Innocent is a fruit juice and smoothies brand that aims to be Europe’s favourite little drinks company. With a knack for creating an emotional connection with people in the digital age, the premise of the company is to ‘leave people better than we found them’. Innocent has mastered the art of emotional marketing, bringing humour and meaning into the customer experience; making people choose them because they’ve made them feel something.
What is emotional marketing?
Emotional marketing is messaging used by commercial and not-for-profit brands to target human emotions to help an audience see, remember, share and engage with a brand.
Did you know that research shows that more than 50% of consumers want an emotional connection with a brand?
Building an emotional connection with Innocent
As a B Corp, Innocent Drinks believe in balancing purpose and profit. They dream big; looking beyond the sales of healthy drinks, they run hugely impactful social campaigns that sit at the intersection of social media and life offline.
In this episode we speak with Marcus Dean, social media manager for Innocent drinks UK. We discuss authentic emotional marketing, why maintaining a consistent, relatable tone of voice throughout the entire workforce is a central pillar to their success, and why creating a work culture where creatives can flourish, and are permitted to take risks is key to success.
Once you have listened to the podcast, check out our recent webinar with actionable insights on how your brand can use emotional marketing to build a real and lasting connection with its audience on and off your social media channels.
Speakers: Cat Anderson & Marcus Dean
Cat: Welcome to season two of Social Creatures, a podcast from Sprout Social. I’m Cat and I’m here to explore some of my favourite success stories from the world of social media.
This is a space for anyone and really, nearly anything goes, but what makes an account successful or popular? Honestly, it’s hard to know, but that’s exactly what we’re here to find out.
Throughout this series, we’ll be talking to the brands behind some of the best accounts that you know, and some that you don’t know yet to explore the way that these businesses, organisations, and individuals have achieved their success in social media, and crucially, how you can do it too.
In a world where social media trends change in the blink of an eye, brands often find themselves chasing after the attention of their customers. The rapid pace of the cultural landscape begs the question: how can a small team captivate the minds of millions?
Innocent has mastered the art of staying culturally relevant with a humorous tone of voice that’s been at the heart of everything that they do.
In a competitive health foods market, they have been leading the way since 1998, making drinks that are tasty, healthy, and convenient. They have a clear mission to keep people healthy and to leave them better than they find them.
In this episode, we’ll delve into the secrets behind their triumphs, and explore how small, yet mighty teams can conquer the ever-evolving world of social media all while staying one step ahead of the curve.
Joining me today is Marcus Dean, the Social Media Manager of Innocent Drinks.
Marcus, so if I had a penny for every time that someone told me that Innocent was their favourite brand on social media and in terms of social media strategy, I would be a rich woman and that is not a word of a lie.
However, there are apparently some people who might not know who Innocent are and what you do. Just at the top of the episode, you can tell those per unfortunate people who haven’t encountered you before, who are you?
Marcus: Yeah, of course, I’m Marcus. I’m the Social Media Manager for Innocent Drinks like you said, we’re a fruit juice and smoothies brand based in the UK originally, and we’re now a European company who basically want to be Europe’s favourite little drinks company.
We are known for having very nice drinks, very natural, we never add sugar, all that stuff, but we also have a completely separate following, which I’d love to convert to customers (but at the moment, it’s quite hard) who know us just for social media.
So, we’ve been sort of one of the OG (and yes, I did just say OG) omnipotent brands probably since like Twitter began like the start of 2010s and things like that. We’ve been known as a brand who can literally talk about anything. Two weeks ago, I live tweeted Eurovision and I got paid to do that and it was great.
So, we’re quite well-known long before me. I’ve been here for two years as Social Media Manager for the UK, but long before me, we were a brand who were very fun, and people want to be like.
Like you said, I used to work at an agency and the amount of people that came to me and said, “How do we be innocent?” And I’m like, “It’s quite hard.”
Cat: Well, hopefully, we can get into that in today’s episode. But you mentioned there that you’ve got a separate following on social media, now that’s absolutely bananas, and you are really considered as a brand that’s really nailed its tone of voice online. Could you tell us a little bit about what makes you so unique in terms of your tone of voice?
