With its mall-based footprint and over-the-top bath bombs like Intergalactic, Sex Bomb and Unicorn Poop, Lush might seem like a brand made for Instagram. But the company left Facebook and Instagram late last year after a whistleblower revealed how toxic the platforms could be to young women -- its core audience. Katrina Johnson, head of brand and digital concepts, tells Marketing Daily how Lush has adjusted its digital marketing strategies.
Marketing Daily: Conventional wisdom might say that a beauty brand can't reach young women without Instagram. Why leave?
Katrina Johnson: The Facebook whistleblower talked about its algorithms targeting young women who were very vulnerable. They were getting messages that weren't good for their mental health. We care about people's well-being. Our founders didn't feel comfortable promoting our brand on those platforms until those platforms are ready to change. We left TikTok and Snapchat, too. Of course, we still need to grow awareness, so we had to start thinking differently.
Marketing Daily: You recently introduced Bathe, a new app. So that's one digital approach. What other digital channels are you using?
Johnson: We're on Twitter. Also YouTube, which appeals because you don't need to be a subscriber to see content. And its algorithm is kinder. We're looking more at Pinterest because we are such a visual brand. And we'll look at other platforms. But we're also passionate about creating our own technology, like the Bathe app.
Marketing Daily: The app provides playlists, including ambient sounds geared to each product. How are customers using it?
Johnson: Well, bathing is a bit of an antidote to social media, to endless scrolling. It's the one room in the house where you often have a lock on the door, and you can take time out for yourself. I was also fascinated by how the bath bomb transforms, which made me think about that moment -- it's almost like a yoga class. There are so many aspects of well-being that are less accessible, [but] a bath is something that's easy to do.
The app helps users track how they feel. Are they less stressed after a bath? Do they sleep better? It connects, if they want, to Apple and Google health trackers. We've got a lot of content on the app, but it's still very experimental.
We want to create useful tech, like our Lush Lens, which uses AR. Customers can put it on any of our Naked products -- those without packaging -- to find the ingredients.
Marketing Daily: What sort of feedback have you gotten?
Johnson: It seems to be well received. But that's one of the more difficult things about leaving Instagram because it provided an easy way for customers to get in touch with us. So we're looking at more ways to get that.
Marketing Daily: You've been on Spotify for a long time. Why?
Johnson: Music has always been a massive part of the brand. We've had lots of partnerships. It's a medium for transformation, too. It can calm you down.
Marketing Daily: Self-care has always been part of the Lush ethos. The pandemic has made it a much more common phrase. Has that changed how your customers see self-care?
Johnson: Yes, in that it's not one thing. It can be a bath bomb, sound bath, fragrance, or face mask. It's about taking that moment just for you. We've always been well positioned to be a wellness brand, and the pandemic has heightened that. We don't ask customers what they want to look like -- we ask them how they want to feel.
Marketing Daily: You've quit Facebook before and–like so many people!–come back on. Do you see that happening again?
Johnson: Not now. If Facebook changes in ways that feel more aligned with our brand, we won't rule out returning. We reserve the right to make mistakes, too. But it's not in our plans right now. Lots of people feel this way -- it's not just us. Lots of young people are becoming disenchanted. They're going for more community-based platforms, often hanging out in anonymous groups.
We'll keep looking for digital ways to be inclusive and give them tools and apps that support their experience. Lush is a brand that makes you feel better when you step inside the door. Our spas are magical, and the treatments are transformative. So we should evoke that same feeling any time we interact with a customer.