Brands I Love: Innocent Drinks

We’ve all got our favourite brands when it comes to consumerism, it can be a preferred cereal, a trusted skincare regime, a much-loved perfume, or anything else you can imagine buying. For each of these there might be different reasons behind your favourites, you might like the company’s profile and corporate ‘personality’, you might associate a scent with someone you love, or maybe you like to relive your childhood by having Frosties each morning.

I’m no different, and I thought I would turn the spotlight on some of mine; one of many being Innocent Smoothies.

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I love the little quirky elements of humour they throw in

First things first: their drinks are YUM. Really, really yum! I will admit they are a bit pricey, but if I’m honest with myself this is part of the appeal they hold for me. As my Dad often likes to tell me, I tend to ‘live beyond my means’ and often opt for the more expensive brands in all areas of life!

A typical newsletter from Innocent

A typical newsletter from Innocent

I’m a big fan of their website, facebook page, and generally the online personality they have created for themselves. I signed up to their newsletter a while ago, and in an inbox inundated with newsletters and promos (I love signing up for these things as a marketing geek), theirs is one I actually make a point to open and read.

They are already quite well known for having one of the ‘coolest’ office spaces in London, and I’ll readily admit I’d love to work there (free smoothies – who wouldn’t?!). You very quickly get a real sense of the company culture at ‘fruit towers’, and by referring to each employee regularly and on a first-name basis you feel far more engaged with them, and it humanises what would otherwise be just another faceless corporation; an approach I find really refreshing and appealing.

Of course I have to mention that a huge part of their company mission is to promote environmental responsibility and sustainability, and this is something we can all relate to. They are probably one of the most ethical companies that I can think of, and it’s inspiring to think how different the world could be if other companies aspired to be more like them.

Promoting sustainability

Promoting sustainability

Ethics in Advertising: The Fall and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Warren Buffet

A&F have been having a hard time of it lately, even if it is admittedly a little well-deserved. But are they just being made an example of?

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It all began last month, when an interview given to Salon magazine in 2006 with their CEO Mike Jeffries resurfaced on the internet. In the space of a couple of sentences, Jeffries managed to create a PR disaster with his comments about who their products are aimed at.

“Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

In this interview, he’s not just publicly acknowledging the hierarchy of beauty in society, but is admitting to actively aiming A&F products at the supposed beauty elite, encouraging the exclusion of anybody who is deemed to be not attractive enough.

What makes this approach so particularly repulsive however, is that they are targeting teenagers. We would all agree from experience that your teen years can already be incredibly awkward and painful, filled with issues about your self-esteem.

It didn’t take long for his comments to go viral, sending the internet into an uproar and kick-starting a stream of reactions, from the hypocrisy of Jeffries’ statement to all-out consumer activism, led by counter-campaigns like #FitchtheHomeless.

Blogger 'The Militant Baker' addresses the CEO directly with her own ad campaign

Blogger ‘The Militant Baker’ addresses the CEO directly with her own ad campaign

The internet responds to Jeffries' comments... (image source: buzzfeed)

The internet responds to Jeffries’ comments… (image source: buzzfeed)

#FitchtheHomeless  (image source: evansville.com)

#FitchtheHomeless (image source: evansville.com)

Despite their mistakes, I don’t believe A&F are any different from their competitor and numerous other retail giants. They’ve simply been caught off-guard and unfortunately for them, have become a scapegoat for what is an ever-present problem in the fashion industry as a whole. Other stores may not come out and say so, but if you think about the brand image associated with similar stores I’d bet you’d find the exact same target audience and exclusionary attitude.

Ethics in Advertising: Twitter

Nope, that’s not intentionally an oxymoron, although it can be easily mistaken for one.

There a number of subjects that can fall under this title, none more so than social media. Marketing and advertising are often at the forefront of boundary-pushing when it comes to challenging what society deems acceptable, and this has only become more common in recent years thanks to the emergence of social media and the power of the hashtag.

#fail: When Twitter Goes Wrong

There are plenty of examples of ‘hashtags fails’, and most of the time they can end up becoming a funny spoof version of the intended response. One example of this is Waitrose, who last year launched the trend #ishopatwaitrosebecause. Instead of comments about their ethical ranges and organic meat, the majority of tweets went along the lines of this…

#ishopatwaitrosebecause nowhere else can I hear the sentence ‘Orlando, put the papaya down!’

#ishopatwaitrosebecause Clarissa’s pony simply refuses to eat ASDA value straw

#ishopatwaitrosebecause buying food amongst the commonfolk tends to ruin one’s appetite

Sometimes however, the backlash can be a little more serious. Twitter has become a very powerful source for breaking news, and incidents such as the shooting of several film-goers in Aurora, Colo., during a Batman screening begin trending within minutes. Fashion retailer CelebBoutique jumped on the bandwagon with a spectacularly inappropriate tweet:

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CelebBoutique’s ill-advised tweet following the shootings in the USA

Their PR people quickly removed said tweet after being inundated with angry comments, and claimed that they were totally unaware of the shooting at the time of posting. There have, however, been other cases where hopping onto a trend with a bad taste tweet has been intentional, such as when President’s Choice (a Canadian supermarket) promoted their Halloween range using Hurricane Sandy:

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President’s Choice taking advantage of the Hurricane Sandy trend

Another more recent example is the Boston bombings, where this unwise tweeter decided to promote a golf tournament:

marketing  advertising  ethics ads waitrose twitter blog tweet golf boston bostonmarathon bostonbombing

If we look at other channels used by companies worldwide to promote their products, we would quickly discover that they have several methods in place to check and double check everything that gets sent out to ensure it stays within the brand’s guidelines. When it comes to Twitter however, and social media in general, there often doesn’t seem to be much, if any, control over what is being sent out. An intern or inexperienced assistant at a huge global company can within minutes gain access to a corporate account and become responsible for that brand’s image on what is arguably the most powerful marketing channel available.

