"You Can’t Answer Every Question Yourself, You Need To Surround Yourself With Great Talent" An Interview with innocent's Dan Germain
We caught up with innocent’s Dan Germain ahead of the Knowledge Guild to find out how innocent does marketing, what to do when you’re faced with a bunch of naysayers and, not only how to create, but how to retain that iconic tone of voice.
Hi Dan, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, I’m Dan Germain, and I work at innocent, which is a drinks company. I’m the Group Head of Brand - so what does that mean, I hear you ask? It essentially means that I work in the areas of marketing and creativity. I work on protecting the brand and growing it for the future. These are the things I can talk about to people and also the things that I do on a day to day basis.
One of the areas innocent is really loved for is your iconic tone of voice - could you tell us a bit about how this started?
innocent is 18 years old, and, in that time, people have told us we have a distinct tone of voice that has helped us do good things. But where does it come from?
Honestly? The sound of some friends in a room messing about!
At the beginning, we never thought anyone would respond or react - we just did it because we thought it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, when you realise you have a kind of monster on your hands, and people are actually responding, replying and even using it back at you, then you have to figure out what you’re going to do with it. You have to find other people who can reproduce it, as it can’t all come from one person, and you have to find ways of doing it in different languages as you grow the business. On the whole, you need to keep it relatively simple and still retain the sound of those friends in the room who didn’t really have a clue in the first place.
innocent's tone of voice started as "the sound of some friends in a room messing about"
Other than managing to retain that tone of voice then, what are your other proudest moments?
Some of my proudest moments over the last 18 years are probably still being in business. That is a proud moment that I have every day. At the beginning, you never think that something like innocent is going to last this long.
There have been moments that have been really tough too. The credit crunch in 2008 almost put us out of business being perfectly honest. So, I’m really proud we came through that and got a bit tougher, stronger and smarter as a result. I’m also really proud of the fact we give 10% of our profits to charity, it really makes what we do worthwhile.
How does innocent as a brand stay innovative?
I think always by trying to hire people who are smarter than us. At the beginning, we had a strong idea of what we wanted the business to stand for and where we wanted it to go, but we didn’t have all the answers of how to get there. So, the principle has always been, hire someone smarter than you to figure it out with you and for you. You can’t answer every question yourself so you need to surround yourself with great talent. As innocent has grown and become a brand that more people know, you find that people want to come and join in with you.
"I think always by trying to hire people who are smarter than us."
How can you pick the best people to join in with you? How do you create that elusive highly successful team?
I think by knowing the kind of person that we want to hire. For me, it all comes from the set of values we have at innocent. We instinctively hire people against these – we want people who are natural, responsible, commercial, generous and entrepreneurial. We want people who over-index in these areas so that when they get to you, they are going to have the right mindset.
"I think if you have a strong enough belief in your idea and you really think the world needs it, whatever ‘it’ is, then you need to do it and stop listening to people who are really good at telling you how stuff won’t work."
We also don’t want ego, we don’t need that in the business. We need people who see the long-term vision and understand the value of this. This all sounds quite highfalutin, but when you meet the right person, you can know quite quickly. You can tell if they get it and if they want to be a part of it, or if they are just doing it because they heard that working at innocent is a bit of a laugh. With all due respect, we don’t need those people. We need people who are committed and have the energy to make it happen.
If you had one key message to pass on, from all your wisdom, what would it be?
Right at the beginning, when we started the business, we had so people telling us how it wasn’t going to work. Any possible objection we could have got we did – nobody is going to pay that much for your drinks, nobody wants to drink that stuff, why is the bottle that shape? Why is the drink that colour? But we kind of ignored all that and kept going anyway. I think if you have a strong enough belief in your idea and you really think the world needs it, whatever ‘it’ is, then you need to do it and stop listening to people who are really good at telling you how stuff won’t work.
Thanks Dan. Ignore the naysayers and hire people smarter than you, we’ve got it.
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