By The Time We Got To Fruitstock.
Taking the smart advice of an insightful blogger, I went into the fresh air and, as the song might have gone, "by the time we got to Fruitstock, we were many thousand strong."
I didn't get to meet Camilla from Innocent or, sadly, branding guru John Grant whose designated differentiation (a white sun hat) rather failed to make him stand out from the sun-drenched crowd. Moreover, I seriously doubt that I won anything in the raffle. But none of that prevented this from being a gloriously successful event.
It was the quintessence of passive branding. A true tribal gathering of people who trust Innocent to show them a good time and treat them right or people who will certainly do so in the future because they experienced a day of Innocent pleasures and memories.
This wasn't tacked-on sponsorship. The brand was the infrastructure, both physically and (for want of a better word) spiritually. While there was little overt product presence beyond some welcoming signage and banners, there were many ways of discovering the brand and its ethos around the venue - you could sample the product, contribute to their charities, meet employees and even apply for a job with them. You could also stroke their grass-covered delivery van. Artificial grass of course.
I liked the subversion of a dance music tent where ragga beats pounded out across the heads of numerous picnic groups sheltering from the sun (though I'm sure it livened up later); I marvelled at the otherwise restrained hen-party who were dressed as Statues of Liberty; and I hereby predict that the Puppini Sisters will be this year's Gypsy Kings. Any band that deliver a perfect country and western version of Blondie's Heart of Glass and a reggae version of Wuthering Heights while dressed as 40's troop sweethearts will be essential listening at all dinner parties. But they're much better than that.
It felt like a very busy school summer fete without the latent hostility. The atmosphere was friendly and unthreatening and everyone looked healthy. The gates were very wide, but where were the fat people and beer-guts renowned of other outdoor festivals? This was surely another osmotic brand message - as was the placement of the VNP area (for very nice people of course). It was not located right by the stage in a privileged way, but was unostentatiously hidden away in the far reaches of the arena and this implicitly showed that those people would join the crowd to watch the bands.
And I also discovered the reason why this company tops the rankings of places to work. It's a well-known fact that all lists are compiled by men and my observation is that all Innocent women are beautiful and friendly. Thus, no doubt, it would be a great place to work - which is why they can risk situating their offices in Shepherd's Bush!
The only cloud on the horizon was in fact, the crowd. This event has perhaps reached its tipping point in terms of attendance, but if your branding problems are those of excessive popularity, then you have very little to complain about.