Marcus: Yeah, for sure. I think it starts with the company. They are kind of separate (the company versus how we are on social), but they’re two sides of the same coin. And you can have the best social media manager in the world, but if the thing they’re writing about or the companies within doesn’t quite compute, you are just pushing a boulder up a hill, and it’s really hard.
So, it all comes from the company, and it’s started with three friends, and our tone of voice for the company — not social because our tone of voice was created back in the early 2000s before social media was a thing.
So, we got known for what people now call like wackaging, so like wacky packaging or we’d write jokes on our bottles, and we’d do little things that nobody else was doing. So, everything came from that.
So, our tone of voice started in the early days of printing onto our bottles on plastic: “Stop looking at my bottom” on the bottom of drinks. And literally, from that, everything has just been so much easier.
So, us online, fun’s one word, chaotic’s another word, quirky’s another word, we just call it innocent. And the way we were able to do that was the founders and a man called Dan Jermaine who was their like best friend who had no actual background or history in marketing, he was just the funniest guy they knew.
They hired him to write tone of voice and like brand guidelines, whatever they were known as back then. And they just said they wanted to have a product that sounded like a real person. They wanted to have a product that sounded like a mate down the pub.
And essentially, that’s what our tone of voice has been ever since. If we write anything for social or an advert, does it sound like it could come out of someone’s mouth that you know. And if it does, you’ve done the right thing, if it doesn’t, scrap it, back to the drawing board.
And that’s where it all comes from. It all comes from a strong company tone of voice, and then on social we’re able to take a couple more risks. The thing I like to say is, “Bend, not break.”
So, those tone of voice are there and like all social media managers and social teams should pay attention to brand guidelines and they should pay attention to tone of voice, but there’s always going to be a couple of times where you bend them.
And that’s sort of what Innocent was emboldened and allowed to do from the early days, was yes, we have a strict tone of voice, and it needs to sound a certain way, but take a risk. That’s okay.
Cat: Wackaging, that’s one I haven’t heard before and I both love and hate that word, but I think it actually describes that because not to age myself, I do remember reading Innocent bottles and thinking this is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on anything that you would just buy in the corner shop. And it was quite groundbreaking at the time.
And it’s interesting you’re saying about how the founders hired their mate essentially, who was really funny because that really was … I think it’s done a lot more commonly now, but you sort of laid the groundwork for that I think at Innocent.
And I was going to ask then about evolution over time, and so I love what you’re talking there about “bend not break,” and I think there’s probably social media managers listening to this who’ve had a flame of mischief lit up inside them hearing that because I totally agree with you-
Cat: Yeah, permission to bend not break. And do you think your final form of your tone of voice you have it, or is it something that you see internally is still evolving?
Marcus: That’s a really good question. It probably is always evolving slightly, especially when you get new channels and new ways of talking. So, like TikTok, if we took that early 2000s tone of voice that we put on our packaging, that’s not going to work on TikTok. So, you have to continually evolve and move with it.
I’m not saying that like Innocent are going to suddenly, in our captions, refer to everybody as gym rats and sort of start saying, “It’s giving.” But we will indulge in certain things, we’ll do it in our own way.
So, I think the answer is both. It’s like your core principles stay the same, but the way they like manifest or show themselves are different, and that comes through channels, but also it should come from a just looking around and sort of saying is this still the right way to do things?
So, stuff like Eurovision, and we also live tweet Bake Off every year. That stuff we’ve done for ages, and it sort of gets to a point we’re like, “Are we just doing this just because we’ve always done it?”
And then we look at it, and we look at the numbers and we look at the reaction and we’re like, “No, okay, people do still want it.” Like we do still need to do that every year. Like every year we do need to look ago, was there a massive dip? Was there a less of an appetite for the things we normally do?
And if there is, that’s when you should change. But like stuff like TikTok does that for you, which I think is really good.
Cat: It’s interesting to hear that mindset and to tie together a few other parts of our conversation.
You mentioned that you’re the OG of this sort of tone of voice on social media, and also that for the guts of 20 plus years, people have been citing Innocent as, “They’re who we want to sound like, we love them.”
