Is the CEO of Lush crazy for taking the brand off social media?
I would bet that every business online today, and even some that run offline, are ‘on’ social media—even if they’re not consistently active. If a brand doesn’t have its own page/feed, its owners/management will no doubt have individual profiles across one or more social platforms.
How many articles do you come across, as a business owner, that suggest you won’t see success if you don’t incorporate social media into your marketing plan? It’s almost an unwritten rule…because everyone is on social media, your business/you must be on it, too.
Bigger brands often use social media as a communication tool, for market research, and for PR. One household name, however, has bucked this trend, and has come away from social media altogether.
Lush, the company whose high street stores are responsible for the sweet, soapy smell you soak up whilst shopping, is the king of bath bombs, cosmetics and beauty products. It places a huge emphasis on being an ethical business (even though this is a term they dislike); none of their products are tested on animals, they promote regeneration, and they embrace transparency. They claim that they treat their staff fairly—the company is a Living Wage employer.
Last year, its CEO, Mark Constantine, declared that Lush was ‘coming off’ social media. This wasn’t a silly joke or marketing stunt—the company had, in fact, tried to disassociate from its social media accounts in 2019. However, back then, they couldn’t have foreseen Covid and the world turning almost exclusively to e-commerce after the retail sector was physically shut down; in the early days of the pandemic, they returned to their social channels to keep in touch with their customers.
The company recently renewed its commitment to not be a part of social media, in order that the brand remains true to its values. Experts estimate this move could cost Lush £10m in lost sales, but Constantine clearly feels that the principles on which the company was founded are far more important and lucrative in the long run.
Constantine and his board are reacting to research that shows how posts on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, can damage young people’s physical and mental health—particularly teenage girls’, who make up Lush’s target demographic. It’s quite clear-cut to them—they want to set an example; they can’t say they run a caring brand if they participate in something cited as damaging to others. They also believe the time is right to withdraw from social platforms, given how much more anxiety the pandemic has brought their customers.
I spotted the story of Lush rejecting social media here, but knowing how much the media likes to exaggerate and misreport things, I visited Lush’s website. On any other site, I’d expect to see a smattering of social media logos/icons directing visitors to the platform in question, or even a social feed embedded in the site somewhere, but I couldn’t see anything on Lush’s website. No tweety-bird cartoon in the corner, no white ‘F’ in a blue circle, no multi-coloured camera icon. It seemed a little strange, if I’m honest, as you just expect to spot these things in either the header or footer of a site.
Though this move doesn’t seem to be a PR stunt, there’s no denying that Lush has received plenty of column inches in the past with the campaigns and causes it backs. One focused on the ‘Spycops’ scandal—this centred on undercover policemen forming relationships with women they were tasked with monitoring. Whilst Lush’s stance probably mirrored what a lot of people thought of the force’s actions at the time, for a brand to stick its neck out on something so controversial is a risky game. Lush received a barrage of criticism for becoming ‘involved’ with a real-world crisis that didn’t directly affect them; however, they also won some supporters who thought it brave of the company to state their viewpoint when every other brand in the universe is ‘vanilla’ about events affecting their consumers.
I think it’s refreshing to see a brand with character and commitment. I don’t personally shop in Lush as their products don’t appeal to me (and I hate their sales tactic of jumping on customers the moment they step over their threshold), but I have daughters who are making their way in the world and I fully agree that social media can be damaging to its users’ mental health.
If only the social platforms themselves recognised this and did more, but not every brand puts people before profits. For that, Lush, you should be saluted.
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