. A bit of a chicken or the egg question in my opinion.

  5. Since you are collecting micro-brands, can I suggest a look (if you haven’t had one before) at Terra Plana and their Worn Again range?
    They have popped up time and again for the last few years in the eco-pages of the supplements and then won an Observer award this year. fabulous example of a micro-brand doing something different. http://www.wornagain.co.uk/

  6. Newbizdarkwiz,
    In using the term mezzo-ethical I am merely making the distinction between these brands and more hardcore conviciton brands and businesses. These are run according to strict adherence to an ethical code regardless of the ‘quality’ of the product or the palatability of the brand. Businesses like Innocent put the product first and accomodate ethical concerns as and when they don’t compromise product quality – remember that their kids and litre pack products are in un-recycleable tetrapacks so they all go to landfill.
    Two months before the village Fete the same site hosted the Camden Green Fair – thats when you get the real conviction brands. Riverford Organic Vegetables (who I have also talked about) were there and not at the Innocent Village Fete. Interestingly they are not part of the Innocent ecosystem. They both share customers with each other but not the same set of values.
    Incidentally I saw PJ’s new packaging yesterday – you’d have thought that if you were going head ot head with Innocent you wouldn’t use the same tone of voice on-pack. Or has the Innocent phenomenon meant that that is now the generic tone of voice for contemporary brands – notice the way Barclays have adopted Innocent’s TOV.

  7. Sono nuovo qui,
    voi abbia fresco e nuovo luogo ..
    Ci era un alberino e un autore come a generi corsi barman .
    Per docenti argomento venire fare misura energy finanziare corsi di formazione gratuiti formatori massimizzare!
    E …. Noi bisogno studio relativo risorse circa corsi formazione.
    Supponga, surf male :-(

  8. James…
    Your comment about Innocent’s TOV is spot-on. PJs use it, Barclays use it. Eurotunnel use it. In fact, it is becoming annoyingly everywhere…
    Brands who share practically none of Innocent’s values are trying to adopt a personality through flippant and trite copy, in an attempt to be current, interesting, anything really compared to the dull reality of who they actually are.
    Innocent need to stay true to their entire eco-system. The TOV which was such a strength in the past may become a problem as people like me are increasingly annoyed by its ubiquity.

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