| May 11, 2023

How Lush Cosmetics is Surviving – and Thriving – Without Social Media

Forecast to take a $13 million hit for dropping Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, the brand has no regrets.

It’s been almost a year-and-a-half since Lush Cosmetics, the well-known British handmade beauty products brand, stopped posting on several leading social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok — due to concerns over privacy and the negative impact of social media on mental health. And the brand has no regrets. 

Given the growing importance of digital marketing in today’s retail shopping landscape, Lush’s decision to leave these platforms is a bold move. However, the brand believes the decision is consistent with its longstanding commitment to ethical and sustainable practices despite expectations that it would take a $13 million hit to its bottom line.

“I’ve spent all my life avoiding putting harmful ingredients in my products. There is now overwhelming evidence we are being put at risk when using social media,” said Mark Constantine OBE, Lush Co-Founder and CEO. “I’m not willing to expose my customers to this harm, so it’s time to take it out of the mix.” 

Brady Halls, Lush’s Chief Ethics Officer, said leaving social media was the right decision despite mixed reactions from customers. “Many miss seeing us on their social feeds and wish we would return, while others have voiced that this is exactly why they shop with us and will continue to do so,” she said.

Filling the Communication Gap

While social media is problematic, it is relatively inexpensive to use as a marketing channel, so Lush had to increase its marketing spending significantly to boost its connection with customers. 

“Experiential offerings and partnerships require a much bigger budget and spend than sponsoring content on Instagram, for example,” says Lush brand and marketing director Annabelle Baker, adding that the investment has paid off and the brand is seeing a higher customer retention rate than when it first left social media.

The financial impact has been difficult to ascertain given that the pullback coincided with rising COVID cases, followed by the ongoing invasion of Ukraine at the start of 2022, and the more recent cost-of-living crisis. However, after leaving the leading social media platforms, Lush reported its highest Christmas retail sales figures in two years.

The biggest challenge for the brand was to still drive awareness to millions of social media users — including the 10.6 million followers of its Facebook and Instagram accounts. To counter the loss, the brand increased its public relations operation, hiring top U.S. and European executives to keep Lush top-of-mind for consumers during important retail moments.  

The company did not abandon social media altogether. It maintains a presence on Pinterest and YouTube by working with influencers to create content and investing in livestream shopping. Lush continues to monitor these channels but has so far been satisfied with the moderation policies and the platforms’ efforts to ensure safety.

The brand also maintains its Twitter account for customer service needs.

Be Somewhere Else

Lush did not delete its social media accounts but instead left a message encouraging customers to “Be Somewhere Else.” The message also reflects how Lush reinvented its marketing strategy without Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Lush has focused on building direct customer relationships through its website, email newsletter, and in-store experiences. In addition, the brand continues to use influencer and event marketing to promote its values, as well as other innovative marketing strategies such as creating interactive content on its website and launching limited-edition products.

“These are things that we’re investing in as opposed to spending money on Instagram,” Lush’s Head of Global Public Relations, Karen Huxley, said. “We want to offer people experiences and get them to understand the brand.”

Lush’s broad range of alternative marketing strategies include:

Brand Partnerships 

  • The brand recently collaborated with the Netflix TV show, “Stranger Things,” to launch limited-edition show-themed bath bombs to mark the premiere of the show’s fourth season. 
  • Lush joined forces with Nintendo + Illumination’sThe Super Mario Bros. Movie” by launching a limited-edition range of products to promote the movie. 
  • Lush launched bath products inspired by the hit Japanese pirate manga One Piece, celebrating the series’ 25th anniversary. The launch generated 71% new digital users and a 165% increase in online sessions on the day of the launch compared to the previous week. 

Events and Experiences 

  • World Bath Bomb Day in April: Lush gave away 100,000 bath bombs for free. According to Lush, the promotional day helped its digital traffic skyrocket by 108%, while store and website visits jumped 60%.
  • Bomb Makers on Tour: In the weeks running up to World Bath Bomb Day, Lush’s bath bomb-makers visited over 60 shops across the U.K. so customers could see how bath bombs are made and press a selection of Lush’s best-selling bath bombs. 
  • SXSW Festival: Lush held a brand activation at the 2023 SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, featuring the world’s first digital bath bomb, a party with Glitterbox DJs and dancers at the Lush House, and discussions on subjects stemming from a new foresight report that Lush released in partnership with The Future Laboratory, entitled: “Digital Engagement, a Social Future”. The event also featured an appearance by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.
  • Other events: Lush also hosts smaller, more intimate events like product launches and pop-up shops, creating opportunities for customers to engage with the brand more personally.

Retail Stores

Lush has over 900 stores in 48 countries, including the U.S. and Canada. In the last financial year, these shops welcomed over 84 million customers.

  • In July, Lush announced a substantial investment in new stores, relocations, and refits across the U.K., Ireland, and Europe. In June 2022, the brand opened its Scottish flagship store in Glasgow.
  • Lush creates a strong in-store experience in all its shops, displaying products to appeal to the senses. Stores also sponsor demonstrations of products, allowing customers to try before buying.

Digitally Promoting Well-Being

  • The Lush Bathe app is available on iOS and Android, allows users to maximize the benefits of bathing with Lush products, and offers an immersive audio-visual experience to help users relax while bathing. 
  • The Sound Bath Podcast for U.S. listeners explores “what personal, social, and environmental care and well-being mean in today’s society” and is designed for listening in the bath.

No Regrets

Walking away from social media has opened up a world of opportunity for the brand to build customer relationships. No longer dependent on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, Lush can be more creative with its approach to marketing and communication, and shift its focus to building customer relationships through personal, face-to-face interactions and direct communication channels such as email and websites.

By reinventing its marketing strategy, the brand also developed creative ways to advocate for wellness and well-being. As Lush Chief Digital Officer Jack Constantine said recently, the brand wants to “focus on creating community and engagement.”

Sherry Keyles
Sherry Keyles

Opinion Contributor, Strixus

Sherry is a writer, editor, and podcast producer with over 25 years of experience creating impactful content for the financial, technology, compliance, and healthcare industries. view profile


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