The Marketing Strategy of Innocent Drinks
According to their website Innocent Drinks make 200 million in sales each year (Innocent Drinks 2015). That they are so dominant in the European smoothie and soft drink market and the market’s leading smoothie brand in the United Kingdom may also result from their distinctive marketing strategy and their unconv entional methods of selling their drinks and the associated experience for the consumers (see Simmons, 2011:12), which is conveyed through recipe books, many charity projects, experiential marketing with an own festival and with nature-oriented decorations of the company’s vans, their rule book and the brand message.
The three founders, Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright “have built Innocent from scratch into a £16-million brand growing at 80 per cent year on year” (Edwards et al., 2005:46). The company’s strategy must utilize the four Ps of the marketing mix, product, price, promotion and place (Stone, 2007:40), very well in order to be successful and predominant in their market since their founding in 1999 (Innocent Drinks 2015). The marketing mix was first introduced by Edmund Jerome McCarthy who divided his marketing theory into those four terms. Drummond and Ensor state that “the 4Ps are the vital decision areas for marketing managers, as they offer controllable variables which can be innovatively applied to specific markets” (Drummond et al., 2005:8). Moreover, these variables are interrelated and, in the end, act as a single unit for the consumer (see ibid.).
2 The Marketing Mix and the Four Ps in the Case of Innocent
McCarthy describes the function of a product as “consumer satisfaction or benefits” (McCarthy, 1960:209) and explaines that “in all cases, we are selling the satisfaction or use derived or expected from the purchase of the product” (ibid.). A similar definition was mentioned by Drummond and Ensor: “products are solutions to customers’ needs” (Drummond et al., 2005:9). Innocent states on
their website that they make “natural, delicious, healthy drinks that help people live well and die old” (Innocent Drinks 2015). In the context of McCarthy’s theory this would imply that their product is not only the smoothie or drink but the satisfaction of the consumer and the promise of natural ingredients and, as a consequence, a healthier consumer.
“Sometimes a product is not useful unless properly installed and instructions given for its use” (McCarthy, 1960:210), which is reflected in the advertising and the company’s corporate image as well as their slogan “tastes good does good” (Innocent Drinks 2015), which alltogether delivers a certain message to the potential customer. Notions of health, delivered by their promise of natural ingredients in their pure drinks, and charity, by donating “a minimum of 10% of profits each year to charity” (ibid.), are being used to make their product desired by the consumers and connect the purchase of a juice or smoothie with a healthier body and a reduction of world hunger.
This connotation, in return, fullfills McCarthy’s interpretation of a product’s function. To embrace the image of Innocent being highly involved in charity the organization founded the innocent foundation, explaining on their website: “we give grants to charities working all over the world so that they can help the world’s hungry” (Innocent Foundation 2015). Thereby they include other aspects in their brand message and corporate image like sustainability, especially with their packaging, as well as social responsibility, which are being conveyed with every sold drink. “Sustainability is a core part of who we are” (Innocent Drinks 2015) is said on their website, followed by listing their company values: “to be natural, generous, commercial, entrepreneurial and responsible” (ibid.)
Innocent Drinks expanded their product offerings, which McCarthy terms “product differentiation”, from just smoothies to juices, coconut water, so-called bubbles and special drinks for children to cover a more diverse market and reach a diversified target audience. According to the product, the brand message and the corporate image Innocent tries to reach a specific healthand charity-orientated target audience even thought they have extended their product range by adding products that still fit their product policy.
Innocent smoothies and drinks are premium priced within its specific market. This may also be down to the fact that they donate ten percent of every purchase to charity. McCarthy explains that the marketing manager “must make price decisions which, in turn, determine the firm’s revenue” (McCarthy, 1960:576) and “businesses obviously must make sales, and price has an important bearing on the volume of sales” (ibid.). Furthermore he states that “price may not be the determining factor but it is a qualifying factor, since it must remain within a reasonable range” (ibid.). That Innocent drinks are higher priced than other drinks, with two to four pounds per drink, and are still being bought by the majority of the consumers it is likely to say that this is a result of their health and charity campaigns as well as their donations. That Innocent leads the market although their products are higher-priced may imply that the prince range is justifiable.
In terms of discounts the grocery stores that sell Innocent products use quantity discounts to induce consumers to buy more of this particular product series and stick with the product long-term. Sainsbury’s, for example, uses discounts like “buy any 2 for £5.00” while one single smoothie costs £3.00.
McCarthy describes the process of promotion as follows: “sometimes consumers, before they can appreatiate a product’s potential, must be shown or told how a product can add to their total satisfaction” (McCarthy, 1960:210) and later in his theory as “communication with the potential consumer” (McCarthy, 1960:502). Or as Drummond and Ensor define promotion: “the promotional element of the mix provides communication with the desired customer group” (Drummond et al., 2005:9). According to Stone and Desmond promotion “include[s] advertising, public relations and sales promotions” (Stone, 2007:41). Besides various television adverts and other advertising Innocent Drinks regularly publish press releases on their website in order to explain their products and strategies (Unattributed, 2015a). They announced, for example, the deal with Coca Cola and the launch of their new coconut water.
