More than words

I am a fan of tags on bottles. The more text the better. It is tangible proof that the brand has something to say for itself. It could be argued that the website satisfies this need – but not so intimately or immediately.

In pre-Internet days, I was responsible for launching a single malt whisky. The promotional budget was modest: label design, outer packaging, presentations and – on my insistence – a bottle-neck booklet to describe the manufacturing process, provenance and to what it owed its distinctive taste.

I imagined a typical purchaser – a novice in the world of single malts – in need of reassurance and justification for an expensive purchase. ‘Think of it,’ I said to the creative team, ‘as a crib sheet for the purchaser, as he pours a glass for a friend.’

A company that appreciates the tag’s potential is the fruit smoothie-maker Innocent. Here is Innocent introducing itself to the French market, with a 24-page, 5cm2, black and-white booklet, entitled, ‘Un petit bonjour’. It even has an index. It is written in friendly, colloquial French, accompanied by Minimalist line drawings.

The drink ‘will provide a simple means of promoting good health each day, rather like attending a gym’. Adjacent is a set of weights, covered in cobwebs. Over the page is the now familiar story of the company’s beginnings. The products trialled at a music festival in 1998, together with a leaflet asking consumers whether the young entrepreneurs should go into making smoothies full time. Customers voted by putting the leaflet in one of two dustbins marked ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. By the end of the weekend, the former was full and they began their new careers on the Monday.

The company’s philosophy is expressed not through a pious mission statement, but by means of simple (innocent) sentences. What’s in a smoothie? Whole fruit and the pure juice of fresh fruit. That’s all. Vraiment. ‘The world is our orchard,’ it says on the following page, next to a drawing of the Taj Mahal. Then, ‘They are chaste, our drinks,’ opposite a locked chastity belt.

Towards the end, the reader is advised to get a life – not to waste time reading books like this. ‘You surely have better things to do. But if you are bored, if you wish to perfect your English, have a natter (papoter), call us… Innocent Ltd.’ Those three letters, the French are informed, stand for ‘little tasty drinks’.

Attention to detail, ample and relevant information, delivered with a light and distinctive touch. So much added value. Innocent executive James Davenport recently contributed to DCM, the Design Council’s new magazine. ‘We have regular feedback from consumers on how they love our packaging, from the design to specific copy.’ Innocent seizes every opportunity to generate feedback. ‘Design,’ says Davenport, ‘can help keep consumers engaged.’

The neck booklet is a key player. To call it a tag is to diminish its importance, suggesting an afterthought, a minor piece of the promotional campaign, which can be delegated to juniors – ancillary. Instead, it can represent the quintessence of the brand.

Innocent’s booklet repays the care that has been lavished on it. As Davenport says, ‘We know that good design helps us perform better.’ Well, a creative director would say that, wouldn’t he? As it happens, he’s financial controller.

David Bernstein

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