Make it a thriller, not vanilla

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to Richard Reed, one of the co-founders of Innocent Drinks, speak about his approach to business.

Innocent has been one of my favourite brands for some time. I think the tone of its communications is spot on, whether that’s its website, advertising, Twitter feed or product packaging. Next time you’re in your local supermarket, I dare you not to pick up an Innocent smoothie and smile at how basic details like ingredients and consumer contact information are described on the label. Down to earth and not too fussy, and it’s probably no coincidence that Richard Reed comes across the same way when he speaks.

But you don’t become a multi-millionaire entrepreneur on appearances alone. Richard’s talk last week was built around 10 ways to succeed in business, and there’s far more to his and the Innocent story than saying or writing things in a nice way. I’m not going to recount all 10 here, but there was one that struck me in particular – not least because it chimed with something else that inspired me a few days earlier.

“Chase beauty,” he said. In other words, don’t underestimate the power of making things beautiful in business. Take pride in the things you make and do. A very similar sentiment to one expressed by Tim Colman in his excellent guest blog post earlier this month, which I only caught up with last week: “Be brave – be better than alright.”

I don’t think many people set out to produce work that’s just OK – but if we’re honest, we’ve probably all had to settle for that more often than we’d like. Sometimes there’s no question that you need to be pragmatic in the circumstances you face. Deadline pressure, competing priorities, having to achieve consensus – all different ways that what we wanted to look, read or go to plan so brilliantly can end up being watered down.

I doubt Innocent would be the success story it is – the brand may not even have existed – if Richard Reed and his fellow founders had allowed the beauty of what they wanted to achieve to be eroded at the outset. For me, it’s a timely reminder not just to set the bar high when it comes to quality and creativity, but to keep the faith when the questions and challenges start coming or the clock is ticking.

So thanks to the wise words of Richard and Tim, I for one will be on my guard the next time that threatening streak of vanilla appears on the horizon.

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