Social Media hasn’t helped Innocent sell drinks. Really?

Innocent Drinks AGM 2011 - Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/79336501@N00/6226512330 > Tiki Chris on Flickr

A client recently sent me a note with a link that stopped me in my tracks. I’m paraphrasing here but “Social Media doesn’t work”, they said, “Innocent Drinks says so”.

Say what?

Innocent Drinks are the darlings of social media, oft held up as master practitioners. Looking for a social brand to illustrate a presentation? Image search an Innocent Smoothie bottle and bang that on a slide – shorthand for social. So why create all that content and build a massive follower base across lots of social networks over the last six years, if it has had zero benefit to your business?

I didn’t believe the premise of the reported comment. I thought I’d be able to grab an actual Innocent Smoothies case study easily enough online, to share with my client and to allay their consternation. Innocent are famous for creative, feel good social media, so it would be a doddle to grab one from somewhere I thought.

Nope. Seems not.

There are any number of 3rd party blog post plaudits. But no empirical evidence, that I could see, to show that Innocent’s social campaigns and ongoing community building activity has helped to sell product. Either explicitly or obliquely.

Before I continue, here’s what the article said:
“Innocent Smoothies has won countless gongs for its social media presence over the years. However, Reed (co-founder) presented a contrarian view: “Innocent had the strongest social brand in the UK,” he said. “We were brilliant at social media and engaging with our customers. Over a five-year period, we just got better and better. At the same time, our sales went down and down. Don’t be seduced by social media. There’s no relationship between people talking about a product and buying it”.

Really? Really really?

Maybe not an immediate real time relationship in most cases – the same would be true of people talking about a great TV Ad. But I don’t buy that sweeping statement. however, that lack of an Innocent-specific case study has stumped me. Surely some of the plaudits and top of the league table positions and ongoing usage of SM by Innocent must have been as a result of some effectiveness-type scrutiny. You know: ‘we can show explicitly how X campaign / network usage has driven Y incremental sales’ etc. Seems not.

There are case studies out there that do show a link between use of SM and sales e.g a write up around what Newcastle Brown Ale have been doing, that (when you get to bottom if it) suggests a ‘Yes’ to the question ‘does great SM helps sales?’. What I don’t know is the ROI and specific metrics wrapped up in that.

And my client, the one who sent me the original link, continues to create content and use social media. That’s because it helps their B2B sales team engage with people across their industry. They have raised their brand profile, sparked conversations and nurtured relationships that have led to sales. SM activity has helped the bottom line for them.

As for Innocent – I’ll have to accept it hasn’t.

Although… (I can’t let this drop can I?!) this article seems to point to a link between SM (albeit not in isolation but within a promotional mix) and revenue drivers.

And this post relates to Veg Pots, rather than smoothies but alludes to some direct / empirical correlation between use of social media and sales (albeit there is no source cited).

So, that elusive – “Aha! See SM did help Innocent build their business!” type of case study doesn’t appear to exist.

During my searching I left a comment on the Our Social Times blog. They also seemed puzzled by Innocent’s maybe myopic (my words not theirs) view of what could constitute evidence of the effectiveness of social media usage.

See the thread here: http://oursocialtimes.com/how-innocent-topped-the-social-brands-100/#comment-20413

In summary and the thoughts I’m left with are:

a) I don’t believe it
b) But if it’s true that absolutely no commercial value e.g incremental sales or additional listings or improved market penetration can be shown as a result of all that people/creative/pixel effort over the last 6 years, why bother?
c) I don’t believe it.

As a final note and just whilst I’m on the topic of SM case studies: the IPA had launched a new site, which details some great case studies on the effectiveness of social media.

Social Media works, as the site says.
ps – I buy Innocent Smoothies. And not just if they’re on offer. I like the drinks and I like the brand’s ethos. I’ve built up a picture of the brand from a whole load of marketing over the years from POS to TV and from tweets I’ve seen.

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/79336501@N00/6226512330 > Tiki Chris

1 thought on “Social Media hasn’t helped Innocent sell drinks. Really?”

  1. What’s not in the picture here from Read (of Innocent Smoothies) is all the competition that Innocent was up against. Yes Innocent Smoothies sales may have gone down but the competition, in terms of cheaper own-brand labels and the like, probably quadrupled in the same period. So you could argue that had Innocent not had a strong SM presence their sales may have bombed!

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