Sunday, April 12, 2009

Too Innocent For Their Own Good?

“We know that some people will always disagree and we respect that, but we know this […] is a great opportunity for Innocent.”

No, the aforementioned quote from Innocent’s Head of Creative, Dan Germain, doesn’t refer to a ludicrous new smoothie flavour (banana and beef anyone?), but the rather more contentious issue of the company’s recent and extremely ill-perceived activity on the stock market.

For those of you who have been avoiding the Financial Times in the wake of this economical apocalypse, allow the Gapster bring you up to speed. Innocent, peddler of expensive organic and natural smoothies, thickies and ‘veg pots’ (who cares if you’re paying £3 for a few bits of floppy broccoli if it’s got oh such pretty packaging) has sold a £30m stake in its ‘family’ business to Coca Cola - a company whose fame isn’t exactly built on an agenda of sustainability, fair-trade and green principles.

You can’t really blame the number-crunchers at Innocent for succumbing to the lure of the pound sign, especially in a recession. (The Gapster presumes any green principles not eradicated by the new shareholders will be choked by the exhaust from board members’ new Ferraris.) What Innocent failed to perceive however, was the intensity of the (albeit expected) backlash – cue an angry pitchfork-wielding mob wreaking PR havoc on the company website:

“You can't be innocent when you take dirty Coke money and have one of their execs on your board” rants Steve. “You have killed your brand forever” claims a disgruntled Ronan. “Would you take money from […] Robert Mugabe?” rants ‘Conor’ – wow! Even Andy claims: “I’ll finish the carton in the fridge, but from this point on, Innocent is just another name on the list of products not to buy as part of the killer Coke boycott.” (Glad you’re going to finish that smoothie before employing the principles you’re preaching there sonny…)

You see, what Innocent fails to realise is that when you build an ‘ethical brand’ with a unique selling point, your entire success is based upon these fundamental principles. Rome wasn’t actually built in a day and neither are brands – Innocent was started way back in 1998. However, a day is all it takes to damage a brand irreparably and this startled smoothie company currently has a lot of egg on its corporate face. (Potential new smoothie flavour anyone?)

The Gapster has no doubt whatsoever that the Innocent brand will live on – the financial clout offered by Coca Cola will undoubtedly enable the brand to expand (successfully) into new markets. What angry consumers are bemoaning however, is the fact that it won’t be the Innocent they’ve come to know and love. No amount of PR gloss will be able to cover up the fact that ‘righteous’ Innocent consumers have become victim to yet another example of spineless sell-outs and boardroom politics.

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