And in an industry that’s moving as quickly as social media, an industry that’s defined by trends and flavours of the month, that is no mean feat to have stayed at the top spot for so long.
Why do you think Innocent has been so successful at this? Because it really has been … it’s not even like these are the grandfathers who have earned their spot and therefore, demand respect. It’s like you are still firm favourites after all this time.
Marcus: I think it’s a freshening probably. So, the way things were done back in the day were right for that time. And then as they moved on to the next social media … like there’s been so many great social teams and social media managers at Innocent long before me, that’s not me calling myself great. That’s me calling them great and just saying I am in the job now. Sorry, I just want to make that clear.
But I think a lot of that comes with, it’s choosing the right people for the moment. Our recruitment process is really long. So, I just hired somebody to join our social team, which is like the first time we’ve had an executive and a manager at the same time for like six years.
So, this has been amazing, and it’s just finding the right people with the right energy to come in and continue it because if we still had our original person behind our tone of voice and original Social Media Manager, it probably wouldn’t have stayed as fresh. Things do need updating constantly, I think.
And I think recruitment helps, so we always make sure we pick the right people, and it takes ages. I got turned down for a role at Innocent before becoming … (I know hard to believe).
But before becoming Social Media Manager, I applied for copywriter maybe two years earlier, and I got through to second stage, there’s three stages. I didn’t quite make it to the final, but I just sort of used that, and I was like, “Okay, it wasn’t right.” I went away, got more way better experience on more similar brands, and then came back.
And that sort of process of me thinking “Oh, I’m perfect for Innocent.” A lot of people probably do because they see, “Oh, that’s funny, witty marketing.” That’s what I do.
So, everybody goes, “Oh, I want to work there, I want to do that.” And that’s what I thought, and it didn’t quite work. But by the time I came back, I was so much better for the job and ready for it.
So, I think that’s one thing is the recruitment really helps, and then it’s just the culture. Like it’s so fun to come into this office. I think I told you before we started recording, this room’s called “Peas” there’s some peas behind me. It’s little things like that.
Cat: Do you think it’s that culture then that allows you to bring your full self to work and to not be hyper corporate? Has that helped the social media strategy? Because another thing you mentioned there is how you did the Wes Anderson trend of life at the office.
And that’s something that Innocent’s been always really good at. Before, maybe other brands were showing that sort of peak behind the curtain and hinting who the people were that they were working with.
I feel like Innocent has always been able to show that there’s the products and the people, and do you think it’s your work culture that sort of helped that to flourish?
Marcus: Definitely. I think in the early days when social media platforms for brands became a thing, they just took risks and because there was such an early blueprint for success, it’s never gone back to that.
Like our social strategy is we have pillars like everyone else, but ours is just weighted very differently, so we’re like 40% what we call like branded random. We don’t have to talk about products and there’s no pressure to. And then you got 30% products and 30% force for good which is what we call CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) stuff.
So, we have that in place, that is there. But also, we’re just allowed to do what we want, and nobody interferes because we can point to how it’s been a success. But it a hundred percent comes from people coming in being able to be themselves and take risks.
Cat: I think again, there’s probably lots of people listening to this who are probably equally inspired and envious because I do still think there are a lot of companies that don’t really know what to do with their social teams really, and they don’t know how to correctly get a social media strategy in place, and so they don’t make the investments into, as you say, recruiting the right people or giving them the right tools, and then expecting to get the same results as Innocent.
And I can just say as a creative, I love what you guys are doing because I feel like you’ve created an environment where creatives can flourish and we’re seeing these fabulous results.
So, one thing that we did touch on though is obviously, Innocent is at the pinnacle. Recruitment is a big part of getting the right team in place and there are lots of people who want to work for you. There also are a lot of people who want to sound like you, and we’ve kind of touched on this, that there are a lot of copycats out there.
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, people always say that, but I don’t necessarily think it’s true. How do you feel about the copycats out there?
Marcus: I completely get it. I worked at an agency before Innocent, and people would come to me and say “We want to be like Innocent.” So, what is the first thing you do? Well firstly, I tell them is, “It’s not that easy mate.”
