The voice that launched a thousand imitators

John Simmons shares three tips from a Designer Breakfast with Dan Germain, the voice of Innocent.

Dan Germain is the voice of Innocent and he talked this month at one of the regular Designer Breakfasts run by Amanda Tatham and Mike Abrahams. As a writer and creative head of Innocent from the earliest days (now 13 years ago) Dan was as relaxed as ever in the designers’ den at the Design Museum.

He started by showing a slide with the original Fast Tractor label. Then stated: “I wouldn’t be sitting here if we’d kept that name. What’s in a name? Everything.” So the brand became Innocent and spawned a crowd of imitators and the constantly irritating copywriting brief: ‘Write it like Innocent.’ What would Dan advise writers, designers, would-be entrepreneurs? Three things…

1. Use your own voice
He gave Woody Allen as an example of an unmistakable voice. You always know it’s a Woody Allen film even if he’s not in it. (My own suggestion is that the opening minutes of Woody Allen’s ‘Manhattan’ remain the best demonstration of what tone of voice really means.) Developing the Innocent voice led them to an interesting space – it opened up conversations, and it still does. People send Innocent lots of stuff they wouldn’t even think of sending other brands.

2. Be interesting
And be useful. Dan cited the Moleskine notebook with its story. Picasso, Hemingway and you. He talked about encouraging all his team to get as much input as possible from every cultural direction – including a benign attitude to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube at work. It all helps and it’s all free.

3. Never listen to No
It’s easier to say No than Yes. But you have to learn to say Yes more. When one of his team came in with a knitted woolly hat on an Innocent bottle, it would have been easy to turn it down for any number of reasons. They found a way to say Yes and last year the hats on smoothies raised £600,000 for Age UK.

And lots more besides. Check the Designer Breakfast website for future talks.

John Simmons is the author of Innocent: the inside story of Innocent told from the outside (Marshall Cavendish 2011).

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.