McCarthy defines that “the objectives of promotion are to inform, persuade, or remind consumers of the company’s marketing mix” (McCarthy, 1960:480). In order to be successful with a promotional strategy companys have to inform “customers of the availability of supplies”, operate “outside promotion” and contact the costumer personally “in order to inform and persuade them of the product’s merit” (ibid.). Innocent Drinks do that by advertising their products in television spots, radio commercials, a constant and daily presence on several social media accounts like facebook, twitter, instagram and youtube, as well as by providing their costumers with an emotional brand story and charity involvement, a weekly newsletter and blog on their website with “daily thoughts”. Thereby they promote their products both on a collective and a personal level.
According to McCarthy effective promotion is related to four aspects, getting attention, holding interest, arouse desire and obtain action, also called AIDA, which are similar to the previously mentioned objectives of informing, persuading and reminding (see McCarthy 1960:481). Innocent Drinks cover all aspects by combining several campaign techniques and providing the consumer with information and even a story and a promise of what happens after buying a drink: supporting charity and improving one’s own health.
Besides this the life cycle of a product also influences the promotional techniques being used. McCarthy mentions several stages: “introduction, market growth, market maturity and sales decline” (McCarthy, 160:485). Juices and smothies like those of Innocent must be at the stage of market maturity due to many competitors and various similarities between the products on the market.
The promotion of a product can only be successful if all other aspects - price, place, quality and usefulness, etc. - work along and seem reasonable to the consumer (see McCarthy, 1960:489). Innocent combines a higher priced mass market product, whereby its price includes a certain percentage that is being donated, with a health- and charity-related brand message that tries to deliver a feeling of having bought something good for the consumer himself and others, aiming at increasing the customer’s wellbeing and reaching his conscience.
We like innocent. We’re big fans of their brand, their social media presence and their team (we recently took a trip to Fruit Towers to see how they work and met a few humans – they were very nice!).
innocent drinks produce smoothies, juices and veg pots which are sold across the UK. They sell over 2 million smoothies per week and are 90% owned by The Coca-Cola Company, so they’re a pretty big deal.
Over the last few years, innocent have become known for their innovative, playful and soft-sale social presence and I felt it was time to take a further look into what they do – and how they do it so well.
During our visit to Fruit Towers, we managed to speak with Helena Langdon, the Head of Social Media at innocent drinks – have a listen to the podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud.
As I said, we’ve been big fans of the innocent brand for a long while – they always seem to crop up on our Twitter feed with something that makes you go “Oh, I wish I had thought of that!“. Their content is fresh, different and stands out from the crowd. The most obvious thing about the innocent brand and content is it matches their name – it’s all entirely innocent. It’s child friendly and something you could easily show your family – and they’d laugh too. It’s not rude or offensive – it’s just good-hearted humour and entertainment.
innocent are a brand who treat their customers as real, breathing, living human beings. They engage with their customers in a friendly and relatable manner, by acknowledging that each of the people sending them comments, questions or complaints is an actual person behind a computer screen/mobile. They don’t market themselves too obviously – and they make fun of that fact too:
We interrupt our relentless smoothie-based marketing messages to bring you this photo of a baby skunk. pic.twitter.com/n77B6PoDnk
— innocent drinks (@innocentdrinks) February 19, 2015
A lot of their feed is cute or funny images (like above) that each person can resonate with and they very rarely shout selling messages to their customer base. Their loudest message is in each of their banners – and we’ll look at that later. Finally, they work well in real-time situations and aren’t afraid to try the ‘dad jokes’ that everyone groans about. Now we’ve looked at the brand, let’s take a look at their social networks and see how they use to its maximum capability. It’s going to be a fruity ride.
Site & blog:
The innocent drinks website is on-brand and fits with their social media and even their packaging! It’s clean, white with friendly colours and fonts. They have a menu that could have been written by a child, and neatly allows you to find exactly what you’re looking for. The blog is a continuation of their social media updates – with longer text about some of the pictures they’ve posted, created or had sent in by customers.
Their websites (they have one for each country in which innocent drinks are sold) have social ‘boxes’ with an image from each network. They normally link to the main three – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
It truly shows how visual innocent are that they promote their social channels through images from each – and that they aren’t afraid to be simple and easy to understand. There is no complicated jargon, there is nothing that would scare people off – it’s all friendly. It’s a clever use of content marketing is pushing the brand and making it more family friendly.
innocent have almost half a million likes on Facebook – that’s a big number! They have one of the rare selling messages emblazoned on their Facebook cover photo – but it’s a positive one. They are extremely proud about their charity donations, and rightly so! This goes across their Twitter account too, and is an extremely clever way of adding to your brand’s good side. innocent also have a pages for France, Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany.
