Why we love Innocent

Image courtsesy of Fimb.

The marketing community are often accused of being rather over enthusiastic about Innocent – harbouring feelings about it that aren’t perhaps shared by the wider world. Indeed you would have been hard pressed to find people out side the North London media community at this summer’s Innocent Village Fete, I even spotted James Murdoch there.

In a recent survey by Marketing Week magazine in the UK it was voted the company British marketers would most like to work for beating Google into second place (admittedly this was when the Virgin brand was broken into individual businesses).
But it’s not the general loveliness of the brand, the bottles with knitted wooly hats, it’s quirky (some would say cloying) tone of voice or the vans covered with astroturf that make us love it so much.
Its because it is such a shining example of the value of a brand to a business.
Recent data (again quoted in Marketing Week) shows that Innocent’s share of the UK Smoothie market, which itself is now valued at £185m and accounts for 19% of the broader chilled juice category, has now reached 72% – up from 63% this time last year.
This near monopoly has been built in a category with a plethora of competitors and in which own label should be powerful (it dominates the rest of the chilled juice market after all).
And to underscore the power of the Innocent brand they have seen their closet rival PJ’s Smoothies slump to a 13% share from 19% this time last year. Infact it is easy to argue that the only thing that will save PJ’s from being de-listed altogether is retailers wanting some kind of action on the Smoothie Fixture rather than giving up and letting Innocent have it all (which incidentally is what seems to have happened in Co-operative stores, complete with astroturf covered chillers).
And wait for it ladies and gentlemen, all of this has been achieved with a whopping price premium. a quick check on Ocado shows that in late November Innocent is selling a litre of Strawberry and Bannana Smoothie for £3.12 while PJ can only justify charging £2.79. That is a premium of 33p per litre.
And why? Innocent have reached the nirvana of all brands – the point at which sufficient numbers of consumers refuse to substitute one product for another even though they are doing themselves financial harm in behaving like this.
At the moment there is no better example of the power of a brand to build a business (with the sole exception of the Ipod of course). So you need to forgive us for our fawning.
You might be interested in this presentation on the subject that I did a while ago – the examples are a little out of date but the main thrust is still relevant.

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17 Replies to “Why we love Innocent”

  1. James Dyson stealing Hoover’s lunch is a wonderful image. Good point also.
    I think people in the industry want Innocent to succeed. There is a desire to see something that even the most cynical of marketers is backing do well in the wider market.
    But. For all the overhyping, Innocent have proven that distinct branding can work, that emotional interaction with customers can work, and that even in a media savvy digital age – personality and community can work.

  2. I must say I find it bizarre that you managed to write this paean to Innocent’s brand without even considering that they might simply have a better product than their competitors. I’m not sure if this is the case or not, but I would have thought that’s where you’d start. Similarly, and even more clearly, James Dyson stole Hoover’s lunch because it had a superior product. This is also true of the iPod. In all these cases the product was quite simply better than what was on offer. The brand helped to frame and enhance the consumer offer, but its role was secondary.
    And if anyone is thinking of writing something along the lines of ‘Yeah, but the product is, like, just an expression of brand values…’ please, please don’t bother.

  3. Absolutely Sir Winston. Part of their success is making the most of that better product.
    Dyson literally blew Hoover’s products out the water. DC01 was literally a country mile better.
    But as we know from Betamax, Minidisc, etc; a better product alone is not enough.

  4. Careful with the use of ‘literally’, Rob.
    The examples you mention (betamax, minidisc) weren’t won or lost on branding either. Again, it was all about the product, and in those cases, the setting of common technological standards.
    If Richard’s point was simply that a better product is often not enough – it helps to have a great brand – then he would be making a small point, and I wouldn’t have anything to disagree with. But I fear his claims are somewhat more grandiose, and more misleading, than that.

  5. To compare the relative pricing of Innocent and PJs is, to excuse the pun, to compare apples with pears.
    Innocent smoothies are made 100% from crushed whole fruits and purées (a product benefit that Innocent rightly make much of). PJ smoothies, on the other hand, contain juice from concentrate (which will have been reconstituted with a fair amount of water).
    Innocent therefore have a far superior product and can and should command a higher premium. So I’m not sure you can argue that their success can be wholly attributed to the power of the brand.
    What Innocent have is a fantastic product range, cleverly packaged (clearly differentiating them from their main rival, PJs with the “Never, ever, ever from concentrate” labeling) and a rich narrative that communicates the underlying company philosophy.
    So did the brand build the business? Or has a great company (values, mission, strategy) with a great product build a great brand?

