Q&A with Innocent marketing director Douglas Lamont
Marketing Week talks to Innocent’s marketing director Douglas Lamont about maintaining the brand’s tone of voice, the Olympics and the company’s relationship with majority shareholder Coca-Cola.
Marketing Week (MW): You’re not a traditional marketer by background (Lamont’s recent career history includes being director of innovation at Innocent, managing director at This Water and director of corporate development and Freeserve) – what extra experience and knowledge do you bring to the Innocent marketing director role?
Douglas Lamont (DL): It’s fair to say that I’ve grown into the marketing role over time. When I was at Freeserve, that was a young brand that built up very quickly. When I joined Innocent I launched the This Water brand and more recently I was responsible for the launch of Innocent Juice working very closely with the marketing team to define its positioning and target market, so I have quite a lot of experience in building brands.
The opportunity to be marketing director of Innocent is an opportunity I don’t think many people would turn down - I jumped at the chance. In a marketing role having that combination of a good understanding of the needs of the rest of the business and desire to drive the brand forward is a really healthy balance.
MW: Now the Olympics and Paralympics are almost over (of which Innocent is a partner), what marketing activity do you have coming up in the rest of the year?
DL: We just went live two weeks ago with an on-pack promotion with Disney’s Club Penguin, which is going great guns with redemption.
Over the next six weeks we will do a burst of juice marketing, mainly outdoor and press led. The campaign broke in the first week of September. Creatively we are building on what we’ve already done, very much landing the taste and natural messages around juice, with some minor tweaks to the headlines.
We then have the Big Knit campaign coming which is also a continuation. For me it’s such a symbol of the best bits of Innocent marketing that really work all round for consumers, retailers, for us and it allows us to give donations to a charity. It’s a great example of 360 campaign that consumers warm to. We love it, it’s very much an annual part of the plan. Last year we were sent in 1.5 million hats.
MW: Innocent has maintained the same tone of voice and cute, friendly marketing since launch in 1999. Since then many brands have tried to copycat that, from Vita Coco to Sky’s Now TV. Is it time for a change?
DL: The fact that people are still coming out and saying they want to have a tone of voice like Innocent tells me we’re still doing something right. They’re not saying “we want to be like Innocent used to be” - that gives me a lot of confidence that, whilst others are copying us, we’re doing a great job and that we’re the benchmark of a certain tone of voice and style. I don’t want to be knocked off course from because some other people are copying us.
MW: But the amount of “me-too” brands in terms of creative style must present a challenge?
DL: Our challenge as we become more and more of a mainstream household brand is how we continue to be unique and engage more and more people in conversation with us, whether that’s on our packaging, digital channels, or meeting us at a festival.
That’s our biggest challenge because we’ve almost doubled the size of the business in the last three years and this year alone we’re going to grow the business 25 per cent, which means we’re up to nearly 30 per cent penetration of the population - that’s a lot of people having Innocent in their fridges.
I want that wide group of people thinking about Innocent in the same way as people that discovered it in West London in 1999. That’s very hard to achieve when you’re at that scale.
MW: How do you meet that challenge?
DL: We will hold on to our unique tone of voice but use new opportunities and new marketing channels to have a conversation with the right audience.
We’re getting a lot right in digital. We’ve been voted in a number of different forums as UK’s number one social media brand in the last six months.
We’ve spent a lot of money in the last few years doing a lot of the above the line, mainstream media and we can continue to do that. But we can also dial up some of the more grass roots marketing channels that we haven’t prioritised in the last few years, to remind people of our entrepreneurial roots.
We know how to have conversations with consumers: we’ve been doing it since 1999 on our packaging. We also sent out first email newsletter then, after that we started blogging, to tweets, to Facebook. This is not something we have learnt quickly – social media is what we’ve been doing for 11 years – 10 years before others had to start thinking about it.
MW: Will you continue to put as much energy and content marketing into your packaging as you focus on grass roots marketing channels?
DL: We are rotating each set of packaging two to three times a year, with six variations for each SKU. It’s a huge content creation job but it’s the most important marketing piece we do each year because the vast majority of people who engage with our brand will only do so with our packaging.
From day one it’s been the thing that makes us different. People can copy our tone but they can’t really copy the level of commitment we have to our packaging. It comes at a cost but we built it into our supply chain from the beginning.
MW: What have you learnt from being a partner of the London 2012 Olympics?
DL: It gave us a great opportunity to engage with consumers in the park directly. We had great visibility and branding with the bikes, which portrayed our sense of fun and engagement. We saw lots of warmth towards the Innocent brand from consumers, so it’s been a really good thing for us – we’re seen as a healthy drink of choice.
Our engagement levels on Facebook and Twitter feeds were through the roof. People talk about 5 per cent engagement as being top Facebook, we were operating 40-50% [of Innocent’s Facebook fans interacting with the brand] during the two weeks of the Olympics.
It’s opened our eyes to what you can achieve in terms of visibility of the brand and we sold a lot of product on the park. We understand the dynamics of being involved with large events but it will always be a case of choosing our opportunities wisely going forward.
MW: Coke holds a majority stake in Innocent. Your company has always maintained that the
relationship is very “hands off”, is this still the case?
DL: They are an ambient business and have ambient relationships, we are a chilled business, so we operate as very separate companies. There’s no distribution benefit from them to us.
The Olympics is a great example of where we can leverage things that just wouldn’t have been possible for us before Coca-Cola became a shareholder.
There are some things we can leverage off in terms of behind the scenes benefits, such as media rates that help a little on the way and drawing on their experience in shopper insight.
Our relationship is very light touch – it’s not like I have a regular meeting that I need to attend with them.
To Coke we help complete their portfolio with our smoothies and chilled drink offerings and as they’re a shareholder in us we of course bring them growth, which is a good thing for them.
MW: Does it bother your customers that Coke is a majority shareholder in your business? Do they even know?
DL: We don’t hide the fact that Coke is a shareholder. It pops up every now and then on the Facebook feed and gets a bit of commentary and it’s on our timeline in the office and online so we don’t hide it.
We’re not Coca-Cola, we’re Innocent. We stand for the things Innocent stands for, so as long as our drinkers have confidence in that and we deliver against our brand promise that’s what actually matters – not who are shareholders are.