Why I hate InnocentOK, so I only wrote the heading above out of a childish desire to shock. And, of course, it isn't true: like everyone else, I love delicious Innocent smoothies, and warmly admire their witty way with words, especially on their packaging. But I can think of three reasons why those cheery folk from Fruit Towers don't inspire quite as much warmth in me as they once did.
First, I'm fed up with hearing people talk about the desirability of "doing an Innocent". What do they actually mean? If all they are trying to say is that it's a good idea for businesses to use words in a way that helps to set them apart from their competitors, then I couldn't agree more. But I suspect that, more often, the Innocent wannabes don't really understand what it is they are aspiring to.
So let's be clear: Innocent haven't pulled off some clever marketing trick. Their much loved "tone of voice" wasn't devised by highly paid teams of branding specialists, armed with pie charts and research findings. It was, I'm 99.9% certain, simply how the founders of the business talked among themselves about what they were doing.
Of course, I don't mean to suggest that there isn't any art involved. All that lovely stuff about squishing loads of fruit and bunging it in bottles is beautifully crafted. But my point is that the distinctive way in which Innocent communicate is intrinsic: a near-perfect expression of who they are and what they believe in. And, crucially, it's been there since the start, when three blokes came up with a brilliantly simple business idea (squish loads of fruit and bung it in bottles).
So how could, say, a High Street bank or a car manufacturer or an airline ever hope to "do an Innocent"? Simple: they couldn't. And if they were ill advised enough to try, they would end up looking very foolish indeed. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Barclays.)
The second thing I'm less than thrilled about is the apparently widespread belief that Innocent have invented an entirely new way of using words. Not true. Yes, they do it outstandingly well; but there's nothing ground-breaking about a jokey, highly colloquial style of writing that engages chummily with the reader and happily veers off into apparent (but not actual) irrelevance. I could show you quite a few bits and pieces I've written that show a strong "Innocent influence" - or would do, if it wasn't the fact they I wrote them a decade or two before the first smoothie was blended. (And yes, I'm perfectly aware I sound like a grumpy old fart.)
What Innocent have done that is unique is to build a major brand on this style of verbal communication; and that, I freely concede, is a huge achievement in its own right. Because, normally, as businesses grow they lose the ability to talk with a distinctive voice - especially the kind that can make people laugh. All those "Innocent style" communications I've written over the years have been for small-to-minuscule-businesses: start-up design consultancies, a two woman creative recruitment company, a designer of crazy golf courses, and so on.
Third, and this is the really sacrilegious bit, I just ever so slightly wonder if they might be losing it a bit? I have to say that when I say their new "This water" brand extension, I found something vaguely smug and irritating about it. And just the other day, my 22 year old daughter remarked (unprompted by me) on how annoying she now finds Innocent. If cool recent graduates are starting to fall out of love with the brand (a big if, admittedly, since my observation is based on a sample of one). I wonder if Innocent might be reaching the point where it's just a little too big and successful to retain its fabled sense of humour? I, for one, find it harder to share a laugh with a business that's recently got into bed with McDonald's, however convincingly it argues the ethical case for doing so.
Anyway, those are my reservations. And I know that, since Innocent have made zillions of pounds as well as winning several thousand top creative awards, that this little rant of mine is sure to sound like sour grapes; a kind of fruit, incidentally, that Innocent would never dream of squishing and bunging in a bottle.