Innocent’s tone of voice has been replicated across the category and beyond – so can they ensure they keep the freshness in their brand as well as their smoothies?

Pack copy for Innocent's pineapple smoothie - click to enlarge

When Innocent launched in 1999 they quickly developed a reputation for their packaging copy’s “quirky” tone of voice. This set them apart from their competitors as a friendly, witty, personable company amongst all the others – who suddenly looked like miserable, corporate, stick-in-the-muds by comparison.

As with any good idea though, it didn’t take long for everyone and their mums to jump on the bandwagon, and now packaging anthropomorphism is commonplace across all sorts of categories as the enjoyably cynical blog ‘Wackaging‘ is testament to (you know a phenomenon has taken off when it starts to rile people).

Pack copy is an area in which brands have an opportunity to express something about their values, or what kind of a company they are. It was oft-overlooked, but Innocent changed all that.

Vitamin Water pack copy: grating

The story of Innocent’s conception by three Cambridge graduates is now the stuff of marketing folklore, and the company is brilliant at ensuring the brand ethos and personality oozes from everything the company does from packaging to advertising to its offices to job vacancies. While this is no doubt the result of careful brand control, it feels like it’s a company which is genuine, and consumers relate to that with their wallets.

Where pack copy really works is where it resonates with its consumers by demonstrating a human understanding. Innocent, and now some of its competitors, have done this by conveying the kind of genuine-feeling personality that has the power to light up a smile on its consumers’ faces. Others, like another of Coca-Cola’s brands, Vitamin Water, can read as a transparent attempt to come across as ‘just a fun bunch of guys making a great product’, and in doing so feel contrived and shallow. Where it really grates is where brands have, rather than speaking in a tone of voice that fits them, instead mimicked Innocent’s (albeit not very well), resulting in the packaging equivalent of Colin Hunt from the Fast Show.

Oh give it a rest, it's just porridge

The challenge for Innocent in this new competitive context is to retain a distinct tone of voice in this sea of kerazyness. With Coca-Cola now the majority shareholder and their competitors’ attempts improving all the time, it’s more important than ever that every element of the marketing mix stays true to the brand’s identity, and that they convey themselves in a way which fits the brand: friendly, honest and – well – innocent.