Smoothie Talker

Ah, Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent, the smoothie company – he’s young, hip, good looking, with pirate hair, a touch of stubble AND he’s a super-successful multi-millionaire. If central casting were to design an entrepreneur from scratch, they would probably come up with Richard Reed.

He was the guest speaker at a conference I went to recently. And you can’t hate him, even if you’d like to, because he’s charming, articulate, full of inspiration and crowd-wowing enthusiasm.

Just like every one of his bottles of pulped juice, he radiates ‘The Love’.

Of course, his talk was packed with hints, tips and mantras – hey, let’s call them ‘success hacks’ – from hire grade-A people you’re properly excited about; sweat the small stuff because details matter; always listen up and love, love, love your customer; to get a van, cover it in astroturf, make it shoogle with hip-hop music and invite people in for a tasting.


But for me, the fascinating bit was taking a look at what Innocent has done with language.

The company knows that the packaging, the labels, and every word on the side of the carton are the main ways it can engage with the customer. So Innocent has used that space, absolutely made the most of it, maybe even squeezed the pips from it at every turn.

That boring, grey ‘Use by’ date on the lid of the bottle? It’s been tweaked to ‘Enjoy by…’ Tiny difference, big change, as now the bottle is speaking to you and sharing the Innocent way.

‘We took a bit of heat for that from the authorities,’ Reed admits, but nothing like the telling off from Trading Standards which followed when he included ‘two plump nuns’ in a list of ingredients – as a joke, obviously. There was a hearing in London, followed by an official letter which warned that he would either have to stop putting ‘plump nuns’ in his ingredients, or include them in the recipe.

Innocent, undeterred by the Trading Standards rap, has gone about changing all kinds of boring bits on the packets, trying to make them more friendly, more characterful and using them to give the company a distinctive voice.

No additives, no chemicals and no preservatives becomes ‘we never add anything weird,’ or ‘No funny business.’ To ‘shake before opening’ is added: ‘not after.’ Smile.

The blurbs are dotted with drawings, fascinating facts, ‘You’re welcome’ and ‘Win!’ Customers are urged to call the bananaphone (yes, they do have one – it’s yellow and shaped like a banana) and to sign up for ‘love and friendship’ as well as the newsletter.

The message coming over loud and clear from Reed was: love your customer; speak to your customer. The more you engage with them, the more they will talk back and tell you what they want or how to make it better.

Financial-service companies have one heck of a lot of boring bits in their packaging. Could it be time to rethink them, Innocent style?

The perky, playful, irreverent tone may not be right for every occasion, but that doesn’t mean financial writing can’t be interesting or witty, informative, wry, upbeat… whatever tone suits best.

In Reed’s words: ‘No one is more important than the customer. Let them speak and they will tell you what they want.’

And did anyone ever ask for their brochure to be just that little bit more dry, complicated and jargon-packed? No, I don’t think so.

Carmen Reid

February 2015