November 28, 2023
On November 26, 2021, Lush surprised its customers by making a radical decision: leaving social networks, including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, among the channels preferred by brands to communicate and build loyalty within their community. Two years later, Annabelle Baker, global brand director (international brand director, in French) at Lush, recalls the impact of such a position and discusses the many – and new – means that today allow the brand to remain connected to its community, without having to depend on social platforms.
Question: Lush left social media just two years ago. Do you have any regrets?
To respond : This was not done without difficulties. However, how can we regret a decision that aims to protect its customers and was made in light of overwhelming evidence that certain platforms can drive young people to suicide? Over the past two years, we have seen a significant push from both the public and governments to solve problems and force change. It is encouraging to see new regulations coming into force across Europe to protect the safety of platform users – we would also like to see greater accountability from Gafam. Our latest campaign, launched on the occasion of Black Friday, questions the power and abuses of big technology companies and aims to raise funds for the “People vs Big Tech” movement.
Did this decision impact the brand’s sales and reputation around the world?
Determining the impact on sales has been difficult for several reasons. Our withdrawal from social media coincided with a period of unforeseen global turmoil, with a rise in Covid cases, followed by the invasion of Ukraine and, more recently, a cost of living crisis with significant inflation. We are fortunate to have a strong community, which means that our reputation is not determined by our presence or absence on certain social platforms. In fact, we saw that other brands tried to run a similar active campaign on social media, but their customers asked them why they hadn’t done the same thing as Lush and asked them not to actively withdraw from these platforms.
Younger generations like to interact with brands on social media. Have you had negative reactions from some of your customers?
Our customers sincerely support what we have done and appreciate this position. But to find out more about the mood of populations in relation to social networks and their relationship with digital in general, this year we produced a report with the forecasting company The Future Laboratory. The aim was to explore the evolving digital landscape, its impact on consumers and existing barriers to digital transformation, using experts from the technology sector and interviewing more than 12,000 consumers in the UK, US, US and Japan. The results are revealing : Nearly seven in ten adults (69%) believe that if a social platform is unethical, brands should stay away from it, 65% do not want social media platforms to use their data for commercial purposes, and 70% care for global legislation that protects the safety of online users.
So was this departure from social media done smoothly?
Not everything was so simple, in fact, we still received comments from people who didn’t appreciate our position, but that was two years ago, when the dangers of social media were not as well known and documented as they are today. Just yesterday, the BBC published an article about Generation Z turning their backs on social media. In the United States, we have also seen waves of lawsuits from families who accuse these platforms of being harmful, especially to teenagers. It’s important to note that these platforms are not the only spaces where connections and communities can be created, and we are likely to continue to see a decentralized approach to community building, especially for brands.
A few months ago, Lush created a buzz on social media… Some users claimed to have (almost) forgotten its existence. Is this not a problem in a sector where competition is increasing?
We need to stay relevant and we are lucky to have a lot of creativity and innovation in our sector. If you are bold, leverage popular culture, invent revolutionary products that are effective and truly transformative, and engage with your community in a consistent and authentic way, then a brand can stay relevant. It is important to keep in mind that people buy a lot through word of mouth.
What did the brand do to remain visible to consumers despite this absence?
Lush continues to be present in the digital world – yes, we left the Meta and TikTok platforms as a brand, but we experimented with other technologies and web3 platforms. We want to recapture the “sense of community” in digital spaces, when social networks were truly social and when our Lush community was organic – before the algorithm took over the direct connection between Lush and users. There are other ways to meet communities where they are without relying on these platforms. For example, we kicked off our dive into the metaverse this year, with a replica of our SXSW House activation at Decentraland and participating in the first-ever ‘Metaverse Beauty Week’. As part of our ‘Big Tech Rebellion’, we are interested in taking our money away from companies like Google and invest, instead, in our community, in people and not in platforms. This ranges from how we collaborate with content creators to how we provide our super fans with sneak peeks at product launches.
Have you initiated other forms of “meetings” with your community?
We have been participating in more ‘IRL’ events and activations, appearing at events such as Afro Punk in Brooklyn, Happy Place Festival in the UK, SXSW in Austin and WOMAD UK. We have stores across the world and continue to invest in refurbishments and renovations, as well as new store concepts such as a new hair salon in the UK and spas in Dubai and New York. Over the past twelve months, we’ve collaborated more with lifestyle and entertainment partners, and our community has embraced this, creating many viral moments for every release, whether the film Super Mario Bros.Series Weird stuffand more recently Barbie. When you do something cool that people are excited about, people will naturally share it, which is more authentic. So this is our job: to create products and experiences that our community wants to share! We’ve also developed our Discord community with the aim of creating more ‘conversational’ interaction with customers online. Discord is a decentralized platform that allows us to have more control over the server.
In the fashion industry, Bottega Veneta left Instagram, but few brands seem to be able to live without social media. How do you explain this?
I can’t comment on what other brands are doing, I can only talk about why we make our own decisions. It made sense to remove ourselves from social media, because the people mainly affected by these platforms are part of our clientele. We are in the wellness business and we attract a lot of young women… We simply couldn’t keep asking them to put us on platforms that pressure us to give “consent” to grow their vast wellness empires. personal data. We are then left with the task of dealing with the harmful effects of this business model, which can have a devastating impact on mental health and well-being. These platforms are literally the antithesis of what we stand for. That’s why today we’re raising money for the People vs. People movement. Big Tech. We launched ‘The Cloud’ bath bomb, the sale price of which will be used to launch a global network of young people to regain control over Gafam.
Can you say today that Lush will never return to social media?
We could come back eventually, but the social media landscape would have to change completely. Gafam must be held accountable as it appears to act without concern for the well-being of users, despite overwhelming evidence that its services cause great harm. We really need to change the mindset and design of these social platforms.
(Daily updated ETX)
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