Joe's Innocent Career

5 June 2018 11:54
Joe McEwan

A surprise delivery of innocent smoothies to Joe McEwan’s undergraduate house in Lancaster - including a hand-written note - made such an impression that it spurred him to apply for a job with the company when he graduated. Now innocent’s UK Head of Brand, Joe still clearly remembers the arrival of the drinks and that hand-written note.  

“The personal touch of that note really impressed me,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘This seems like a company that genuinely cares’. And the writing on the smoothie labels was good too.” The memory stuck in his mind after he had left Lancaster and he applied for a job with innocent online, landing a role as People’s Champion in 2007. “It was my job to look after people when they got in touch,” he says, and he was soon writing his own hand-crafted notes to innocent drinkers. 

Brought up in Dorset, Joe (like many teenagers) wanted to make a break from home. He had had a gap year travelling the world, but in the UK had rarely ventured north of Bristol. Lancaster offered something new, as well as having an excellent reputation for history. He was so taken by the collegiate system at Lancaster, that he hadn’t felt it necessary to visit the university first before arriving as a fresher. He immediately fell in love with County College life, with its focus on friendship and community and was delighted by the rural campus. He played for the college team on Saturdays and made friends for life in the college kitchen. “There was this huge family spirit at County and I loved that.” 

He also enjoyed the quality of teaching on offer. “I met some brilliant, passionate lecturers there,” he says. He ended up getting a First-class degree, with much of his studies focused on American history – especially the interactions between the indigenous people and 19th-century settlers, on which he wrote his dissertation.  

“I’d arrived at Lancaster opinionated before I had the facts,” admits Joe. “Lancaster taught me to explore the grey areas. Everything up until then had been black and white, right or wrong, but few things in life are that simple.” Looking at complex issues in greater depth helped him to understand the personal motivations of those on both sides of this period of US history. 

Lancaster also gave him the opportunity to take a creative writing minor alongside his history degree. This gave him experience in writing for different audiences and taught him how crucial editing is to the completion of any piece of written work – skills which would prove invaluable in his career at innocent. 

After that initial job as People’s Champion in 2007, he became innocent’s first Communities Manager, helping to establish the brand’s witty and irreverent tone of voice and growing their online following to over one million fans. He was promoted to Head of Digital and Social in 2014 and is currently UK Head of Brand. He led innocent to number one in the Social Brands 100 list and has been named as one of the 50 most influential people in social media by the marketing magazine, The Drum. 

His position in the social media world surprises him, as he was the last of his mates from home to acquire a mobile and wasn’t keen on joining Facebook when it first appeared on campus. He also graduated with a disdain for advertising – “most of the ads I saw around me were dull and repetitive.” He believes these factors have been an advantage to him as they have enabled him to take a different approach. He set out to genuinely entertain people with innocent’s marketing and tried to produce “the kind of advertising you might actually want to share with your mates.”  

“A bit of wit and intelligence can go a long way,” he says. “I try to make sure we say and do interesting things – be that on social media, our packaging or through bigger advertising campaigns. As a business, we’ve always tied to get people talking to us – and when they do get in touch, we try to make sure we give them a proper, human response.”  

Lancaster played a key part in Joe’s innocent career. “The skills I left Lancaster with got me a great job at a great company, and the friends I made there are some of the finest human beings on earth – what more could a man ask for from his uni experience?” 

What more indeed.



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