Why Innocent Drinks decided to get blue and argumentative on social

Innocent Drinks’ social media team won ‘Best in-house client team’ at The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019. In this case study, the team offers an inside look at the challenges faced and strategies used on the way to this prestigious win.

The challenge

Being paid to tweet about smoothies is a tough gig, but someone has to do it. This year we’ve gritted our teeth, pulled up our socks, and just got on with hitting our three goals:

  • Make people love our brand.
  • Get paid to watch TV.
  • Maybe sell some drinks while we’re at it.

We’ve ticked those off and even hit some goals we didn’t know we had:

  • Argue with the entire internet for four days straight.
  • Make a video with a member of a noughties boy band.
  • Spend half our budget asking for a pay rise.

The strategy

Our team is split between ‘One To Many’, and ‘One To One’.

‘One To Many’ is our content creation – led by Anna (Head of Digital), working with James (digital content creator) and John (social media copywriter). They’re the ones who get all the glory.

‘One To One’ covers our responses across social – both solving customer service queries, and having fun chat with the people who buy our stuff. Rrita (People’s Champ Manager) leads this, managing Tilly and Rochana (People’s Champs). They pick up the pieces when John and Anna accidentally offend someone.

To the casual observer, it may look like we don’t have a strategy. We usually forget to talk about our drinks and just chat nonsense all day. But we actually have a very in-depth strategy: chat nonsense all day.

We break it down into three words: hum, sing, shout.

The work

Hum – weather, snacks, and penguins

‘Hum’ is our day-to-day stuff – making consistently great posts that our core audience love, like the goings on in our office.

We don’t crowbar sales messages into every tweet. Bar a few big moments, we avoid adverts and talk about things people are interested in: biscuits, storms and whether or not something is a penguin. You know, the important stuff.

We constantly reply to people. They pay our wages, seems only right to reply. We try to have one-to-one interactions so good that they become one-to-many by writing replies that people want to share. We know we’ve done our job right when people share our posts saying “read innocent’s replies”.

We use things like the quote-retweet function on Twitter to hero our fans and show everyone what people are saying. Take ‘Dog On A Train’. We saw a dog. On a train. We tweeted about it. Someone else sent us a dog on a train. We quote retweeted it. Someone sent another. And another. And another. Soon we had a whole thread of commuting canines – and 900k organic impressions.

Sing – cakes, pies, and Eurovision

‘Sing’ is about latching onto what people are talking about and standing out with great content.

That covers planned content, like April Fool’s Day and mathematically accurate charts for Pi Day. It also covers reactive content. When Instagram went down, we turned it into our most retweeted tweet ever, and followed up the next day on Instagram.

That brings us to live-tweeting. The greatest trick we’ve ever played is persuading our bosses to pay us to watch TV. Live-tweet commentary is the ultimate test of our skills – the pressure’s on to quickly think up dozens of funny, on-brand, posts.

This year we’ve been paid to watch the Women’s World Cup, Love Island, Bake Off and Eurovision, reaching new audiences each time and getting great organic engagement.

We average 700k impressions for live tweeting an episode of Bake Off. We got 3m organic impressions from Eurovision. Not a bad night’s work.

Shouting – blue, blue, blue

Shouting means running campaigns that make the entire internet sit up and take notice.

We’d struggled with this before. We’d never found a way to make our products as fun and shareable as our nonsense. But then we got a new drink. It’s juicy. It’s good for you. It’s boosted with vitamins.

And it’s blue. Really blue. The bluest drink you’ll ever see.

Or so we thought…

Our new ‘innocent plus’ drinks launched in April. The plan was to save our ideas for the big September campaign, but when they first hit shelves, we figured we should mention them. Inspired by March’s Pi Day success, we made a Venn diagram about our blue drink and stuck it on Twitter.

Immediately people started saying our blue drink was green. This was embarrassing. It was meant to be our big new thing, and people were saying we’d got it wrong. What could we do? We thought for a moment, then replied with a simple “It’s blue”.

The Dog on a train thread had killed it a week ago, so we did the same again - quote-retweeting replies in a thread – so everyone could see the argument. Soon, people were sharing the thread saying our replies were “the funniest thing ever”. Their words, not ours.

We got 1m organic impression in a day. We went to bed chuffed to bits, assuming it would die off overnight.

We woke up on Good Friday and it was snowballing. People were sharing it all over the world. Some were even saying “The social media team need a raise, read the replies”. We cancelled our plans and spent all weekend arguing about the colour of our drink - day and night. We stuck it on Instagram stories – using the Question sticker to repeat the interactions and create our most viewed story ever.

4 days and a gazillion tweets later, the thread had over 20 million organic impressions. Our new product had beaten all our best ever nonsense posts, combined.

We weren’t the only ones breaking records. Lauren was one of many people who’d shared it saying “read the replies”. Her tweet had got 30k retweets. That’s more than the John Lewis Christmas advert.

Our piggy bank, with our entire budget for the year, wasn’t meant to be opened until the September campaign, but it was time to get the hammer. Promoting the original tweet wouldn’t do much – Lauren’s tweet showed our best bet was to somehow drive people to our replies.

We spent £12k – almost half our entire budget – promoting 5 tweets from people saying: “The social media team need a raise, read the replies”.

They got the thread 3m promoted impressions, but more importantly triggered more people to share it. It snowballed for a second time, getting another 12m organic impressions. It also got a bunch of press coverage, including a poll about the colour on The Sun’s Snapchat story. Even Duncan from Blue shared it.

The original tweet, featuring four product messages, got 2m impressions and 1m engagements – an engagement rate of 53%. In total, across every channel, our blue campaign got over 33m organic impressions. That’s half our total impressions this year.

The wider marketing team scrapped their plans for the September campaign, and let us run the show – with our blue drink front and centre. We led the entire ATL campaign and found a production company to make us a very blue TV ad. We even scrounged a few extra quid to make a video with – who else – Duncan from Blue. That got 5 million impressions.

The results

We don’t get bogged down in data – we care about posting genuinely engaging content, not trying to master the algorithms. However, we do have a few stats that show it’s working pretty well:

Twitter – average 200 retweets.

Facebook – average 2.4k likes.

Instagram – average 2.2k likes.

This was a winning entry at The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2019. Click here to register your interest in next year’s event.

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