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Have Lush taken 'brand purpose' too far?

Published on Wednesday, 13th June 2018, contributed by Ready

For beauty and personal care brands, it can be difficult to stand out. There's a sea of competitors large and small, from the behemoths of L'Oréal to a myriad of nimble start-ups attracting cult status on Instagram.

To grab attention, it's vital to be bold and to be different. We stress this to our beauty clients every day. But even we baulked a little at Lush's latest campaign, which took aim at the shady world of undercover policing. 

The vociferous reaction to it led to a long debate in our office about the unofficial '5th P of marketing': purpose. Which in turn, led to our marketing assistant Maddie mounting a rousing defence of brand purpose - and Lush - on our blog. Here's an extract:

Lush, like every brand, is run by people. And people have thoughts and feelings about current affairs. These people also have a platform. A brand has a spending budget, they have a huge reach and they have an opportunity to change people’s minds. It’s my belief that everyone should try and do something to change the world for the better.

Activism is a choice that should be taken by everyone and Lush haven’t shied away from the role in the past. A quick look on their social media sees the customer pics and glittery bath bombs broken up by pleas to save the ocean, ethical fashion choices and, before it was deleted, #SpyCops.

Lush was harshly criticized for speaking out on a topic that they had apparently no authority on. A lot of articles commented that they sell bath bombs and therefore have no link to the police. Their main purpose is to make people smell nice, right?

It’s not. Lush have had an active voice from the very beginning of their brand. Although cruelty-free and vegan products are now popping up everywhere, they’ve been championing those products since the beginning. Lush has always had something to say and a point to make with their brand.

Now, with #SpyCops, they’ve moved into human rights and feminism. Somehow everyone seems to think this suddenly isn’t relevant?

A brand run by people, are making products for people. Weirdly enough, they’re also interested in people! Any human being should have an interest in human rights and feminism. So really, I don’t find the link hard to find at all.

But, okay, I do accept that the campaign does have its issues. My first criticism is the execution. Some of the messages were confusing and didn't make sense. The police tape was slightly theatrical which took away from the seriousness of the issue, but it did catch the attention of passers-by.

Lush should definitely utilise their windows to spread a message, but perhaps this wasn’t the best one to start with.

Which brings me to my next criticism: this was a very niche topic. It’s an absolutely important one and I don’t have any problem sharing it, but I think it caught a lot of people by surprise, especially if they hadn’t heard about the #SpyCops scandal before. Maybe a few posts on social media, or even a limited-edition bath bomb with proceeds going to women’s charities would have made more sense.

Activism is incredibly important, but it needs to be well thought out – especially if you want people to listen. However, if I was torn between shopping for bath products at a company that supported causes I was interested in and one that didn’t, I would always opt for the one championing positive changes.

I vote with my wallet and more and more consumers are doing the same, especially the younger ones. #SpyCops might not have been executed to the best of their abilities, but really, I’m just glad they’re interested in the same issues I am.

We're all human, after all.

Read the full post on the Ready blog here