Brand Showcase: Volume 3
Not a traditional opening gambit to a Point 6 blog perhaps, but it’s the greeting of choice on the ‘Who we are’ page of the Lush website. And since Lush is the company we’re discussing in this month’s Brand Showcase blog, we hoped it might be fitting.
Strap in for a stark lesson in how an uncompromising boldness of approach across all elements of branding can take a company from plucky disrupters to bona fide industry leaders.
The six co-founders’ previous venture, Cosmetics to Go, collapsed in 1994, in their own words due to “a combination of over-trading and flooding.” It would have been understandable for this disappointment to have given them pause in re-entering the cosmetics game.
As it was, by the next year they had founded Lush, a cosmetics company with a bold vision of what its industry could—and its founders felt should—be.
They wanted fresh, organic products. They wanted to reduce climate-killing landfill by cutting out all but the most necessary packaging. They wanted animal testing to die a swift and un-mourned death. Essentially, they wanted what the vast majority of modern consumers are crying out for: natural, ecologically friendly, cruelty-free, high-quality products at a reasonable price.
Only this was 1995. It would be some time before the rest of the western world’s values caught up.
Lush is steadfast in these values, forthright in making them known and unapologetic in calling out competitors it considers to be falling short in meeting its standards. Such a refusal to compromise could have been perilous and has certainly placed the company in hot water on occasions, but ultimately, it’s what’s led Lush to being one of the industry’s major players.
Lush has stores in 21 countries around the world, with over 100 in the UK. It’s a fixture on high streets, has a strong online presence and is renowned for the quality of its products. Basically, Lush is only going from strength to strength. So how has it done it?
“We are Lush. And this will be the company we want it to be.”
It’s a pretty ballsy statement to hang on the masthead of your website but it lets customers know instantly who Lush is and what it’s all about. This is a company that’s going to do things its own way or not at all.
But don’t mistake the company’s unbending backbone and lofty aspirations of making the world a better place for signs that Lush is overly self-serious. It’s a beauty company that wants to make a difference, but most people want to buy soap and shampoo without the weight of an apocalypse hanging over their head. Lush knows this and is more than happy to show its fun side when it comes to wording.
Lush prides itself on its slew of “naked” products (products with no packaging whatsoever). While that choice helps the environment, it could have proved problematic for their sales. Wilfully stripping yourself of the ability to use packaging design and copy to entice customers is not a step most businesses would be willing to take.
All Lush has at its disposal word-wise to impress customers pre-buying, then, is its product names. It chooses to make the most of that. From the ‘Mask of Magnaminty’ to ‘Honey, I Washed the Kids’ through ‘Jason and the Argon Oil’ and ‘Daddy-O’, it’s fair to say the ole name creators are having a good time.
Meanwhile, when it comes to on-site copy, Mark Constantine, one of the co-founders, writes candidly about the company’s origins and sometimes bitingly about the unacceptable products and ethical standards of Lush’s competition.
Noting that the latest WWD Beauty top 100 revealed L’Oréal as the world’s number one beauty company, with Lush at number thirty-three, Constantine laments, “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.”
This could come off as bitter, especially in the wrong context, but Lush’s criticisms of its competition seem rarely to slip into the territory of self-interested petty put-downs or juvenile jabs. Instead, they seem to stem from a genuine disdain for the way that customers, animals and the environment are being mistreated by what Lush deems bad quality products from bad faith companies.
Lush isn’t afraid to get in your face—good news, given its wide range of facial products (sorry!). That vibrancy and boldness is present in its copy but extends most especially to its product design.
A Lush store has the air of a cosmetic Wonka factory, where dizzying, meticulously laid out soaps, shampoos and bath bombs covering the full rainbow spectrum lure passers-by from the street, who simply can’t resist that scintillatingly scented siren call—each Lush first-timer a beautified Augustus Gloop in the making (minus whatever bleak fate awaited him after he fell in that chocolate lake).
Lush knows how to use colour. Its stark black backgrounds with towering white lettering mark the outside and inside of each store, giving a cool and clean minimalist feel to the logo and product descriptions. But once in-store or on the company website, that minimalism gives way to maximalism as technicolour explosions spiral your eyes into kaleidoscopic wonder.
For the Lush products that do use packaging, coming in re-useable, recyclable bottles or pots, each one has a sticker showing the face and name of the person who made that particular product (all of Lush’s products are handmade), as well as the production and use-by date.
This added personal touch allows customers to feel like their purchases are rewarding genuine human craftsmanship rather than factory efficiency. Lush understands that for all the convenience of technological advancements and the increasingly upward curve of online retail, people do generally still quite like buying things made by people. We’ll choose the hand-crafted mixtape over the AI Spotify playlist any day.
The Secret Lush Cosmetics Master Plan is not so secret. In fact, it’s emphasised quite clearly on the company website. Lush’s aims?
- Make products for every need.
- Be number one in every category.
- Create a cosmetic revolution to save the planet.
In a word, lofty.
Add to that its unerring stance on animal testing and you get a sense of Lush’s refusal to back down on its principles. In fact, more often than not, it doubles down on them.
The company doesn’t buy any ingredients from suppliers that test any materials on animals for any purpose. This is a self-imposed policy and a more stringent one than those regulated by the Humane Cosmetics Standard, the body charged with enforcing the cosmetic industry’s ethical regulations.
It has also courted controversy by dumping two tonnes of animal manure on the doorstep of the EU in protest of animal testing.
When, in 2012, it filmed a video in protest of animal cruelty in its high street shop window, showing a human being put through the brutal procedures animals are subject to in cosmetic testing, the video attracted over 3 million views but saw the landlords of the prestigious Regent Street location strip the company of its tenancy. Lush doesn’t regret the incident. Maybe because the move to Oxford Street wasn’t such a tough one.
It launched the Lush Prize in 2011 and has so far awarded £1.86million to companies offering alternatives to animal testing. In the financial year of 2017/18, natural ingredients represented 65% of Lush’s global raw material spend compared to 35% spent on safe synthetic materials. All its products are vegetarian, 80% vegan, and in the UK alone, 67% of the company’s supply chain is from direct relationships with manufacturers and growers.
Lush’s commitment to its causes is clear for all to see. Its dogmatic approach to cosmetics probably rubs some people the wrong way, most especially, you’d think, its called-out competitors. But it’s the authenticity of the company’s beliefs and its unwavering commitment to them paired with its vibrant product range and fun, occasionally cutting copy that mark Lush out as unique.
We hope you enjoyed our latest Brand Showcase. Stay tuned for November’s edition, and in the meantime, learn more about how to choose the right tone of voice for your brand.