14 June 2018
Nike believes that if you have a body you’re an athlete. Disney wants to bring happiness to everyone. Airbnb believe travel is better when done as a local. These aren’t necessarily attainable goals, but they sum up why the company does what it does (besides just to make money). But do brands actually need a purpose?
89% of Gen Z, myself included, would argue yes. If a brand stands up for something that they believe in, younger consumers are more likely to buy from them. It’s no longer acceptable for brands to stay neutral on everything, we expect an opinion on ethical and political causes. How a brand reacts to something can now make or break customer relationships.
This post sparked from a few recent campaigns that got people talking about brand purpose.
The most obvious example is the Lush #SpyCops campaign. By now everyone has heard of this marketing push and seen the backlash from the general public, the police and even some of their loyal fans. There’s no denying it was a mistake, but I want to unpick their decisions in the hopes that other brands aren’t put off from trying something similar.
What? Why would any brand want to copy this debacle?
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.
(Image: Lush Instagram)
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.
I’m well aware that any and all marketing is in the bid to sell more products. So I know that the #SpyCops campaign should have hoped for this effect, but maybe naively I think it goes beyond that. People created this campaign from the pain they saw of the women affected and wanted others to know more about it.
(Image: Mail Online)
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. Throwing an idea in people’s faces without any real warning or clear information can be confusing. Consumers clearly found this too confrontational and didn’t respond well. Lush needed to explain the whole campaign better or have a clearer one from the start.
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
Brands have to get more human and being human is sometimes sharing opinions others don’t agree with. They should get braver and take risks to move their purpose to doing good. Brands will never appear human and ‘relatable’ if they stay silent on things that are really important.
(Image: Lush Instagram)
Brands can definitely learn from Lush’s bold activism. Until now it’s only served them well. There’s a reason they’re so popular and it’s partly to do with their products and partly because people can feel good about buying from them.
Lush started off fighting for good but as they’ve grown people seem to forget that they’ve always had an active brand purpose. I look at this as a reminder that Lush still want to do good. I hope they’ve learned from their campaign mistakes and, as a Lush shopper, I look forward to seeing what they do next.
People should continue to fight for what they believe in, and so should brands.