I sat down at an EAT café recently with a smoothie and absent-mindedly read the label.
It delighted me.
Because it listed the ingredients in plain English. Not a ‘squished rasberry’ or ‘squashed banana’ in sight. No one was saying ‘don’t tell our Mums!’ or making other such, cutesie faux-familiar requests…..
Lest this observation be the final nail in the coffin of my youth, let me say that I simply LOVED the freshness of the Innocent tone of voice when it emerged in the nineties. It summoned up the informal zeitgeist perfectly. Britain was rediscovering itself after nearly twenty years of conservatism (with a small ‘c’) and it was the heady days of Cool Britannia and New Labour.
But that’s exactly the point – ‘it summoned up the informal zeitgeist perfectly’. Because – inevitably – the zeitgeist moved on. And I’m not sure that Innocent has. The owners might (legitimately) argue that the brand is so much more successful today than it was then, so any such criticism is irrelevant. Fair enough on one level.
But I have a strong sense that in the absence of evolution and development of their brand (tone of voice being a large part of that, particularly in the B2C space) they will find it being increasingly ‘chipped away’. And that chipping away is occurring from the bottom-up.
How many cheaper, ‘wannabe’ juices, smoothies, sandwiches etc have we seen over the last ten years that overtly celebrate their supposedly cheeky, chirpy, ‘tee-hee!’ informality and primary school mentality? It is simply inauthentic; a topic that is very close to my heart.
The tone of voice trailblazing that Innocent made its name for, now comes across, amongst competitor brands, as a sickening pastiche – cannabilised by years of overexposure. For Innocent itself, it is simply a rather tired self-parody.
Which is why, for this consumer at least, the EAT Smoothie was a such a blessed relief. It seemed fresh. Brands with genuine longevity (think Madonna, for one) understand ‘fresh’ and consequently know the importance of constantly reinventing and evolving themselves.
Either Innocent needs to recognise this, or I am a grumpy old man.
Both could, of course, be true……