The thing that people would say that they want to be like Innocent in witty, funny social media copy. But to be like Innocent, Innocent are like that everywhere. Innocent are like you come to our office, our office is completely branded in our tone of voice.
When we release a statement about a serious topic that’s affecting the world or we’ve got some like factory problems or whatever, we write that in tone of voice, and that’s the thing that most brands don’t do.
And so, as many as there are copycats, there’s more and more similar but nobody quite does it like us, in that we are like this all the time. It’s complete consistency. So, like if we post out an apology, that apology is in tone of voice. When we write alt text, that alt text is in tone of voice.
So, the copycats I get, it’s a compliment. So, that’s nice. It makes it harder, don’t get me wrong. It makes it harder to get cut through because if everybody’s funny, no one is.
But no, I don’t see it as a negative. I do see it as a compliment, and there’s loads of great brands doing amazing things, and there’s room for all of us. It’s a big table, pull up a chair, it’s nice.
Cat: I think that’s definitely the right attitude. I think it’s good for people to be inspired by other brands, but I think there’s a difference between being inspired and just completely lifting the identity of another brand.
And the reason why it doesn’t work is because it isn’t authentic to them. Do you know what I mean? And it’s such a fine difference.
Marcus: Definitely. No, I completely agree on that. You get even more granular, and you have like actual complete content thieves as well, that’s quite fun.
So, like we post it twice a year about the clocks going back and forward, and it was something that somebody again, previous social media manager came up with about how to change it on different devices.
So, like your oven, you need a masters in engineering, sundial move one house to the left. It’s like a classic, we post it every year, and everybody steals it, and nobody gives credit.
Earlier this year, I just did a whole tweet thread about all the people that have stolen it from us over the years, and just called them out.
Quite aggressive. Not a million percent the most Innocent thing we’ve ever done, but it was just one of those things that has just been commandeered on the internet with like memes and gifts and stuff like that.
It can be a kind of a free for all, so we were just sort of like if you want to get like proper technical, this is IP that we came up with years ago, and it has just taken on its own life, so we were just like let’s try and claim it back a bit.
So, with stuff like that, that’s where it actually does annoy me. I feel like Michael Jordan in the last dance, that’s where it gets personal.
But I think what you said is completely right, Cat. It’s like as soon as you copy it — not verbatim, but you copy that vibe, that tone of voice and you talk to people in a way that is too similar, people will just see through it so quickly.
So, I think you’re right. Inspiration, great. Actual being a complete copy or rip off, it will only get you so far. Find your own voice.
Cat: I do think that humans have a sixth sense for-
Cat: I was going to say inauthenticity, but same thing.
I have a question just you mentioned there about you have some stalwarts of your content calendar if you will, where you know it’s coming up, we’re going to do the Bake Off, we’re going to do Eurovision, we’re going to do the clocks going back or forward.
This is something that I think is kind of interesting for people because again, I think there’s this pervasive notion that you have to come up with fresh content all the time every day, and that is a lot of pressure for people.
Could you tell us a bit about how you put together your content calendar? Like how much of that is going to be about product, how much of that is going to be stuff that you know works and you can keep using? How much of that is … was it 40% allocation of random? And how do you pick that random? Like that’s quite a lot of spinning plates actually.
Marcus: I’m the Social Media Manager for the UK, and I’m the one who comes up with proactive content ideas. But to feed into the bigger calendar, that’s impossible with one person. So, that’s where you need to rely on other people in the marketing team.
So, we have brand managers. A brand manager being somebody who’s responsible for one of our product lines. So, super smoothies and smoothies is one, kids is another, juice is another.
So, all of those, they have their targets for the year. They tell me we’re going to have this new product here, we’re going to have promo of something here. Promos aren’t very us but like they can tell me in August it’s going to be on offer.
So, if we just up the content, I’m not going to mention the price, I’m not going to mention, “Go to this shop now” because that’s not very us, but I can increase the amount of content I do there.
So, brand managers, they help with the product stuff. So, I am not a salesperson, I’m not into direct marketing. I’ve done it, I’m not a big fan. So, I rely on them for the USPs they need me to get across the times, the dates, and stuff like that.
