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Lush Cosmetics are a perfect example of how word-of-mouth marketing should be done.
The ‘ethical cosmetics’ company has gone from starting out with a small cult following, to being a retail behemoth in recent years. With latest figures putting total turnover at $1.3 billion for the year to June 2017.
And the best part?
Lush have done it all having spent next to nothing on traditional, mainstream advertising. Instead, the Lush maketing team rely on a strong content strategy and word-of-mouth marketing to keep those KPIs continually trending upwards.
So in this post we take a look at some of the key aspects of Lush Cosmetics' marketing strategy, and what Lush has done to achieve such huge viral success.
Core values are at the epicentre of every single thing Lush does.
For them, it’s not about selling bath products and lipstick. It’s about trying to revolutionize an industry that they feel is doing things in an unsustainable way - they started with why.
The Lush website doesn’t have a generic ‘About Page’. It has an ‘Our Values’ page highlighting the six policies that the company lives and dies by. These are then made clear all over the site:
The ‘Year in Review’ video currently greeting viewers of Lush’s YouTube channel is also heavily values focused:
Notice how there’s almost zero mention of things like new product launches, celebrity styles or other things you might expect in a promotional video for a cosmetics company.
Instead, it’s about social and environmental issues that Lush are passionate about. And how they tie their brand and what they do to these issues.
Lush’s word-of-mouth marketing strategy is successful because it has these clear values at its core. They stand for something that aligns with a lot of other people’s values - and then sell products off the back of it. And they focus a lot on that connection with their content
Of course, it’s not just about standing up for a cause and hoping word spreads organically. Lush also realize they need to get their message out in as big a way as possible.
And so they place a huge amount of energy into creating high quality content aligned with the values mentioned above.
To start, Lush’s social commerce strategy is simply an extension of their values. See how their Instagram bio goes straight into what they believe in (and also tone of voice):
This is an advantage over other Lush Cosmetics competitors, like Superdrug (a UK brand). On their instagram bio, Superdrug go straight into talking about what they sell, with a focus on their products:
Now you might say “well, Superdrug have almost 50% more followers than Lush” - and you’re obviously right. (L'oreal, Garnier, Sephora - these Lush competitors also have more followres) But Lush absolutely crush it when it comes to that all important engagement rate.
Here's a typical post with a 'frilly product image' from Superdrug. Almost 2,000 likes, but only two comments (one of which is about an unrelated payment issue):
Then look at Lush's Insta. They share posts telling stories about how their products are made in alignment with their values - and end up with multiple thousand likes and comments.
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by LUSH UK (@lush) on Feb 28, 2019 at 7:45am PST
So when Lush do share standard 'frilly images' pushing their beauty products, this happens:
Almost 30,000 likes and just under 400 comments, and in the same five day period the above Superdrug post was live. This wasn't an accident, or a post going viral - this is the payoff for Lush Cosmetics marketing strategy, and the reason for being authentic. Part of it is effective community-building -- combining community with loyalty program.
The same strategy rings true for Lush across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and pretty much every other social network.
But it’s not just social media the company gets their message out on. They’ve created a Lush Player on their website that’s dedicated to quality podcasts, video and radio content:
So what does all this have to do with word-of-mouth marketing?
Well, you can’t get people to talk about things they don’t really want to talk about - not on a mass scale anyway. And most people don’t want to spend their time talking about a company’s products.
But what Lush have done is created masses of conversations about topics that are important to them and align with their brand values. Garnering a following of like-minded people in a way that provides a logical link back to their products.
In other words:
People engage with, love and share Lush’s content. And this, in turn, spreads word-of-mouth about their message and mission in order to generate sales and build a community that encourages engagement.
Lush’s word-of-mouth strategy isn’t just about churning out their own content, posts and videos. They also encourage interaction by layering user-generated content (UGC) on top.
This can start with something as simple as creating a dedicated hashtag. Then encouraging customers to use it when sharing social posts of them using your products.
The Lush social media team have done this to great success with #LushLife, with just under 600,000 Insta posts under the tag:
Lush will even highlight on their own feed what some people have been doing with Lush beauty products. Like this one offering makeup inspiration:
And then they’ve also got a widget on the Lush website showing all the Twitter engagements taking place. Again, showing the customer that they want to converse and interact:
On top of this, Lush also do a phenomenal job when it comes to online forums and groups.
They have a strong 'Community' section on their Facebook Page, and also run a strong subreddit for conversation around Lush related topics. And if you search for "Lush" or "Lush review" on YouTube, you'll get thousands of channels and everyone from million-follower influencers to happy fans filming their own unboxing or product reviews.
(it also helps that Lush bath bombs are really quite pretty, and very Instagram-able and shareable).
Obviously, people sharing Lush Cosmetics’s products helps spread word-of-mouth exponentially by reaching the followers of their followers and beyond. (Sounds like they could benefit from a referral program)
But perhaps a more powerful aspect to focus on is how hashtags and UGC help build a strong community of people - with Lush’s values (and therefore the Lush brand) at the center. And speaking of YouTube influencers...
Lush Cosmetics marketing makes critical use of targeted word-of-mouth. In other words, getting values-aligned influencers to share Lush products with their highly engaged social media audiences.
YouTube has been a particularly effective place Lush has gone to. Identifying influencers and helping them create high-quality content centering around Lush’s brand and products.
They even gave makeup vlogger Jaclyn Forbes a tour of the factory she could share with her followers:
And then also using Jaclyn to create a video around her top 10 Lush products of all time:
Using influencers like this can obviously have huge pay off - strategically making word-of-mouth marketing go further. This is similar to how media influencers helped Tesla drive visibility without a dollar spent on conventional advertising.
It puts Lush’s products front and center in front of their target audience. With the added bonus of a ringing endorsement from a respected and credible influencer.
A final thing to mention is how in all this Lush never forgets about the most important thing to any retail business: sales.
They realize that all the word-of-mouth marketing in the world doesn’t really matter without a seamless buying experience to back it up.
So they make sure to make as many of their content touchpoints shoppable as part of an omnichannel strategy - rather than hoping people make it back to a standalone website. Joining the likes of Oasis Fashion, BarkBox and other great omnichannel examples.
Yes, they share the values-oriented stories and content. But they also throw in pushes for products too, with things like Shoppable Insta Posts:
They’ve also built a dedicated ecommerce smartphone app to easier allow customers to buy on-the-go.
And even bridged the online to offline gap nicely with Lush Lens. This will allow Lush to remove the need for product packaging - with customers able to browse in-store and scan items with their phone to get more info.
Lush Cosmetics do a phenomenal job when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing - having used the tactic to build a billion-dollar brand.
But the key to it all stems from how clear and well-aligned Lush are to their company values. They stand for something big and create content that’s around that - evoking an emotional response in their followers and customers.
And there’s no reason you can’t do the same by getting clear on the values of your ecommerce brand.
Mike is the Content Editor at Veeqo, a platform helping omnichannel retailers provide a phenomenal customer experience by taking care of their inventory and fulfillment. He spends most of his time writing about ecommerce on the Veeqo blog, but also has an unhealthy obsession with pretty much any sport.