Sometimes, “Innocent” Marketing Works Best

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The Big Knit campaign.

Let’s admit it: marketers are in an online rat race. As all of us with an Internet connection and a functioning pair of eyes know, businesses are stumbling over each other to get 100,000 more views on their videos than their competitor, to engage more fans on Facebook, to get more Twitter followers retweeting their posts. The platform doesn’t matter—your marketing ingenuity makes or breaks your campaign. It’s rare that we as consumers see a campaign that truly connects with us and wins us over. Amongst all the bland, insults-our-intelligence marketing we see, it’s rare to find something special—so when something like Innocent comes along, it makes people want to be part of it.

Innocent is a British juice company. When I was in London last, I inhaled their smoothies with ferocious enthusiasm. To this day, I still pine for them in Vancouver (their products haven’t reached North America yet).  Since starting out as a small smoothie company in 1999, they’ve grown to produce smoothies, juices, juice boxes, juice pops, and even veggie packs, and sell them all across Europe in most supermarkets. Their mission is to provide consumers with healthy products that make them feel good, and to be as ethical and honest about what they’re doing as possible. Clearly, they’re doing something very right:  for 2012, Innocent came in #1 in Headstream and Brandwatch’s Social Brands 100 list (which measures win-win relationships, active listening and appropriate social behaviour).  Yet what really captured me about Innocent isn’t an online campaign—it’s wooly hats.

That’s right. In July, Innocent launched their latest round of The Big Knit, a campaign they do every year. Until October 1st, Innocent provides consumers with knitting templates and advice on what to do, and in turn, Innocent consumers can knit little wooly hats to fit the smoothie caps.  Once enough hand-knit smoothie caps have been mailed in to Innocent, they sell the smoothies along with the hats they’ve received. For every bottle sold, money goes to Age UK—a charity supporting the elderly in the UK to help them stay warm and connected in the winter.

Over the years, The Big Knit has raised over 1 million pounds, and no wonder. The Big Knit is a smart, heart-warming campaign and its ingenuity lies in the simplicity of the idea: asking consumers to knit wooly hats based on instructions sent to them. This lets Innocent achieve what most companies can only dream of: it makes each consumer participating in The Big Knit feel unique, important, and personally valued by the company.  Not only does this win over the Innocent consumer, but if a potential customer is shopping for juices and sees a hand-decorated, wooly smoothie bottle next to your run-of-the-mill orange juice container, the consumer is going to reach for the wooly bottle, right? That’s because the hand-knit wooly hats imply the greatest thing that Innocent achieved with The Big Knit: a thriving and committed community around the brand. People crave to be part of communities—and if a smoothie company makes it easy for them to feel part of the bigger picture, the potential consumer will buy the smoothie, buy into the brand, and buy into the exciting new community hundreds of thousands are a part of.

Finally, this marketing campaign excels not only because it determines how consumers view the brand: it determines how they will view the brand in the future. With The Big Knit, Innocent have given their consumers warm memories of knitting hats for the campaign. They’ve developed an aesthetic that taps into memories of childhood and family (grandma knitting by the fire) and showcases the power of community by emphasizing each individual participant with each hat. They’re raised money for your grandma and grandpa to stay warm, for goodness sakes! The Big Knit has embedded Innocent in our minds as a genuine, community-oriented, and honest company that actually cares about the people who support it.

So there you have it. I’m a little obsessed with The Big Knit and Innocent, and all because of some wooly unicorns and strawberries on smoothie caps. The Big Knit example should be a lesson for all those marketers trying to succeed in social media. Remember, they’re ranked as the top social brand, and that’s because the values they project on social media platforms mirror the same values we see in The Big Knit. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to connect with people on Facebook, over the phone, or in person.  What truly connects people is being real. Be honest. Be inventive. Be accessible. Be involved. Be community leaders. At Industrial Brand, we strive to be all those things to our clients—because without them, what we’re doing is empty and simply not good enough.

If you do those things, you’ll make a difference. If you commit to those values, you’ll succeed in your campaigns, even on an online platform. Be good in your marketing, and the rest will follow.

Have you seen an effective marketing campaign lately? Tell us about it.