When fan clubs fight back

This is a follow-up to an earlier post about smoothie brand innocent selling its soul to Coke. It shows how a fan club you build up can turn on you when you act out of line with your brand values. One of innocent's key marketing tools, pack copy that reads like a mini-magazine, is being used by fans to express how pissed off they are. Thanks to Justin for this.

Innocent built a £100million brand without much advertising by, well, being innocent. They company was privately owned, and the 3 founders were active in promoting the company's caring, friendly and ethical positioning. The mission was to be "the world's favourite little food company". A huge fan club of enthusiastic and vocal users helped spread the brand message by word-of-mouth.

One of the key tools used to build the brand was brilliant packaging, with the copy on the bottles changing every few months. Each pack was like a mini magazine full of funny copy. There is a library of all these amazing packs here. The brand also likes to get its fan club to design their own packs, as they explain in their July 2009 newsletter: "back in May we ran a competition where you could write your very own label. Over 300 were penned and
we’ve whittled them down to a final 6. Vote for your favourites right here"

Picture 1

Well the design below is probably not one of the 6 finalists chosen by innocent. But it is surely one of the funniest.
Picture 1

innocent created a motivated, engaged fan club who were invited to
share their views. And it worked well for a long time. Fans gave
innocent the benefit of the doubt when things went wrong and forgave
them, as it seemed to be a little company learning how to do business.
Well, these fans still want to express their views. But they are not ones the company may want to hear.

It will be fascinating to see how they manage the increasingly bitter and twisted feedback they are getting.