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Brand Deep DivesFebruary 1, 2022

How An Ethical Approach Helped Lush Make It Big

February 1, 2022
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Cory Schröder
Senior Content Marketing Manager

Bath bombs, shower jellies, and bubble bars… oh my! To some, these may sound like complete gibberish — that is, unless you’re a fan of Lush!

Selling vegan and vegetarian shampoos, soaps, lotions, creams, and more — British skincare and cosmetics retailer Lush has been a staple of the beauty industry for more than 25 years.

Operating in 49 countries around the world, Lush makes use of its platform often and doesn’t shy away from taking bold stands on societal and political issues — which has earned the brand both praise and censure over the years.

Most recently, Lush stopped posting to many of its social media accounts and won’t return until the platforms in question (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat) “take action to provide a safer environment for users”. Instead, the brand will be investing in “new ways to connect and build better communication channels elsewhere.”

How this innovative “Anti-Social Media Policy” will affect the brand has yet to be seen. However, for now, Lush will remain on platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest — where it feels that users’ rights are better protected. Clearly, this is a brand that sticks by its ethics in marketing.

But, how did Lush go from a small shop on the High Street in Poole to an international brand boycotting the negative impact of social media? This brand deep dive will explore its journey — plus provide three tips other brands can use for their own growth plans.

Lush’s Journey to the Top

Source: Lush

Founded in 1995 by a team of six friends and creative confidants — Mark & Mo Constantine, Rowena Bird, Helen Ambrose, Liz Bennett (née Weir), and Paul Greeves — Lush has always been a passion project.

Interestingly enough, Lush is actually the group’s second venture together — having previously founded Cosmetics To Go, which was a “massive success that collapsed through a combination of over-trading and flooding.”

But after the fall of Cosmetics To Go, the group moved on to their next dream: founding a natural cosmetics company.

Mark Constantine and Liz Bennett met in the 1970s when Constantine worked as a hairdresser for Elizabeth Arden and Bennett was freelancing as a beauty therapist. A few years after meeting, the pair decided to join forces, and in 1977, they began supplying big-time brand the Body Shop with natural hair and beauty products.

By the 1990s, Constantine and Bennett were the Body Shop’s biggest suppliers. But when the retailer became uncomfortable with the fact that it didn’t own the formulas for most of its products, the Body Shop bought out the duo — paying £6 million for the manufacturing rights.

Constantine and Bennett had to wait a few years before launching Lush's cosmetics, as the pair signed a non-competitive agreement that was effective through the end of 1994. Thus, Lush was born in 1995, with its first location popping up on High Street in Poole.

Shortly thereafter, Lush opened two new London locations — one in Covent Garden and another on Kings Road. And by 1997, this natural cosmetics brand had gone international with stores in Australia, followed by Brazil in 1999 and Ireland in 2000.

By 2003, Lush had 205 stores overseas — an impressive number for the then eight-year-old company. Clearly, consumers were loving the colorful products and high-quality services that Lush offered — as well as its values.

Cut to December 2018 and Lush was finally able to fulfill a dream many years in the making — to launch its Naked skincare range. This range includes solid facial cleansers and oils, a seaweed gel eye mask, and much more — and the first Naked shops were opened in Milan, Berlin, and Manchester.

When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Lush made the bold choice to offer free handwashing in all its stores — a move that was meant to slow the spread of the virus and keep consumers as safe as possible. However, as the numbers went up worldwide, Lush made the difficult decision to close all North American, Australian, and UK stores — though they continued to pay staffs’ salaries.

In March 2020, the brand announced that it would be laying off some staff from Canadian stores due to the impact of the pandemic, and would subsequently face a future with “a much smaller business”.

As of late 2021, Lush stores reopened for consumers — but with a few caveats. In US locations, customers were required to adhere to local mask mandates, all samples were removed from the floor, and only a limited number of people were allowed inside at the same time.

Lush also asked that all visitors wash their hands upon entering and exiting the store and keep “at least a bathtub’s distance” between themselves and other customers. Hey, at least they’re trying to keep the situation as light as possible.

From the start, Lush’s main goals have been to create products using vegetarian and vegan ingredients, to take a strong and unwavering stand against animal testing, to fight overpackaging, and to never stop innovating.

Impressively, Lush has met these goals and more over the last 25 years. But how so? And what can you learn from this outspoken, activist brand? Let’s dig in.

What Can You Learn From Lush?

Source: Global Cosmetics News

Arguably, there’s much to be learned from a brand as successful as Lush — with 937 stores located in 47 countries around the world. And although its revenue did decrease compared to previous years, Lush even managed to remain profitable during the pandemic.

So, we’ll identify and discuss the top three lessons other brands can learn from this peddler of natural cosmetics when growing their own brands.