  6. Actually Betamax lost because it was more expensive and therefore less available.
    Also, I wasnt referring to them as branding winners or losers; merely that they prove product alone is not enough.
    The overall point is certainly bigger than that, I was responding to your point initially that implied product quality was not a factor in Richards thinking: “”I must say I find it bizarre that you managed to write this paean to Innocent’s brand without even considering that they might simply have a better product than their competitors.””
    Fair point on the literally! Wrote it quickly on my lunch break :D

  7. Bloody hell,
    Where do I start?
    You cannot separate a brand from the product, packaging or “a rich narrative that communicates the underlying company philosophy”. A brand is the sum of all the associates about a business that exist inside people’s minds and as such is the product of all of these.
    Innocent may have a superior product but I doubt that most people would consider it a far superior product – its a smoothie same as the other smoothies. Made from concentrate of not I suspect is not enought to justify the premium. Similarly if PJs started to use squeezed juice I somehow doubt that would save them.
    It is utterly essential that products perform these days. Poor products can no longer be helped by marketing communications papering over the cracks. Every product that I hold dear performs. Whether it is superior to the competition is a moot point. Dyson’s success is built on a fundamentally unique product but the Ipod and Innocent’s is not. However the point I am making in that pres Winston is that robust brands can’t protect lucklustre products – Hoover’s brand (by which, as I have explained, I mean the collective associations about Hoover that exist in people’s minds) was in reasonable health before Dyson got into lunch eating mode.

  8. ‘You cannot separate a brand from the product, packaging or “a rich narrative that communicates the underlying company philosophy”‘
    You can’t? But you do it, we all do it, all the time. You do it in the very post from which the above quote is pulled. At least that’s the only way it makes sense (otherwise – if we’re to take the all-embracing definition of ‘brand’ you propose above – all you’re saying is ‘Innocent’s success is based on its product, packaging, branding, and corporate philosophy’ in which case, well, duh).
    The thing is, if we mash together several formerly distinct and quite useful concepts (product/packaging/brand) into one Plannery Smoothie then it’s meaningless to make claims for the individual ingredients.
    If however, you want to consider the value of one of those ingredients (as I understood you to be doing in your post), then you need to consider its value relative to the others. And I was suggesting that ‘product’ is as or more important than ‘brand’ in the examples you cite.

  9. Nope sorry, re-read the post and can’t find this separation of brand from the components that make up the brand in people’s minds. It is exactly the “plannery smoothie” that creates the rich set of associations that exist for potent brands.

  10. Well OK Richard, but in that case the point of your post appears to be: ‘Innocent is a shining example of the value of product and packaging and branding and corporate philosophy to a business’. And I’m not sure that’s a point worth making is it? After all, what else could Innocent’s success be attributed to? You’ve pretty much covered all the bases…!

  11. what ON EARTH are you doing??
    wht are you saying?
    Exactly WHAT is the point of this blog, of any of these ridiculous arse-licking plogging sites? Huh?
    I read this post earlier. Earlier, when you had a go at Innocent, when you said something DIFFERENT to all the shit that everyone else talks all the time. when you actually CAME OUT and DISAGREED with the status quo.
    I am so bored of all you tossers wanking each other off over the blogosphere.
    You are DULL.
    And here I was thinking someone might actually come out and say something different – I am DISAPPOINTED IN YOU.
    blah blah blah blah blah. shall i start my own blog? planner blah. BOLLOCKS TO YOU!! ALL OF YOU!!!!
    have a bit of faith in yourself and your opinions, for heavensake. we’re all BORED of reading the same old crap. You were the 1st person in ages to go there – STOP censoring yourself!
    oh, and PS, where did the rigour go? what about backing any of it up? minor point, you probably all say. BOLLOCKS. get back to your fucking desk jobs. wankers, all of you. I am DISGUSTED.

  12. were you actually pressured somehow into changing/modifying your previous post? THAT I find really scary. What’s going on?

  13. OK. You can all get technical and plannery on my arse when you’re talking about brands but I’m not going to let you get away with talking bollocks when it comes to food…
    Ceri avers “Innocent smoothies are made 100% from crushed whole fruits and purées (a product benefit that Innocent rightly make much of). PJ smoothies, on the other hand, contain juice from concentrate (which will have been reconstituted with a fair amount of water).
    A ‘concentrate’ is a fruit juice that’s had some of the water driven off for better storage or more economical transport. Any additive, particularly sugar, would need to be declared.
    If Innocent squeeze their juice from blindingly fresh fruit where they bottle it there is a case for arguing less degradation between fruit and bottle. If they use juices shipped from anywhere else it makes no difference whether they’re concentrates or not unless you consider they’re being idiotic for using all that extra fuel to ship all that water from North Africa along with their apricot pulp.
    If there’s mango in a smoothie bottle either the fruit, the juice or the concentrate were brought half way round the world. The point at which it was extracted makes minimal difference to the end product. If anything one could argue that mango juice extracted and stabilised within yards and minutes of the tree is likely to be better than juice squeezed from mangoes carted round the globe and, if someone’s bright enough to extract the water to lighten the carbon load, hurrah for them.

  14. Interested in the capital’I’sation of innocent. In both senses.
    You spell it ‘Innocent’. Not ‘innocent’.
    And, when/if/whether innocent will sell out/sell up. They have never said they never would, the three amigos. Would that make it a better brand, building even better business?

  15. I can see it going both ways – going public to fund international expansion and selling (perhaps only partly) to a multinational.
    And what’s wrong with either I believe businesses like this have the power to change the way bigger businesses operates and big business, if it has any sense, will want to do little more than fund even greater success.

  16. Agree with you and for that reason, very interesting to monitor innocent’s (trial) tie-up with McDonald’s to sell kids’ smoothies in some McDs in north east.
    BTW congrats on S&S apptmt and when are you starting and what is that going to do to available hours on adliterate?

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