There are many serious issues facing us as a world. Brands and their marketing have a big responsibility to contribute solutions.

Marketing departments are, or should be, at the heart of understanding the external, human aspects of a business in the context of the market. Marketing teams, whether they know it or not, use the tools of the psychologist to change perceptions and behaviours.

Never before is an understanding of “the human” more relevant or needed. We need more debate, we need deeper conversations, across government, business and with the people to create new ideas that can change our lives for the better.

So how can we get together to address these serious issues… having fun.

There is nothing quite like tapping into our abundant ability to have fun. Time and time again psychologists show us that fun is a rich source of engagement. Whether that’s sharing a laugh with friends, an email joke, a bizarre YouTube video or taking part in a new fun experience. Fun can be a powerful source of good and is a fast track to trust because it provides a valuable and reciprocal emotional transaction.

But marketers and their brands don’t use fun that often. Guy Murphy in his Battle of the Big Thinking presentation in 2009 made this point powerfully.

TheFunTheory has used a range of approaches with fun at their heart to change behaviours. One of the most famous is the Piano stairs experiment.

Innocent and the Big Knit initiative produces a social good and always gives me a smile when I see the little hats on their bottles on the supermarket shelves.

One of the fastest growth stories ever Zynga estimated to be worth $7-9bn has leveraged the power of social gaming to engage and entertain 100s of millions of users with games such as Farmville and Cityville.

One of my co-authors at Jon Alexander over at the National Trust has been part of the team who  have recently launched MyFarm which is a co-operative approach to farming through the internet – sort of like a live Farmville. It’s fresh, engaging and fun.

How is your business using fun?

Thanks for reading,


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Innocent, the European smoothie brand now partly owned by Coca-Cola, have created a tie-up with Peace Day which was 21st September. This is a great example of how a brand can drive a connection with the market through a social good.

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Lots has been written about the selling out of around 20% of Innocent to Coca-Cola for £30m.

I found this on the internet which is prototype for their new line “Not so” innocent. Click on it to read the text – I love the “We sold out 20% of our company, and 100% of our values. We’re working on the rest!” OUCH! Their faux, down to earth copy has always grated on me so I enjoyed this label.

Given they have positioned themselves as “innocent” and “pure” then selling out to a major multi-national who makes highly calorific and artificial drinks is somewhat of an interesting move. Many of their consumers clearly feel let down. It is worth reading David Taylor’s Brandgym blog entry on the issue which makes this point well. They have destroyed a significant basis of trust in their brand and ethics of their company.

Whether you agree or disagree with their decision it is clearly a PR disaster which they have seemingly managed poorly. Despite the acres of comment they have not been actively defending their decision which is strange because they are good at managing positive PR – maybe in their hearts they know they have sold out. You can read their letter on the Innocent website.

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

“Basically, we’re dead excited about the investment. The funds raised allow us to do more of what innocent is here to do – get natural, healthy stuff out to as many people as possible. And the money raised is going into the business to fund our European expansion, so we can get innocent out to more places (none of the cash is being paid out to the shareholders; that desert island will just have to wait).

The three of us who set up the business will continue to run and manage innocent. We will be the same people making the same products in the same way. Everything that innocent stands for, remains in place – to only produce natural, healthy stuff; to push hard for better quality, more socially and environmentally conscious ingredients; to find more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of producing and packaging our drinks; to support charities in the countries where our fruit comes from; to have a point of view on the world, and to not take ourselves too seriously in the process. In fact, this deal will simply allow us to do more of these things.”

Apart from that ingratiating tone, the thing that I think the founders don’t get is that in many ways their decision to take Coca-cola money changes our perception of them fundamentally. They might be the “same people making the same products” but whereas we all thought before they were a values led company that had set out on a mission to be (almost) an “anti-Coke”, we now see a more accurate view of their motivations and how far their principles and values go. And unfortunately whilst we are left with a more accurate view of the “same people”, its not what they set out to convince us they were and that’s disappointing. We feel misled, and let down. Ultimately I want to know the truth about people and hold accurate perceptions so I feel better that I know that Innocent is not as innocent as they purport to be – it probably won’t stop me buying their drinks but will make it a less satisfying purchase and opens up the way for a company who really “walks the talk” to steal my purchase from Innocent.

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Have fun.