1. Stick to Your Guns

Since its founding, Lush has made its brand values a central part of everything it does. Every product and service Lush offers honors the brand’s ethical code — something that consumers respect and are drawn to.

In 2022, consumers are more concerned than ever about brands’ values, the social causes they support, and the movements they stand behind. Modern customers want to see their own priorities reflected in the brands they choose to patronize.

In this area, Lush excels. Just take a look at the brand’s “Who We Are” landing page, and you’ll see how serious they are about certain issues. From fighting animal testing to decreasing product packaging and waste to promoting natural ingredients — Lush has been all about its mission, values, and goals from day one.

The Takeaway? When it comes to defining your brand values and overall mission, make sure it’s one you can stick to and build upon for years to come. There’s nothing less trustworthy than a brand that flip-flops on values left and right.

Having well-defined and adhered to values is a huge trust signal for consumers. It shows them that you can stick to your guns and make good on promises — something all consumers are looking for when shopping around.

The mission-driven brand Tony’s Chocolonely is a prime example of this concept.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Push the Envelope

When Lush first started out 25 years ago, its unequivocal “no” to animal testing made them pioneers in the cosmetics industry.

Source: EcoFriend

From the get-go, the brand’s founders saw animal testing as an “unscientific and cruel practice” that needed to be outlawed — and they didn’t shy away from the challenges this position threw their way.

In the words of Mark Constantine:

“We have fought for an end to animal testing for years, from trying to deposit two tonnes of animal manure on the doorstep of the EU to losing our Regent Street shop expressly because the landlords didn’t like three million viewers watching the people-testing video filmed in that shop window.”

And today, Lush remains resolute on its stance, as seen on its “Our Ethics” landing page:

“it is safe to say that Fighting Animal Testing is not just a Lush position and policy, but is a lifetime goal and the core value of our company. Lush will continue to fight animal testing worldwide – to speak out against it, to join with animal campaign groups to publicise it, to lobby against it and to educate around the issues – until animal testing is a thing of the past.”

From its strict “Lush Ingredients Buying Policy” to the prize it offers scientists and educators fighting animal testing via the Ethical Consumer Organization, Lush has found new and exciting ways to push the envelope for decades.

The Takeaway: This is a brand that puts its money where its mouth is and never backs down when it comes to the values it champions — Lush products never utilize animal testing.

When fighting for the values your own brand stands for, take inspiration from the policies and organizations a brand like Lush makes use of. Set up charters to define your ethical stance, fund organizations that further your values, and use social media platforms to be vocal about your policies.

While your values won't resonate with all consumers, if you do your research, they should endear you to your most important customers, aka your target audiences.

3. Be Your Own Biggest Fan

While this may seem like an obvious tip, it can be very easy to feel intimidated by the competition or disheartened by a failed brand campaign — especially as a brand manager.

This is where you should look at Lush's approach, as it’s clear the brand is its own biggest fan. Though some may see it as a bit egotistic, Lush clearly states:

“For 25 years, we have made great products, with beautiful ingredients, we’re transparent with our customers and we don’t sell them fake benefits. It’s a real puzzler why we’re not the number one cosmetics company. For the sake of the environment, we NEED to be number one.”

They go even further, saying:

“We should be the gleaming example that every other cosmetics company wants to be, it shouldn’t be Proctor and Gamble or L’Oréal, because Lush is doing the right things over and over again. Fiercely, bravely, sometimes foolishly, and with courage.”

Obviously, Lush stans Lush. The founders think they deserve to be the #1 cosmetics company in the world. This may seem delusional to some, but it’s part of what keeps them going — why this brand keeps fighting, innovating, and working hard.

The Takeaway: Don’t let bumps in the road get you down. In some ways, you really do need to believe that your brand is the absolute best at what it does.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should overlook glaring issues or avoid making necessary improvements — you can never stop innovating. But, you do need to believe in the core mission and worth of your brand. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time pushing it forward year after year.

Final Thoughts

Lush’s founders had a clear vision in 1995, and 25 years later, many of their goals have been met. They’ve helped ban animal testing in 40 countries, lowered their use of parabens from 11.7 tons to 7.7 tons between 2015 and 2017, and now boast that 67% of their supply chain is from direct relationships with manufacturers and growers.

But that doesn’t mean Lush is done growing. The brand has bold plans and goals for 2022, having most recently taken a daring stand against social media platforms they find to be toxic and detrimental to consumers’ health.

So, if you’re looking to follow in Lush’s footsteps, you’d be smart to consider our tips above. But you’d also benefit from access to advanced consumer insights, which you can only get from brand monitoring software.

Want to know what values your consumers hold dear? How do your target audiences perceive your brand? That’s where a tool like Latana comes in handy. With reliable data and audience segmentation, there’s no better way to understand your consumers’ needs and opinions in 2022.

Brand Deep Dives
Brand Strategy

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