Brand Showcase: innocent

Welcome to the latest edition of Point 6’s Brand Showcase and this time we’re turning our attention to a brand lots of us know and love: innocent. Our admiration for this company extends far beyond our enjoyment of its tasty smoothies and crisp, refreshing juices — it has been absolutely killing it on the branding front for years. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

innocent’s simple and recognisable logo

The Brand

Like all companies, innocent had to start somewhere — and in this case, it was a small music festival in London back in 1998. Founders Rich, Adam and Jon, who’d been at university together, took their smoothie creations and set up stall, ready to tempt festival goers into their fruity refreshments. 

We’re a sucker for simple and effective communications. Next to their festival stall, the innocent crew placed two bins with the message: “Should we give up our jobs to make these smoothies?” The bins we’re marked ‘yes’ and ‘no’. As you can probably guess, the ‘yes’ bin overflowed, giving the founders the push they needed to bite the bullet and commit full time to their new business.

After rapid growth during the noughties, which included buy-in from supermarkets like Waitrose, more ingenious marketing and PR campaigns, and the development of more drink-based delights, innocent was approached by Coca Cola in 2009. After holding an initial 20% stake in the business, the beverage behemoths bought the company in 2013.

Now, in all honesty, we wanted to avoid the big brands in this blog series. And innocent, even before the Coca Cola investment, was definitely a huge player. But we wanted to make an exception here since its branding, copy and design is so, so good. After all, the well-trodden path of small-company-sells-its soul-to-corporate-giant simply doesn’t apply here.

In its own words, innocent says that Coca Cola “lets us get on with it” when acknowledging its investment. And that’s clear to see. We highly recommend you check out the full story of the brand’s growth on the innocent website — it’s predictably well written and entertaining. 

The copy

When thinking about the best bits of innocent, we thought it was imperative to spend a bit of time talking about its tone of voice and general messaging. As branding experts ourselves, we doff our caps — it’s seriously impressive.

The first thing to mention is the stylisation of its name: innocent. Up to this point, you may have been scoffing at the lowercase spelling, but we promise we’ve not forgotten Grammar 101. innocent is styled with a lowercase ‘i’, which really sets the tone for the brand’s overall copy and its propensity to not play by the rules when it comes to messaging.

And now to, in this writer’s humble opinion, the superstar of innocent’s branding: its tone of voice. It’s original, distinctive, impactful. In fact, it’s pretty much become the gold standard for similar brands. Ask any copywriter to name a brand that nails its tone of voice, and I’d wager many would name innocent.

A typical innocent social post. Image from Twitter.

But what’s so great about it? Boiling it down, innocent speaks in the language of its customer. Not an easy feat, given that its drinks aren’t aimed at a specific demographic. You can’t please all of the people, all of the time? innocent gives it a damn good go.

It’s consistent throughout every touch point, too. From the drinks’ bottles to its adverts and its website, it maintains the conversational, easy-going tone, always with a sprinkle of humour but never overstepping the line. Take this from the social media section of its website, for example:

“Give us a follow. We write a lot of nonsense on social media. Some of it’s even about our drinks. Give us a follow and there’s a 32% chance you won’t regret it.”

The beauty of it is you can imagine someone saying it. And not a salesperson, or a board member. It doesn’t come across as the product of a marketing meeting when it almost definitely is. It cuts through the marketing fluff and makes you genuinely smile. Then you scroll to the bottom of the web page and get this message: 

“stop looking at my bottom”

It’s these little, humorous touches that make innocent stand out in a super saturated market and what make it one of our absolute favourite brands.

The Design

The dilemma for any food or drinks producer that sells in supermarkets is making their goods appeal to busy shoppers. Tone of voice only goes so far when someone is quickly browsing the shelves wondering what to pick on their lunch break.

And innocent doesn’t drop the ball when it comes to the design of its bottles and the visual branding of its communications. The logo — a simplified scribble of a face with a halo — is instantly recognisable and relatable. Just as with the tone of voice, it doesn’t feel like it’s the result of hours and hours of sketches, stakeholder meetings and revisions. Its feels like someone has drafted something in five minutes and ran with it.

And if this sounds like a criticism, it’s not supposed to be. It fits with the rest of the branding: care-free, simple, accessible, effective. The font is playful — childish, even — and the other sketches on the website and packaging follow this scribbled style found in the logo.

innocent boasts quite the variety of bold brand colours, often switching it up from pack to pack to reflect the product. The design can be super simple, as is the case with its classic Strawberries & Bananas smoothie, or busier and more captivating in its Just for Kids range, again recognising the need to play to its audience. 

*chef’s kiss* Beautiful stuff all around.

innocent’s ‘the big knit’ initiative. Image from Age UK.

The message

Flawless copy and impactful design aren’t the only things that make a brand truly worth celebrating. Today, the biggest companies have a responsibility to make the world a better place. The cynics among us might call it virtue signalling, or part of a business strategy — but does it really matter, as long as people are actually being helped?

In any case, innocent’s community and charity efforts come across as genuine — another symptom of its spot-on messaging, perhaps? On the sustainability front, the company is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030, and is supporting its farming partners to be more environmentally focused with the goal of sustainably sourcing 100% of its fruit by 2023.

10% of all company profits are donated to charity and it works closely with Age UK to support older people in our communities. Check out ‘the big knit’ project — it’s inspiring stuff.

To date, innocent has donated more than £10million to various charities around the world.

So what does this have to do with Point 6?

We’re mad about branding at Point 6. We like to think of ourselves as experts, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from a company that continues to nail it with pretty much everything it does.

We’re in the process of developing a new website that will better showcase our services and strengthen our key values, and innocent’s tone of voice (I know, I know, we’re obsessed) is a great example of how talking in a distinct and conversational style resonates with people, whether they’re a potential client or someone on the job hunt.

The total consistency and dedication to originality is commendable. If we ever feel like we’re guilty of conforming to the norm, perhaps we should be more innocent.

We hope you enjoyed our latest Brand Showcase. Stay tuned for September’s edition, and in the meantime, learn more about how to choose the right tone of voice for your brand.

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