The innocent Facebook page is their secondary hub (behind their Twitter account) where they post illustrations, funny videos and photos, cute furry animals and anything and everything in between. However, they never steer off brand and are still soft-selling – with no hard hitting marketing messages and nothing that explicitly talks about their product.
Although innocent don’t post daily (and we don’t blame them) they get good engagement when they do post and they update regularly enough to ensure their customers don’t switch off. We also like their use of simple text updates (i.e. tweets) and their increased use of video – we’d love to see more of what they have in store.
One last thing – when it comes to replying to customer posts, they are quick, concise and have the same tone of voice as the rest of their brand – jokey, friendly and someone you’d like to get to know. They always deal with things in a humorous and kind manner – something which will ripple further than just the original poster.
Twitter is where innocent drinks shine. The main account on Twitter is @innocentdrinks. They send about 300 tweets a week, but don’t respond to everyone – only the relevant. Communities Manager Helena Langdon told us that they “try to respond to everyone that needs a response” – something which a lot of brands could live by. You don’t need to answer everyone, but you do need to reply to the good AND the bad – otherwise it could damage your brand.
Their Twitter strategy is the same content as their Facebook updates, but more regularly. They do tailored content for real-time marketing – such as this for the London tube strike in February 2014:
Travelling in London today? Here are your options… pic.twitter.com/kodLuIimu6
— innocent drinks (@innocentdrinks) February 5, 2014
…or this for the launch of the new iPhone 6 (#AppleLive):
The latest in Apple technology #AppleLivepic.twitter.com/pnTeEJmhy8 — innocent drinks (@innocentdrinks) September 9, 2014
(They even used my Dad joke once, so I obviously have a soft spot for them…)
First #dadjoke of the year. Over to you, pops: I’m giving up spray deodorants for the new year. Roll on 2015.
— innocent drinks (@innocentdrinks) January 9, 2015
Their content is always on-trend and fits with the brand – it’s easily shareable and anyone can understand it. When it comes to dealing with customer service, they react well:
Thank you @innocentdrinks you have made my wife very happy – great customer service! pic.twitter.com/WblTVlYVEo — Andi Foster (@Andi_Foster) January 16, 2015
…and can become sassy sometimes (when needed!):
@NewtBeaumont we’re sorry to hear that our ad is saturating your itv player, Newt. We’ve passed your feedback on to the relevant people.
— innocent drinks (@innocentdrinks) February 11, 2015
innocent’s strategy for Twitter is simple – make it retweetable. Make it easy to understand, share and enjoy and you’re in for success.
innocent drinks on Instagram (found at innocent) have roughly 38k followers and post the same photos and images that are posted on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The content is all high quality – well thought out and received well.
However, when looking at hashtags – the #innocentsmoothies hashtag has over 5 times the amount of photos tagged with #innocentdrinks. It’s interesting to see that, where the branding is different to elsewhere, the amount of content and engagement is higher. However, it doesn’t bode well for the overall brand. On Facebook, innocent drinks are /innocent, on Twitter they are @innocentdrinks and on Instagram it’s innocentsmoothies. There is no consistency, and it can get quite confusing.
innocent drinks’ LinkedIn is extremely simple – they have a Company Page with almost 20,000 followers – and regularly post professional news (so no cute furry animals here!).
The most interesting thing about innocent drinks on LinkedIn is the lack of a ‘Careers’ page – they prefer to do all their job postings in-house and on their site. Their LinkedIn strategy is simple, and the network doesn’t really fit with their brand, so I can see why they don’t do much here!
Over on Vine, innocent drinks can be found at vine.co/innocent. Ever since they joined around a year ago, they’ve only done 10 Vines with only 3 throughout 2014. However, finally, in 2015 they are taking Vine seriously with 7 high quality uploads in the last two months. Helena told us (in our #SMKnowHow podcast) that in 2015 she wanted to concentrate on Vine and do more updates – something we support fully! Their Vines are creative, different and are subliminal marketing messages (like the rest of their social presence).
innocent drinks are extremely clever in the way they use social media to promote their brand and build a community.
Firstly, they know their audience – by testing the waters previously and ensuring that all content is innocent, child-friendly and relatable. Secondly, they know how to use the various networks and what works best for each – with regular updates and communication on Twitter and less-regular posts on Facebook. Finally, they know what will get them the best ROI – on Twitter, they’re funny, on trend and quirky; Facebook is kept simple with a cut-down version of their Twitter feed and their LinkedIn page is used for what it’s needed. On Instagram and Vine, the uploads are good, but we could see more! The only problem we have with the innocent strategy is the usernames – however this is something they seem to be looking at.
Brands: take note – be funny and do it well and you’ll become known for being the best.