We asked the brand how it arrived at the decision, what it has learned from its previous efforts to leave Facebook and Instagram, and how it plans to stay connected with customers going forward.
The questions below were answered by various spokespeople within the business.
Inside Retail: Why did Lush decide to maintain a presence on Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest but not Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat? YouTube, for instance, has been implicated in radicalising young people.
We know that Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat platforms are causing harm, and we know that at least one company that owns them has no immediate intentions of putting it right. For some other social media platforms – like Twitter and YouTube – there is some hope that there is a willingness to change and adapt how they operate, but only time will tell if they will truly take all the actions needed, which leaves us trying to pick a path through these uncharted territories.
Our current plan is to come off the platforms that have chosen to ignore their own evidence, but we will return if they make their spaces safe. And for platforms that have acknowledged there are problems and promise to change, we will currently bear with them and continue to use their services in the expectation that improvements are coming.
Whatever platforms we use, we need to be carefully structuring how we use them to try to ensure we give customers a chance to avoid the worst harm. We need to keep informed of any developments and improvements on the main platforms in the hope we can rejoin in future, whilst at the same time making best use of the remaining channels and developing our own communications and outreach. Everything we do has care, concern and kindness at its centre – we need to reach out and connect with the world and with our customers in a way that does not cause them harm.
IR: Lush quit Facebook and Instagram in 2019, but started posting off and on again in 2020. Why was that?
In 2019, Lush UK stopped posting to Instagram and Facebook due to increasing concerns over how much control these big platforms had on how many people, and which people, saw anything we posted. This interaction is controlled for no other reason than to extract profit for themselves, and the idea that a main route of communication with our customers could be regulated by a third party was worrying.
With the unprecedented arrival of the global pandemic in 2020 and people locked down all over the world leaning heavily on all the features of the internet to keep going, we decided to bring back some limited use of the channels we had mothballed, to offer the only possible service to our customers we had.
On September 15, 2020, during lockdown, Lush also partnered with IAMWHOLE and Zoe Sugg [the influencer known as Zoella] in Digital Detox Day to advocate for putting our devices down for one whole day and to focus on our mental health. The campaign was a huge success, with hundreds of thousands taking part around the world – however, feedback from teens trying to detox from their tech highlighted just how hard it was. Anxiety, FOMO [fear of missing out] and phantom alerts all contributed towards many not being able to stay offline for more than a few hours.
Then in 2021 came the Facebook Files and numerous whistleblower accounts from ex-Facebook employees exposing internal research papers, proving Facebook knows the very real harms being caused on their platform, but are choosing not to act.
We at Lush don’t want to wait for better worldwide regulations or for the platforms to introduce best practice guidelines, while a generation of young people are growing up experiencing serious and lasting harm. Now is the right time to find better ways to connect without putting our customers in harm’s way.
It is not enough for companies to just stop placing paid advertising; people and their time are the currency of these channels and we do not want our content to be used by hidden algorithms designed to hold people captive on a channel.
IR: What are the challenges of staying connected to your community without social media, and how do you plan to address them?
It’s a tough decision to step away from the biggest platforms of our time and the easiest way to connect with a mass audience. We take this leap knowing that we will need to find different ways to reach them, instead of taking this easy option. It means we need to go back to the drawing board and find our own unique ways of reaching out to people. It’s actually really exciting and we’re positive about the creative attitude that we can have towards engaging with our customers. We’ve always had great fun with our fans and we will continue to do that on other platforms and in other spaces.
We will retain our social media handles and accounts for brand protection, however won’t be actively posting or replying to messages on the four platforms. We will be monitoring those platforms more than ever, as the last thing we want to do is ignore customer feedback. We’re not abandoning our customers – we will be listening to them more than ever, we’ll be using tools to help us understand what customers are saying, doing and how we should be responding. We are a brand that cares about you and wants to know what you think.
IR: Do you anticipate this decision will impact your sales?
We estimate that the company could lose £10 million in the short-term. However, Lush’s direct sales from social media — not accounting for people who are prompted on social media but purchase through other channels — account for just 0.5 per cent of total sales. However, we want to do everything we can creatively to make sure our customers can find us and chat to us, just not in spaces that don’t have their best interests at heart. It is a risk from a commercial standpoint, no doubt – but we’re making a decision that is people over profit. Our products are designed for wellbeing, we want to look after people – so we have to stand by that and not allow these tools to dictate the way we will engage with our customers.
IR: Do you plan to increase your paid advertising on other channels?
The change won’t have much impact on digital marketing budgets as we focus on content creation, which is used across platforms. We will repurpose where that content lives, but we weren’t doing paid social anyway, so we won’t be moving or losing budget there. We also don’t partake in any traditional paid advertising, and haven’t since Lush was established over 25 years ago, we don’t see this changing any time soon.