When you produce smoothies and dairy-free milks, promoting a poisonous new product probably doesn’t sound great does it?
Innocent doesn’t play by the regular brand rulebook with their quirky, original tone of voice and oft-imitated irreverent social media presence.
The brand has a history of announcing amusingly fake products to their 295,000 followers on Twitter. Left-handed smoothies and orange juice that is 100% bits have both made an appearance over the years.
The latest effort teaches marketers a number of lessons.
Firstly, even the savviest marketers make mistakes. Revealing ‘conker milk’ was supposed to be a joke. Unfortunately, consuming conkers can cause paralysis or death. Slightly less than ideal.
What really stands out is that the brand handled this potential crisis perfectly with a strategy that other brands can take inspiration from.
Firstly, and most obviously, they issued a clear, on-brand apology and witty clarification to make it abundantly clear that they were not releasing the product, or entering the poison business.
For legal and PR reasons, this has to be the first step in any social media mishap. Removing the offending post is a good idea, but if you’re a big enough brand, or have created enough controversy, you can be confident that there will be screenshots that could come back to haunt you.
Secondly, they owned the conversation about the mistake. By posting regularly and being suitably self-deprecating, they become the champion of the ‘don’t milk conkers’ movement i.e. criticising their own PR stunt.
This was obviously done in Innocent’s recognisable tone and style.
Whilst the campaign cannot be seen as a success from a PR perspective; anything that could potentially lead to people eating poisonous conkers can’t truly be described as ‘a win’ (not least because you could kill off some brand advocates).
However, it is definitely an example of great disaster management.
Finally, the brand engaged with social media users that contacted them. Their tone ranged from sarcastic, playful and apologetic where appropriate. This drove additional engagement as others saw the discussions going on and waded in themselves.
Looking at the number of replies and engagements. It’s clear that the Innocent social media team have been very busy since the incident. This is a great example of why it’s important to have adequate marketing support. Or an agency ;)
Arguably, the masterful handling of the issue has created more sustained interest for Innocent than the original conker announcement would have done in the first place.
It’s good to take risks with marketing. That’s how innovation is achieved. But if you get it wrong, make sure you can be sufficiently agile to recover. If you do this well, you could end up surpassing your expectations.
Just please don’t put anyone in danger.
And don’t eat conkers.