So, that makes up 30% for us. 30% is what we call force for good. So, how we come up with that is what is important to us as a company. And again, that is something much bigger than me.
So, I have monthly meetings with our people team. So, the people team who come up with policies who make sure our culture and everything in Innocent is good. So, they tell me things like we had the fertility friendly new policy that we brought into play this year.
I did a post on that on Instagram. It was our most successful force for good post ever on Instagram. It got like 10,000 likes, all organic, and it just sort of like took off because it was completely the right thing to tell our audience about.
Like the interest just overline like perfectly (overlapped aligned, I created a new word there). And so, that helps. So, like just rely on the people. So, I have the people team.
And we have these things called affinity groups here where each minority or protected characteristic has their own groups. We have a fairness and gender one, we have one for racial diversity.
We’ve got like about five or six of these, and they all have a group and I have a meeting with them every month and I say, “Look, what are we missing on our social media that we need to post about? What is it if you didn’t work here, you would like to see a brand talk about?”
So, that’s where those come from. Calendar hooks, it seems obvious, like we call them banana days here because there’s a day for everything. And we actually did post on Banana Day this year because it was too funny not to but, like rather than the earnest way of doing that of, “Oh it’s a world Banana Day, so grab a banana and come on down.” We make jokes about the fact that it’s Banana Day.
But yes, we have that; calendar hooks help. And then when it comes into the branded random, you’re right, sometimes that can be a bit overwhelming like what do we know to post?
So, a lot of that can come from historic, what has gone well in the past because yes, they do have to be new ideas, but they don’t have to be new subject matter. Like humans are creatures a habit.
We love talking about the weather, we love talking about how busy it was on the bus. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, it just has to be presented in a new way.
I draw from things before I was Social Media Manager here. And then I love coming into the office because that gives me probably 90% of my ideas, because if I’m sat around the office and I hear three separate people or three separate groups say the same thing, I’m like okay, well, that’s obviously relatable so I’m going to post about that.
And we’re talking about what makes our tone of voice special. I think the number one thing I put above all is relatable. Being funny is good, being nice is good, but being culturally relevant to the people that follow you is the be all and end all for me.
Sometimes, we do it amazingly, and it really pays off. Sometimes we don’t do it so well. It’s just about learning from it and moving, I guess.
Cat: That’s so interesting because if you think about your customer base, everybody drinks smoothies. Everyone probably in the UK has drunk a smoothie. Am I wrong?
Marcus: People who follow us on social, I would say, I’m not entirely sure. If you think about customers and things like that, fine. But because a social post has the potential of blowing up and reaching people that don’t follow you and even the ones that do follow us — the amount of comments we get saying, “I just follow you for social media, I’ve never had a smoothie in my life.”
Like it’s kind of wild. Like that’s why other people in more classic marketing positions are like, “When do we turn these into sales?”
No, but it’s like the thing of Innocent is, the idea is when you go to a shop and you see a smoothie and then you see Innocent, our social media strategy is all basically down to when you see those two, they’re the same price, they’ve got the same ingredients, whatever it is. We want you to think of this funny post you saw on social and buy that one.
If they’re all the same, why would you not buy the one that has made you laugh or made you feel something? So, that is what our strategy is all down to.
Cat: No, I completely agree. And I was going to say my former point was just when technically in theory anybody can go and pick up a smoothie, you kind of don’t have any nuances of people that you’re marketing to. So, relatability does make total sense there and it’s like let’s go really broad.
But I was going to ask about that, because you are a completely offline product and so, I think in a lot of businesses, a real struggle that the social team will have is how does that convert to business?
But I love what you’re saying there, because I firmly believe that like you have a more of an emotional connection to Innocent because you are funny; because you make people laugh, because you make them smile.
But is that a conversation that has come up — presumably that’s come up internally before because there’s clearly such a focus on social and the tie through and the pull through to sales. Is it entirely impossible or is there any way that you can see trends?
Marcus: We definitely see it. Yes, we aren’t online, you can’t buy through us directly, and that is definitely something that will come, we’ve been talking about it.
