Most people have heard the story of how innocent began. In 1999, the founders took their carefully crafted smoothies to a music festival and erected a sign asking customers if they should give up their jobs to dedicate themselves to the smoothie business. Underneath the sign sat a bin labelled ‘yes’ and another one labelled ‘no’, and they invited people to vote with their empty cups. At the end of the weekend the ‘yes’ bin was full, and innocent was born. Since then, the company has been on a mission to keep people healthy while making sure communities and the planet are healthy too.
As a founding tale, it’s certainly engaging, but it is also a testament to the innocent ethos of keeping the customer at the heart of business decision-making, helping innocent maintain a strong market position and staying ahead of the curve for more than 20 years now.
Verve has collaborated with innocent on their insight for 3 years, using a bespoke community of juice & smoothie drinkers, and carefully selected methodologies to help innocent unlock new product areas and demographics that are key to future success.
Community panels are a tried and tested research format that can support a range of insight requirements. They are ideal for delivering innovation, as customers are able to have in-depth involvement throughout the development phase of new products or propositions. Having a community of people with a variety of perspectives and an open forum to express thoughts, opinions and suggestions is invaluable for a brand, particularly in the FMCG sector where a new product can represent an enormous investment. Plus, the longevity of a community pays dividends as the group becomes more engaged with, and invested in the brand over a period of time. Plus, over time the community becomes more engaged with, and invested in the brand.
Together, innocent and Verve have taken this to the next level. The Greenhouse is a community of 1,000 drinkers across key European geographies – it can be drawn on to refine concepts, develop branding, try new products and shape consumer communications. It keeps innovations on track and ensures the consumer remains at the heart of decision making for the innocent team. It boosts agility of product development and opens up additional consumer touchpoints throughout the innovation cycle.
The key to The Greenhouse’s success has been its role as a core insight tool within the company. Well regarded by the whole team, it is perceived as a valuable asset that supports the innovative mindset of innocent more widely. More important than having the “perfect” insight methodology and practice is knowing that the insight will be understood, valued, and acted on internally. Many senior teams have a difficult relationship with insight – particularly when it doesn’t tell them what they want to hear – but the open and curious mindset fostered at innocent creates fertile ground for consumer feedback.
The Greenhouse is an opportunity for always-on consumer closeness at a time when the market is incredibly unpredictable. It gives innocent access to a meaningful and informative channel into consumer thinking, allowing their every move to be a collaborative effort.
This approach to insight gives it a truly formative relationship with innovation. When innocent was creating its juice strategy, Verve activated Greenhouse members to explore perceptions of the juice category in market. Community members were invited to participate in a ‘store safari’ mission where they visited their local supermarkets and explored the juice fixture. They looked at the offer, selected the products that appealed to them, and took them home to review the packaging and branding more closely, and enjoy the drink. This gave innocent a window into that moment of purchase; an eagle eye on the factors that impact purchase.
This was further supported by a semiotic approach that captured the big picture of the juice market. Native speakers in key markets collected a host of ‘cultural data sources’ – things such as video and print ads, brand website copy and imagery, pack visuals, social media data and so on. Using a combination of this and member feedback, Verve undertook semiotic analysis of the category to uncover what cultural signifiers were creating emotional connections. Taking this approach ensured that Verve could unlock emerging trends and market-level observations that may not be easily observed by the average consumer: it gave a future-facing dimension to the findings.
This agile combination of methodologies and ability to draw on other disciplines helped to juxtapose personal consumer interactions against a wider industry backdrop, supporting innocent remaining relevant in a rapidly changing sector. The findings are useful across the company from comms to sales to NPD.
In the early stages of creating their new campaign, The Big Rewild, innocent turned to Verve to ensure that their ideas were relevant and resonated with drinkers. Verve helped innocent to ensure that drinkers were at the heart of the campaign by exploring and optimising ideas by engaging drinkers in key European markets in the Greenhouse community.
Increasingly, a granular understanding of customer base is the difference between survival and liquidation for FMCG brands. It’s essential to bridge the say-do gap – that difference between what your customer says they will do, and what they actually do – with a new approach to research. If you can understand the intersection between a customer’s needs and desires, and the wider cultural backdrop, it can completely transform your approach to business.
That is why Verve launched Ignite@Verve. Inspired by the type of multidisciplinary approach that supported the success of innocent and many other brands Verve work with, it offers research complemented by proprietary AI; a host of expertise from fields like semiotics, behavioural analysis and anthropology; and the Ignite Collective – a meeting of creative minds, cultural creators, extreme viewpoints and leading-edge lifestyles that are already defining the future.
This unique approach to methodology creates powerful insights that can supercharge strategy and innovation. And all brands need a little bit of that right now.