top of page

A bath bomb that actually made me think.

By Laura Pesko

I first began my consumer-brand relationship with Lush Cosmetics in high school. If you’re unfamiliar with the Lush brand, think bright, colorful bath bombs dissolving in water, releasing delicious scents, from rose to lemongrass to mint. When you enter a Lush store, you are enveloped in a cloud of overwhelming aroma in the best way.

Since its founding in 1995, Lush has been a passionate brand. It doesn’t just have an anti-animal testing policy; it has a mission to fight animal testing worldwide. The brand is against over-packaging in the cosmetics industry, selling about half of its products “naked,” or without packaging. It also aims to have 100% of its packaging recyclable or compostable. This is only the beginning when it comes to causes Lush champions.

It’s reassuring to know that the products you’re buying are ethically sourced and handmade, which Lush’s are. But I keep going back to Lush because the products smell amazing and are plain fun to use.

But great products can do strange things…

On Black Friday in 2021, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I saw a post from the Lush account. It was an image with text that read “Be Somewhere Else”. The post indicated that the Lush brand was leaving social media, particularly Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat due to whistleblowers who revealed not only the harm people are exposed to on the platforms, but that the platforms know about it and are choosing not to make any changes. I was shocked. At a time when social media marketing was, and still is, seen as an essential part of growing your brand and expanding your audience, I didn’t know why a brand would decide to do this or how it would impact their business. I didn’t even know that Lush had already left social media once in 2019 but had returned in 2020 amidst the pandemic. To me, the move looked extremely risky. As Tony Pec, known as “The Godfather of Instagram,” stated in a Forbes article in September 2022, if your business is not on social media, “you are choosing to get left behind.”

Despite that, Lush was staying true to its passionate roots. It stated in a press release that its boycott will last “until these platforms can provide a safer environment for their users.” The company believes that there is something wrong with the lack of regulation around these platforms and the algorithms they use. So, Lush decided to act.

But did that action come at a cost? In an article from Vogue Business in November 2021, Lush CEO Mark Constantine estimated that the choice to leave social media could cost £10 million in losses in the short term. However, Lush’s Financial Report for FY22, published in June 2022, states that it is impossible to know the exact impact the social media exit had on the company’s business. When I thought about the impact it would have on my personal relationship with Lush, I wondered whether no longer seeing Lush content on my social media feed would make a difference in my purchasing behavior. I felt that since I was already familiar with the brand and its products, my behavior wouldn’t change, but I couldn’t be sure.

Two years later, on Black Friday in 2023, it became clear that Lush was not deterred by any consequences of its social media boycott, financial or otherwise. The brand posted nine different graphics on Instagram, some of which detailed the data Instagram collects from users and others providing statistics about how many people don’t want that data to be used for commercial benefit. The company called the campaign “ESC Big Tech” and its position was clear: not only had the social media platforms not changed in the past two years, but it was adding X to the boycott list.

While Lush no longer uses X, it still reaches its consumers through other digital means, including email newsletters, Pinterest, and YouTube. I even bought several SpongeBob-shaped soaps for friends’ birthdays over the summer of 2023 after receiving a promotional email about Lush’s collaboration with SpongeBob SquarePants.

In fact, you may have seen a post on Instagram about Lush’s collaboration with the square yellow sponge if you follow the @spongebob Instagram account. I think it’s interesting that Lush is still benefiting from its partners’ and collaborators’ posts on the platforms it has criticized so heavily. The partners and collaborators likely want to benefit from the exposure on Instagram or TikTok themselves, but I believe it would have been meaningful if they didn’t post on those platforms about Lush either.

One aspect I really admire about Lush’s anti-social media campaign is that the company is tying it back to its mission of promoting well-being. It creates products that encourage consumers to unwind and unplug. Because the company feels like these social media platforms negatively affect users’ well-being and mental health, Lush decided they were not places it wanted to attract its consumers to.

After seeing this campaign, I wondered if not seeing colorful bath bombs regularly on my Instagram feed made a difference in how much I purchased from Lush. And while I can’t say for certain, I don’t believe that Lush’s social media exit changed my purchasing behavior. I’ve been a repeated Lush customer for years and I already love products. I’m also engaged with the brand via other digital platforms, particularly email newsletters, which keep Lush at the top of my mind, while also informing me about new products and promotions. The brand is still my “go-to” for gifting (because who doesn’t love a bubble bath?) and whether I see a Lush post on Instagram will not change that.

Lush is a company with strong beliefs and the willpower to implement every one of those beliefs into its business. Its social media boycott is one of those beliefs and it doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. In the meantime, I encourage you to drop a bath bomb into the tub and start relaxing.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page