But we have really great relationships with our customers, customers being the supermarkets we work with, and they tell us at a certain time, there’s a spike here, there’s a spike there.
Obviously, it’s not guaranteed, it’s not a science to say, “Oh this was definitely down to this one post.” But if we have like a genuine campaign for a new drink, we always do it a couple of weeks, maybe a month or two after it’s in the initial launch because then we can actually track it separately. Because if we do it at the same time, it might just be, “Oh it was new.” So, that’s one thing we do.
But our KPI as a social team, to get very business jargony, is reach. As much as I love people hitting the like button and sharing and comments and things like that, the thing I get judged on is reach, and in a company where we don’t have that direct sale that we can like click the link in our bio and buy 10 smoothies right now — where we don’t have that reach is the only close enough number that we can say does a similar thing because we can guarantee our stuff has been seen by this many people. And when that’s a product post that many people have seen our product.
So, that is the closest we get to it in an analog offline as you called it, product world. And for me, that’s enough. For the rest of the business, that might change. But for me, I think that’s ideal. You just want people to see your stuff and have you in their mind, and when you do come to the shop, go, “Oh yeah, they’re good, I like them.”
Cat: I mean, it’s pure brand awareness, and I think oftentimes, marketing teams are put under pressure because brand awareness is just by definition, it’s going to be harder to pull through to that conversion, whatever it might be. But it is super important, and it does play a huge role.
So, that makes perfect sense to me, and it’s so interesting to hear you say that reach is the metric that you really like hang upon because I’ve never had that answer before, so it’s really interesting.
I do want to talk about one of your campaigns which I think has sort of sat at the intersection of both social and offline. And that’s the Big Knit campaign, which has been a huge campaign of Innocent’s. Can you tell us a little bit about how long has it been going on and what does it entail?
Marcus: Yes, it’s been 20 years now since the very first Big Knit (I know). It was started in 2003 just to make us all feel really old.
So, it started from a guy who used to work here, he was called new Adam because there was already an old Adam. He came in, worked in marketing for a few years, and he was really close to his nan, and he used to go around to his nan’s house and knit with her, and really liked it and enjoyed it.
And it was right around the time where quite similar to now, actually, it’s weird how culture and the life, nothing really changes, it’s all pretty cyclical. There was a cost-of-living crisis, the energy bills were going up, and he was hearing from his nan but then also his nan’s friends, that they just couldn’t afford to put the heating on.
And he just couldn’t get his head around, how does that happen in London? How does that happen in the capital of one of the biggest economies in the world? And from there, just said, surely there must be something we can do around it.
So, this was before we had this lovely giant office in West London which we call Fruit Towers. There was a few of them in a room in Fruit Towers version one and they said “Well, let’s try something.”
So, they enlisted a local knitting group, they got them to knit a thousand hats to put on the top of our smoothie bottles, and they put them in independent smaller retailers around West London and compared them to talking about tracking and KPIs and stuff. And they compared them with the ones they didn’t put them on, and the sales increase was like 500% more.
And from there, grew it, got a partner in, I think first it was age concern, and for the last like 10 years, it may be more. It’s been Age UK. And so, we used to do it every year, and then COVID came along and it sort of threw a spanner in the works. We finally did it again this year, the first time since 2019.
And 25p of every drink that we sell that has a hat on it goes towards Age UK. And yeah, it’s been 20 years, this year we did like a 20-year commemorative event where we rented out a hall in Nottingham and we built the world’s biggest knitted hat, the UK’s biggest knitted hat, I should say, qualifier. And it was amazing.
And we invited knitters, we invited drinkers, and everybody just had the best day. And it’s raised, I think this year alone, we maybe got more than 1.3 million hats we received this year, like the most we’ve ever received in a calendar year. And we’ve raised multiple, multiple millions of pounds for Age UK in the 20 years.
Cat: Oh my God, the origin of that story is so lovely. Oh, my goodness, I don’t know if it’s possible for me to like Innocent any more than I possibly do. I knew the Big Knit campaign was cute, but I didn’t know that’s where it came from. That’s so lovely.
