Fittingly over breakfast, Innocent's Dan Germain, and Lick's Tom Lavis, served up their perspectives on the creative approaches that drive success in the realms of food and drink.
On the hottest day of the year so far, we welcomed YCN Members and friends to the cool confines of the Library at Shoreditch House for a refreshing breakfast briefing. Sharing their stories were the Creative Heads of two food and drink brands; very different in scale — but sharing commercial and cultural understandings. Dan Germain has been part of the well-known story of Innocent Drinks since the very beginning, and today remains central to the creative direction of the business – from its choice of words to its newest products. Frozen yoghurt (or Fro-Yo) company Lick was started by two school friends in 2008. Having been involved since the early days – in everything from grass-roots marketing to manning the bouncy castle – Thomas Lavis joined the team officially as Head of Creative in 2009, when the focus of the business shifted from physical stores to retailing its tubs nationwide.
Together with Dan and Tom, we explored how these two companies have taken a distinctly creative and human approach to business — and how the success of that approach can be measured in so much more than sales.
Thanks to Ed Andrews for the short film, shot at the event, and preceeding some images and learnings below.
Six things we learned
1. Do it yourself
No budget, but buckets of imagination. By doing things themselves and – perhaps more importantly, doing the things they loved – the team at Lick were unconsciously forming their brand's ethos and tone of voice. Over the years, the team has surrounded itself with a network of creative talent, on-hand to help design and make everything from event posters to tie-dye t-shirts. And by collaborating with artists and musicians, Lick is constantly racking up interesting content to share on social media – particularly helpful in the winter months when business is quieter.
2. You don’t always have to be an expert
None of the core Lick team had any experience working in the corporate world before setting up their business. While that’s come with its fair share of challenges, ultimately it’s been more of a help than a hinderance. By building the company from scratch and learning on the job, they’ve created a brand with a stronger image, story and set of values — all of which generates instant standout, appeal and respect from everyone they come in contact with. Similarly, Dan was keen to emphasise that we're all human and it's impossible to know everything, so don't try to talk as though you're an expert. Whether at meetings with advertisers or buyers, he’s found that when asking questions, having an inquisitive and open mind, and being honest and human, people generally respond better.
3. Do the wrong thing
By not doing things by the book – like adding dubious jokes to the bottoms of their juice bottles – Innocent's tone and values have always been steadfast. And now, on a much larger scale, they're staying true to their ideals and still doing things differently. Recently, the brand hosted its first Innocent Unplugged festival – a three day event at a secret location in Kent, that no one knew anything about. And, for the large part, they still don’t – because it was designed to be completely un-promoted, with no PR undertaken before or after the event. 'Unplugged' meant that phones were banned at the festival – which meant no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no recording the event of any kind. Dan admitted that putting on an expensive event that couldn't be shared might have seemed like a silly thing to do, but in relying on old-fashioned but effective word-of-mouth and creating an event that was all about switching off from technology and just enjoying the present, the festival continued to uphold the brand's values.
4. Alternative measurables
Although data is essential to business, it can never inform a business of the 'emotional transaction' between a brand and its customer. While Innocent does have a resident ‘data cruncher’, Dan also measures the business’s success by compiling a constantly evolving wall of Innocent-themed paraphernalia that has been sent in over the years by brand fans around the world. One of the most impressive is a hand-stitched, Innocent-themed quilt – a level of brand loyalty that no amount of data can capture.
5. The value of feeling
Dan puts great trust in his own instinct – "If it feels right, I know it." And it’s on this basis that many of his creative decisions are made. The same goes for some of the creative people and projects he most admires – including record label producer Rick Rubin who had a natural instinct for great musical talent and direction, despite not knowing how to operate any of ‘the machines’. Similarly, at Lick, the founders and Tom have an innate sense of what’s right and wrong for the brand – of what makes something or someone ‘Lick’, to use their brand name as an adjective.
6. Friendship matters
Lick and Innocent are both brands built by close-knit groups of friends – and both Tom and Dan were keen to stress how important the support and combined passion of those friends can be. As Dan put it, some of the best businesses and creative partnerships were built on true friendship – from Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, to Frank Oz and Jim Henson. And friends can always be relied on to pick you up after a bad meeting or celebrate victories, however big or small.
We would like to thank Thomas and Dan for taking part and to all our Members that came along.
Photography by Owen Richards.
Location:Shoreditch House Library,
London, E1 6AW,
Start:1st July, 2015 at 9:30am
End:1st July, 2015 at 11:30am