Should there be stricter controls put in place? You wouldn’t see a TV ad that uses a tragedy to their advantage, so why should Twitter be any different?

Inner vs. outer (and no, I’m not referring to belly buttons)

It’s the age-old debate; inner vs. outer beauty. What matters more? We would all love to be idealistic and say inner I’m sure, but I think if we are truly honest with ourselves we would have to admit that outer is equally (if not more) important to us. Why is this?

There is a billion pound industry devoted to our appearance, and it’s going stronger than ever. In recent years there has been plenty of controversy about the impossible standards set by these companies, and it continues to drive a bigger and bigger wedge between our actual appearance and our perceptions of beauty. These companies have a lot to answer for.

There is however, at least one company who seems to be doing things differently. Dove’s ‘campaign for real beauty’ has been going for a while now, and they have already garnered plenty of praise. I don’t doubt they are reaping the benefits, but – like all truly great marketing – in these ads they are selling their products without the audience ever realising they are being sold to.

Their latest ad, courtesy of Ogilvy Brazil, is incredibly insightful and will speak to every woman who watches it. They have hired a highly-trained criminal sketch artist and asked several women to describe themselves to him. The artist then asks total strangers to describe these same women, and the differences between the two images are startling.

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Watching these women’s reactions unsurprisingly forces us to examine our own self-image, and to wonder what we are basing this on.

Is this what marketing should aspire to be? Should social and moral responsibilities be just as important as the product being marketed?

They’re not just increasing their profit margins here, they are promoting positive images with a strong message about what beauty really is, and effectively they’re attempting to bring our perceptions and realities closer together. Ultimately, it’s about boosting our self-esteem. Considering the disturbing rate at which the number of reported bulimia and anorexia cases (as well as similar illnesses) has been rising, this cannot be a bad thing.

After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – not in the pages of a glossy photoshopped magazine.

How do you market to marketers?

As marketers, we would probably all agree that after both studying and learning on the job for a few years, we each will have developed a few sure-fire tricks and techniques to help us edge up those stats, and to tailor our messages to our target audience.

But what happens when your target audience is comprised entirely of fellow marketers?

After just a few short years in this business I already feel I can figure out a company’s marketing strategy and any little tricks they’ve decided to use to achieve it, whether this be email personalisation/trending developments such as video, enticing keywords, how they use social media to establish a brand’s personality, a viral video etc. It’s gotten to the point that I have signed up to so many different mailing lists just to examine their email designs, that I actually ignore what they are selling to me.

It’s easy to become immune to the practices we use ourselves. So should we ‘up our game’ and try to lure and impress our peers with something shiny and new, or abandon this and go for a simple approach of sticking to the basics?

I would lean towards the latter approach personally, and think there are a few key points that would be important to stick to in order to impress a tough crowd like us…

  1. Keeping it simple Let’s not waste time on any kind of ‘pitch’, or trying to make something appear flashy and exciting; any marketer worth their salt is going to see right through this in 3 seconds flat. This applies to any ‘buzzwords’ in the copy you’re a fan of using as well as the visual elements of the channel you are using.
  2. Tailoring the message I think the key point here is to go straight to the core benefits of what you are selling. “You want this; here’s why and how it can help you.” Short and sweet is likely to be the most successful approach because you are probably only going to have a timeframe of up to 10 seconds to grab their attention. No gimmicks, no long intros.
  3. Using testimonials This is probably one of the few tools that may be appropriate to use. Most of us would agree that testimonials can be a powerful way to enhance your message; you only need to look at the power of review sites like tripadvisor to know the clout it can have. A couple of honest and glowing reports from an industry peer I respect would certainly make me pay more attention to the product, and to explore how it could benefit me.
  4. Choosing the right channel In this situation, you are in the unique position of genuinely knowing your target audience; because you are one of them. It will go without saying that the majority of marketers are going to be present and quite active on a range of social media sites, so take the time to think about exactly who you want to reach (assistants, CMOs, heads of marketing and so on) and pick the most appropriate channel to reach them. For example, some of these people are going to be using Twitter a lot, whereas someone more senior may have developed a following on LinkedIn and will participate regularly in group discussions there.
  5. Quality over quantity is the golden rule If any one of your potential customers catch even a whiff of spam or rambling copy, they will probably head swiftly to the ‘delete’ button followed by a short trip to the unsubscribe/unfollow; and while this is true for any audience, the key difference with marketers is that it’s going to have what I refer to as the ‘elephant effect’: they will never forget. We are trained to pay more attention and once a brand gets into our bad books, they are likely to stay there.

A great example of marketing to marketers are hubspot; a fantastic online resource for marketers. They frequently publish relevant and useful tips as well as free, downloadable guides.  I signed up to them a while ago and have noticed they stick a straightforward style. An email will arrive and be titled accurately to reflect what they are sending you; ‘[category] what you can get for free’. For e.g. ‘[Tool kit] Creating Visual Content’.

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A typical email from hubspot

The email itself is uncomplicated with an overtly clear call to action, usually accompanied with a couple of key highlights from the download and social media sharing options… and that’s it! It’s a great model that I believe is just as applicable to a paid product as a free one.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? I’d be interested to see if anyone has any examples, good or bad.