You really do take the corporate social responsibility piece seriously, and it’s nice then that that’s also getting a good reaction. You said that you didn’t just bring the knitters, you brought the drinkers along to those events as well. It’s so wholesome.
Marcus: So wholesome. We had one, her name’s Amy, and she was great and like her story just stuck with me at this event.
She used to knit with her nan, I think she called her Mima and she’s like, “Me and my Mima, we just like used to knit all the time.” And she passed away a couple of years ago. And she started a charity in her name because that’s what she used to do, just like crochet knit blankets.
And she has been raising money for them ever since by like knitting and doing other stuff. She came along to the event and said it was like the Innocent Big Knit hats that got her into knitting with her nan, and had such a great time at the event.
She got a tattoo of an Innocent bottle with a hat on it and the date of … I can’t remember the exact date, she’ll remember because it’d be on her skin. But it was in January this year, and she’s got that tattooed now on her.
She’s just like one of the many people who go out of their way to tell us how much that campaign means to them and how it sort of like bonded them with their grandparents or sort of helped them. I’ve relied on Age UK for this, and that campaign really brought me into it.
So, its just the best thing we’ve ever done as a company I think hands down.
Cat: Oh, my goodness, that’s just about the loveliest story ever. And what an honour to be tattooed on somebody’s skin, that’s pretty big.
Marcus: We’ve got at least nine tattoos of our logos on people’s skin, but there might be more. That’s the only ones we know about.
Cat: Oh wow. So, if anyone’s listening who’s got a tattoo, they should get in touch with Fruit Towers. Two more questions for you.
One is, what advice would you give to other brands who don’t necessarily have an online product, but they want to build an exciting online presence?
Marcus: I think wanting to build an online presence shouldn’t be the goal, it should be the way to the goal. So, for Innocent, it was always that we wanted to as a company, leave people better than we found them.
That’s our whole premise as a company, and that’s through our products which are only filled with fruit, veg, and healthy stuff. And it’s through our social media presence where we just want to make people smile.
So, I would say first is setting that target. What do you want? If it’s something as general as making people happier, that’s great. And then from there, your social strategy can start to take place because you know what type of content you need, you know what type of audience you need to reach.
So, that’s the first part, but outside of that is I guess figure out where your audience is, find out how to talk to them first. The direct sales thing, yes, there might be certain people within your company and within your business that are like completely hung up on that.
But what I say is, and you can see this through lots of companies now, so like Monzo who are a bank, they have such a dedicated social media following and do really great content. And they do that because they talk about something that we all know and it’s money. They talk about it in a way that nobody else does, so that’s nice. But the way they reach people is completely unique to them.
So, it’s just finding that way of talking to the right people first, and then the rest of it will fall into place. I think the reach thing for me … I’m interested to hear, like you said that you’ve never heard that as like the main KPI for people before, but I think for me it just makes so much sense because you can just really track that in a company where you can’t track sales, that’s the closest way you can do it.
So, reach shouldn’t be the be all end all just to get numbers because what type of numbers are you getting and also, what are they seeing? We have so many brands now who aren’t talking as a brand, they’re talking as admin, they’re talking as a person. I’m here on the admin shift, “I can’t believe they let the social media intern post this.” You get a lot of brands like that.
I think reach is so important, but what are they seeing? So, that’s why I sort the tone of voice thing and that should always come first. There’s always a balance.
Cat: No, I totally agree, and I think the reason why I think reach is sometimes overlooked is for precisely that reason. Because reach alone, you can go viral by dipping your toe into a trend that has got nothing to do with your business, but people will love it. They’ll be like, “Yeah, hilarious.” But it doesn’t really do anything to further your presence in the market as a brand.
Reach is often sort of described as being a bit more of a vanity metric because it can be very inflated numbers and you’re like, “Well, what does this actually really mean?” Which is why then I think people think about, “Oh, well, we want to see engagement, we want to see likes.”
But again, it’s interesting because I think there’s also a reason why these algorithms are always changing, and changing what is most valuable. I believe that sharing things is like super, super, super. Like that’s top dog, that’s what you really want. Saving things is also really popular. Like if you can get someone to save something, especially on TikTok, unbelievable.
