There are lots of reasons to love UK bath and beauty brand Lush Cosmetics. Their products are 100% vegetarian with minimal or non-existent packaging. They don’t test on animals and only do business with like-minded companies. Their stores – over 900 in 51 countries – look and smell amazing, and the feast for the eyes only continues online.
The niche brand functions on transparency, and their open and friendly nature translates seamlessly into their social media and content marketing efforts. Never one to employ traditional advertising or media outlets, online engagement has been essential for Lush, which counts on word-of-mouth and customer service to get much of their messaging across.
Lucky for Lush, their passion for charity and honest products inherently draws in quite the crowd while their online activities keep them informed, inspired, and engaged.
Lush underwent quite the makeover this year. In April, the brand debuted a redesigned site and magazine with a sleek and modern feel that has the look of serious editorial. The page is responsive and looks perfect on mobile, with all-new simple yet eye-catching images and videos.
Lush Times, the brand’s physical quarterly, has seen an improvement as well. What was once essentially a catalogue, now reads much more like a traditional magazine. Although the majority of the publication still outlines each product in the brand’s offering, the new look softens the otherwise in-your-face sales pitch and makes it much more appealing to sift through.
More importantly, the magazine – now known as Fresh Matters – is now more content-rich, featuring articles and stories that, while all brand-related, reach far beyond individual products. The pieces are reprinted online and accompanied by a regularly updated blog, all of which revolves around the company and their efforts.
The brand backs so many projects, in fact, that some critics have rallied against their wide variety, claiming some to be contradictory or otherwise finding cause marketing itself immoral. As marketers, however, we know that criticism is just another form of press. The fact remains that Lush stands steadfastly by their beliefs and helps raise awareness for charities that are working to make the world a better place.
After all, this isn’t some beauty brand that’s hopped on a random charity to sponsor. This month, Lush was honored for their efforts with the Observer Ethical Award for Best in Business. Ethical campaigns are part of the company’s core and come from a genuine desire to do good. It’s that kind of sincerity that’s crucial to successful marketing, especially when incorporating social and environmental causes into the mix.
Lush’s passion doesn’t stop at animal rights. Having set the tone as a cause-champion, the company has been able to integrate many other issues worth fighting for into their mission and messaging – simultaneously educating and engaging their audiences. Campaigns have spanned all kinds of topics from support of Russia’s LGBT community, eliminating the use of plastic bags, and putting a stop to bullying. The brand’s Charity Pot project donates every penny from sales to charities around the world, amounting to £592,380 in 2013.
When it comes to social media, these causes take form in competitions and hashtag prompts like #SignsOfLove and #BreakTheBagHabit. Lush carries out a very open approach, treating fans and followers as friends, sharing fun and useful content like behind-the-scenes images and videos while asking open-ended questions to create a dialogue with their audience.
In true activist fashion, they’ve also taken to the streets with their messaging efforts. This might not make sense for every brand, but it’s definitely worth exploring the potential for real-life impact. For Lush, that’s meant sending out employees in the buff to remind people of their “naked” packaging practices. Or, more recently, displaying a performance artist in a store window as a human test subject in the midst of a series of torturous experiments.
Reception has naturally been mixed, but Lush doesn’t mind. “We stick with our stand point and what we are trying to achieve,” says Jack Constantine, Marketing Director and son of founders Mark and Mo. “We don’t suddenly back off because we think, ‘Oh, no, we offended somebody.’” There’s something to be said for a brand that sticks to its morals, and it’s that kind of authenticity that has people coming back for more.
The brand’s realness and niche nature has inspired something of a cult following among fans, many of whom are more than happy to share their love. Lush’s popular products, online engagement and personal touch to every interaction (as seen below with burlesque performer Khandie Kisses) – not to mention a perfect rags-to-riches back story – are all responsible for the heaps of user-generated content that fans are willing and inspired to create.
Blogs and YouTube videos regularly feature favorite Lush items, spreading the word of fabulous freshness to ever-broader audiences. British blogger Fleur de Force, for example, recently covered her experience at the Lush Kitchen, a newly launched leg that creates bespoke, small-batch products to further reduce waste and appeal to a broader market. Fleur’s post, which also included a giveaway, received over 500 comments and documented the exciting venture for a new wave of fans.
As Lush continues to build up their brand and reinvent themselves as “more than a soap shop,” killer content is going to be crucial. Areas of the new website could stand to be a bit more clearly defined, while social media channels may benefit from some streamlining; the company seems to have several Instagram accounts, for instance, which can prove to be confusing and off-putting for certain users. The most active handle belongs to the US branch, with just over 450,000 followers.
While they keep moving in the right direction, it would be particularly interesting to see what kind of stories Lush will start telling when they invest themselves even more in the world around them and experiment with fewer direct mentions of their own brand in editorial. With a seemingly limitless array of breath-taking ingredients on hand, alongside their support of so many powerful projects, there certainly is no lack of inspiration to draw from.
By Anastasia Dyakovskaya, NewsCred Contributor