Innocent: Brands have to be ruthless when recruiting to retain challenger status

Rather than being determined by scale and time, a brand only loses its challenger status when it hires the wrong people, says Innocent CEO Douglas Lamont.

A challenger brand stops being a challenger when it recruits the wrong people, according to Innocent CEO Douglas Lamont, who advises brands to be ruthless about finding people who truly embody the company culture.

Speaking yesterday at Marketing Week Live (8 March), Lamont said having a challenger mindset helps Innocent recruit the right people and keep that culture alive.

“Being a challenger is about the type of people you recruit and their hunger to challenge the status quo.

“If I recruit eight people who stick to the values then they will recruit eight people who stick to the values, it’s self-fulfilling. The minute you think ‘let’s just get these people in’ things can very quickly get away from where you want to be. You’ve got to be ruthless about continually feeding the company with the right people.”

READ MORE: Meet the challenger brands taking on the soft drink giants

To find people who are going to grow the business Innocent looks for candidates who fit the culture and contribute to the spirit of the company. To stand out Lamont advises marketers to “just go for it” and stop relying on extra research to do their job for them.

You’ve got to be ruthless about continually feeding the company with the right people.

Douglas Lamont, Innocent

“If you’re 70% sure, go for it. I see far too many marketing people who go ‘maybe we should do one more piece of insight or research’. Then the stuff gets launched too late and you’ve missed the insight in the first place,” he argued.

“For me, to stand out in a marketing organisation you’ve just got to go for it. You’ll be more right than the extra bit of insight or focus group will be for last 30%. And you’ll make yourself famous because you’re showing you’re able to make a decision and you’re getting better results for your business.”

Amelia Harvey, co-founder of The Collective dairy and fellow Marketing Week Live panellist, agreed that for someone with a challenger mentality to get noticed they need to show they can make things happen.

“Make your boss turn their head because you thought about something really differently, solved a problem or made their life easier. I love people coming up with new ideas. I don’t have all of the answers,” she admitted.

When defining the culture at The Collective, Harvey endeavours to keep things simple, settling on four key values – making things happen, being easy to do business with, knocking people’s socks off (whether that is a retailer or consumer), and working together.

To drive that passion within the business the founder has to embody those values day in and day out, she said, as well as possessing clarity about the journey the business is on.

Being an established challenger

Now in its 18th year, Innocent has grown into a £300m company spanning 14 countries without losing its challenger status, said Lamont. The CEO did, however, admit that when the business was bought by Coca-Cola in 2009 there were many detractors who thought acquisition would spell the end of Innocent’s brand identity.

READ MORE: How to ensure brand identity survives acquisition

“’The world’s largest drinks brand meets small entrepreneurial company’ isn’t a story everyone was predicting would have a happy ending, but [Coca-Cola] has taken an incredibly enlightened approach to give us the freedom to operate as a completely standalone business and have left us alone,” he added.

“They invested in 2009 and we’ve tripled the business since then. And we’ve done it with our own team. It’s a great lesson that big corporates can invest in entrepreneurial brands, they’ve just got to give them the freedom post-acquisition to deliver on the things they’re good at and not try to change them too much.”

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