I completely understand what you’re saying with reach, it’s just you are definitely the first person who said that. But it makes perfect sense and especially in the context of when you don’t have an e-commerce product to go along with it. It’s the best way to show this is how far and wide our marketing is going.
And if we go back to your previous answer where there’s two smoothies on a shelf, both costing the same, you’re going to pick the one that you’re like, “Well, they’re hilarious.” So, it makes sense.
Marcus: It’s interesting though because like I guess that is what marketing used to be as well though, and it still is in a lot of places, is you pay for a double page spread in a magazine and all people, they were seeing it. There’s no guarantee in an upturn in sales or whatever, it’s just people claiming.
It’s like, “Oh, well, we saw an upturn in sales here, and that was the same time we did this advert.” So, obviously, it’s that, social media’s the same.
Cat: Well, except I will say social media, I think’s got a little bit more accuracy because once upon a time, a million years ago, I did work in a traditional advertising agency and everything above the line where it’s billboards, radio, television, I was really astounded at how licking your finger, putting it up into the wind, how vague the metrics were about how many people would see this, how many people heard this.
It really was not accurate at all, and at least, with social media, you can be confirmed that the accuracy is going to be a lot more on the nose of what you want, at least in the ballpark. So, I think that’s definitely a step forward.
I have one final question for you, which I’m really, really curious about your response.
Given that you have tried to get into Innocent earlier and in your career, you got in, yes. You now are the social media boss, you’ve got a team, which is the first time that that’s ever happened.
This gilded position, the love you have for your job is absolutely palpable, and I love it. So, it begs the question, what is your favourite part of your job?
Marcus: So, that is very tough. It’s taking on a traditional presenting brief. So, whether that’s a product post or whatever, and doing it our way. So, a best recent example of this is our dairy free range.
Sadly, RIP, no longer with us. Most brands and I’ve worked on other brands where this has happened; if it goes you bury it. But we as a business care so much about what our drinkers think and say and their buying behaviours and habits.
So, we were noticing, we were getting so many people saying, “Where is it? Where is it? It’s the only thing I drink, it’s the only thing I drink.” And we were like, okay, we need to get ahead of this.
So, we made some content around our dairy free drinks going to Heaven, and we’ve got a product graveyard up on the fifth floor. We’d never shown it to anyone. So, we were like this is the perfect time to present it.
So, on Instagram we made a video of giving them little wings and they flew up to the graveyard. On Twitter and Facebook, we just did it as a classic photo post where we said utterly disappointing news, and we announced that it was no longer going to exist. Why wouldn’t it exist? Obviously because of sales, everything comes down to sales.
So, in the copy, we made the joke of thanks to all five of you who bought it, we really appreciate you. And I would never be able to get away with that in any other company.
And that is my favourite thing, is I can approach a brief that I’ve had a hundred times before for like 5 or 10 different brands, but the only place I can do it exactly how I do it, is at Innocent. So, I think that is the perfect example.
You get to be your best form and I’ve never worked anywhere that’s let me do that. And if I’m honest, I think I’ve been spoilt now. So, if I ever leave, I’m either going for like mega millions or I’m going for complete control because I’ve clearly been turned into a tyrant. And I can’t accept anything else anymore. So, there you go.
Cat: Well, Marcus, thank you so much. I hope that you never leave Innocent, but if you do, I will definitely be keeping an eye out on what mad adventures are ahead of you. Thank you so much for this interview. I have really enjoyed every second of it. And yes, I love Innocent more than I did before, which I didn’t think was going to be possible. Thank you so much.
Marcus: That’s another KPI, tick. Thank you very much for having me. Cheers.
Cat: You’ve been listening to Social Creatures, with me, Cat Anderson. Many thanks to Marcus for joining me today.
You can find all the links to all of the Innocent socials in the description of this episode, and of course, a special thank you to Sprout Social for making this podcast possible.
If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to let us know on social at Sprout Social or subscribe to hear other episodes just like this wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks very much for listening, and we’ll see you again in two weeks.
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