Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Brand spanking...

I always like to put a bit of thought behind my post titles, but this one just made me smile in a naughty kind of way! Tonight, I shall mainly be blogging about... you guessed it... brands and I shall be very gentle and cuddly with them - no spanking or smacking up - the title was purely artistic licence!

This post is specifically a reaction from a rather delicious little book wot I read by those lovely chaps at Innocent. If you are unfortunate enough to be reading this blog and living in a country where you can't enjoy the world's tastiest smoothies (and thickies), then book a ticket to Europe post haste and head to the nearest food emporium. My current favourite tipple is a pomegranate, blueberry and acai superfood smoothie - rarely is anything so tasty this good for you, so make the most of it!

I won't blather on about the book because frankly if you are interested in the company then you should definitely read it. As business books go, it's about as easy and entertaining a read as you're ever going to get and, if nothing else, is guaranteed to send you out in search of the nearest smoothie before you get half way through. (Yes, I did actually make a trip to Tesco yesterday JUST to buy a carton of my fave - and ended up spending an additional £23 on various other things that just hopped in the basket, but that's another story!).

Finally we get to the point. The power of brands. One of the first words my son learnt to read was a brand name. "That's Carlsberg" he yelled from the back of the car as a lorry drove past. Before anyone reaches for the phone number of social services, the reason he was quite so familiar with a beer brand was because I worked for them at the time - we consequently had lots of branded items around the house of a non-alcoholic nature (as well as a few cans of lager) - shirts, magazines, glasses etc... Next up on the reading was Weetabix. Beer and food, looks like he's got his priorities sorted already.

He is also a big fan of Innocent though he doesn't actually know their name, but what he does understand is their brand! When the book arrived in the post and he helped me unwrap the parcel he took one look at the cover and said "that's the nice drinks people, they're really good for you Mummy, very healthy".
He's 5. He is just learning to read. He can just about manage 'in' - the 'nocent' would be a bit beyond him. He recognised the brand from the logo and plain packaging on the book cover, he understood the natural values and somehow he's picked up (from me presumably, but I don't recall mentioning it) that it's a people company. When we're in the fruit juice aisle in the supermarket he seeks out Innocent from among all the other brands and sneaks it in the trolley (it usually stays there, I let him think he's got one over on me while salivating in anticipation). Innocent conjure up an image of trendy young things hand-squeezing mangoes and mashing bananas to a soundtrack of Paolo Nutini and possibly Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Vast factories just don't figure in your smoothie dreamings (a £100m turnover probably squashes these thoughts but hey ho...).
I am sure that my son is by no means the only 5 year old evangelist of this brand and it got me thinking again about brand tribalism. Seeing as my last post on the subject was such a cop out, I'll try and weave it in here again to give my buddies at The Alternative another plug! Reading the book just reaffirmed my opinion on the guys that run this business. They refer to and pretty much treat their customers as an extended family or at the very least jolly good friends; their chieftains inspire and lead with passion and engagement is as natural as their ingredients; their history, though short is celebrated, with totems treasured (wait til you see The Tapestry); they recruit like-minded people that they know already live their values and enter whole-heartedly into the Innocent mindset. They listen to their customers and their colleagues and allow them to help form the future of the tribe - and they do all this while 'behaving themselves'. Yes, they may be a cog in the giant wheel of capitalism but their grease ensures things go a little bit smoother for those way back in the fruit & veg chain and they do their best not to leave a nasty stain on the environment (which is pretty impressive considering the amount of purple berries they use - have you ever tried to get blueberry juice out of a white t-shirt?).
Well there you go, it's getting rather late and I want to go to bed now. I can't leave this post however without my quick claim to fame. More years ago than both he or I probably care to remember, I did actually work with Adam, one of the founders of Innocent in his McKinsey consulting days. I think I may still have the wooden spoon he presented me and my team with as the worst treasure hunters on a corporate day out. We may have got lost more than anyone else but I doubt anyone else had as much fun that day... Ah memories... Remind me to tell you about the random golfer standing in a country lane we accosted and my kidnapping debacle.


  1. wow, you've certainly given us all something to think about tonight. great job with the writing goal; I like your writing "voice." trish


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