“I love it in the cupboard!”

Yesterday, The Guardian published a brilliant article by Sophy Grimshaw under the title, “Wackaging: do we want our food to talk back?”

In it she uncovers how commonplace casual, first person, almost baby like language has become for the branded, packaged goods we buy.

The launch of ‘Innocent’ well over a decade ago was the landmark introduction of informal, chatty, consumer messaging. The brand’s sudden success caused marketers to demand imitation and in our experience, it’s a tone still referenced in the majority of creative briefs from challenger food or drink brands.

The continuous demand to emulate this successful brand’s tone has spawned weak imitation across the board and unfortunatly dulled Innocent’s impact. Even own-label supermarket packs are trying to infiltrate our households by appearing to be our witty friends.

In Sophie’s article she mentions, “Keep me in the fridge” is now the standard instruction on bagged salads and juice bottles. You barely register it; who doesn’t keep salad in the crisper? Bananas are labelled “Eat me” or “Keep me”. Salad packs invite the buyer to “wash me thoroughly”, and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange says that “My delicious chocolate segments are made with real orange oil!”

Sophie concludes, “This cultural lightening up is, broadly, a good thing. But must we label food in such a self-consciously crazy way? Let’s please stop before “store in a cool, dry place” becomes “I love it in the cupboard!”

Read Sophie’s story here:


This got me thinking as to what makes a successful brand narrative and how others can achieve the kind of unique, never to be truly emulated brand strength of Innocent.

Having the right tone of voice, consistent across every touchpoint, is invaluable. How you tell your story is important. It’s handy if you’ve got compelling origins or a fascinating heritage to talk about but these aren’t essential. You just need to get your point of view out there in a way that reflects your own personality and values.

The multi-award-winning ‘BEAR Nibbles’ used packaging to launch their category-busting brand. Their brand values are evident on the packaging right down to the ‘Grr’ they use to sign off emails. Their strong personality goes through everything.

Another brand that wears its heart on its sleeve, i.e. its packaging, is ‘Teapigs’. A challenger brand in the then-staid world of tea, they used their packaging to present their values and engaging tone of voice, and they’ve now got a strong presence on every platform. ‘No airs. No graces. Just fine tea.’ is how they present themselves on Twitter.

A great example from Robot Food is ‘Shepherds Purse’. We created a confident tone which explains that founder, Judy Bell “began hand-crafting cheeses on the farmhouse kitchen table. After 25 years our passion and reputation for quality and flavour remains unrivalled.” We extended this with informative ‘foodie’ descriptions on front of pack, broken with fitting wit. On their ‘Harrogate Blue’ it mentions that the cheese is “made with milk  from classy Yorkshire cows.”

‘Stoats’ porridge began by selling their delicious wares from a converted hot dog trailer at music festivals. We at Robot Food brought this great brand and story to life both visually and verbally on pack. The attention to detail in the design and narrative is what engages consumers and retailers alike, and on the bottom of their packs it states, “This box can be recycled to make other boxes… It’s destiny is in your hands.” They approached us wanting to gain listings and their products are now available in most supermarkets.

‘Beanies’ coffee launched in 2012. They sell delicious coffee in all kinds of flavours, and the first people knew of this small but ambitious challenger brand was its packaging. Robot Food designed it to tell the brand story, and reflect Beanies quirky yet innovative approach to coffee. It got them from obscurity onto the shelves of every Sainsbury’s. Word spread and Beanies now have a fiercely loyal customer base who publicly evangelise about the brand and its innovative products. This is actually influencing the direction of the company, and their growing fan base is calling for range extensions by flavour. By using the packaging as their springboard, Beanies is growing from strength to strength.

Each of us occupy the personal, social and corporate worlds more or less simultaneously and as these arenas continue to merge, new channels and ways of expressing your brand will evolve. Effective and consistent brand expressions will become more critical.

Tone of voice is a strong tool. You can use it to introduce a brand, kick off a campaign or make any kind of brand statement. Just make sure it’s from the heart (of the product) and never imitate.

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