In this series of articles on maverick brands we are looking at those brands that challenge convention, some even throwing all the rules away and re inventing the category. From the slick to punk, driven by passion not accountancy, these are the brands that are redefining various categories.
Simon Woodroffe, founder of a well know maverick brand, Yo!, use to have the slogan above his desk, “If you follow conventional thinking, all you’ll ever be is conventional.” Not a slogan you’d find pinned up in any of the big corporations.
Behind each maverick brand are inspired, courageous entrepreneurs that are rarely driven by making money as making a difference, yet most of the businesses I will be writing about are very successful.
Who’d ever thought a smoothie called Innocent would challenge the mega corporations of the drink industry. This David & Goliath factor seems to be common, Will King’s King of Shaves competes against a giant in the from of Gillette, Brew Dog challenges the dominance of factory produced brews (a brand featured in my first article on maverick brands).
These are the new pioneers that not only help to grow Britain’s economy and it’s reputation for innovation, but force the conventional corporates, run by numbers and process – the oil tankers of corporate businesses – to reevaluate their methodology.
In this second article we highlight the scream of the ice cream industry, not Ben & Jerry’s, but the Sid and Nancy of cool, The Icecreamists.
The Icecreamists are, as they put it, “sub-zero liberationists, dedicated to converting a cold, cruel, unforgiving world to the life-enhancing gospel of freshly-made ice cream”. First impressions is a very slick punk influenced brand that has got everything dead right, even down to its slogans, which includes ‘Dead Cool’. It’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s sexy and it’s very very tasty.
Matt O’Connor, its founder, is no stranger to controversy and publicity, as the founder of Fathers of Justice he was the imagination behind all of their stunts. A man who has a great sense of fun and justice, he dressed dads up as super heroes – a novel way to grab attention. Despite his fight for honesty and justice, it is ironic that our security forces and police see him as some kind of a new age terrorist.
When he set up his new venture, they just couldn’t figure it out, they wanted to know what he was really up to. Despite explaining in a police interview room that he was only setting up an ice cream parlour they just wouldn’t believe him. O’Connor’s been constantly hassled by the police (probably because they have nothing better to do). Finally, out of frustration he exclaimed, “I am not an extremist, I am an Icecreamist.” The name was born and O’Connor couldn’t stop laughing, while the detectives looked on grim faced.
His slogan ‘God Save the Cream’ was inspired by the Sex Pistols and he admits to being influenced by Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McLaren. Ironically, a company that claims the rights to God Save the Queen album is trying to sue him for plagiarism. “What bollocks,” Matt remarks, “Did the Queen try and sue them when they plagiarised her image and slogan?” But as a man who has been subject to endless attempts by government officials to get him to back down over F4J, lawyer threats don’t make much of an impression.
The first store was a concession in Selfrides and was created by O’Connor, from the concept, design, graphics to the copy – all the ideas that have generated endless articles and made the place the place to be cool in.
Recently he opened his first store in Maiden Lane in Covent Garden, as a former bar and restaurant designer it’s no surprise the place is slick in appearance, painted in black and magenta, with the skull and crossed spoon logo and ‘God Save the Cream’ written across the walls. He’s planning a bigger store in Covent Garden Plaza. There’s even a picture of Kate and William in the loos that are typical of O’Connor’s sense of humour – you’ll have to visit to see it.
The website (http://www.theicecreamists.com/) is an indulgent but entertaining experience that captures the ethos of the brand and takes you ‘straight to rehab’ where you can ‘lick your addiction’.
But what could have been just a novelty isn’t. Matt has worked in the ice cream business and set out to reinvent ice cream and create new ideas across the board, not another Daville’s, Baskin Robbins or Ben & Jerrys. His artisan ice creams are like nothing you’ve ever seen or tasted. He employed Italy’s gelato master Roberto Lobrano to create gourmet flavours using authentic ingredients from around the world like Tahitian Vanilla, Venezuelan Chocolate and North African Spiced Cinnamon.
Recently his Baby Gaga, made from human breast milk caused a lot of upset, well a few people actually, but it gave him all the publicity he wanted and a massive increase in sales. Westminster Council forced them to withdraw the product until it was tested. The tests came out positive and Westminster have ended up with egg on their bureaucratic face.
Pop icon Lady Gaga‘s legal advisers are threatening to sue, which seems somewhat ironic coming from a woman who has used controversy to make her name. She described the product as “deliberately provocative”, well she should know! Matt’s reply is well put, “She claims we have ‘ridden the coattails’ of her reputation. As someone
who has plagiarised and recycled on an industrial scale, the entire back
catalogue of pop-culture to create her look, music and videos, she
might want to re-consider this allegation“.
Many of his unique flavours have names that mock the police (a reference to his period with F4J) like Nuts About Chocolate Yard. While others are just amusing, like Taking the Pistachio, Priscilla Cream of the Dessert or The Vanilla Monologues. They have also created the Cryogenic Cocktail, made with liquid nitrogen and served at -196 degrees.
I’m sure the Icecreamist will one of those brands that every creative in an ad agency to a digital agency would love to work on, but Matt is such a brilliant creative I think there’s little the industry could teach him, in reverse, he could teach us all a lot. And like so many successful entrepreneurs, they don’t need to research, pontificate or have endless meetings discussing things, he just knows what works and gets on with it. When asked about his approach to marketing he replies he’s from the ”Father Ted School of Marketing.” Overall he comments, “Everyone loves ice cream, it brings the world together. It’s aural gratification, so what I’m really selling are smiles not just ice cream”.