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How Lush, voted “most loved” brand of 2017, fell from grace

11th June 2018


Cosmetics chain Lush may have topped a survey of 100 UK retailers by Which?, but this was before the recent negative coverage it has received following its controversial “SpyCops” campaign https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-44356084.

Lush  was also named the UK’s most loved brand in a report looking at UK consumers by Customer Agency C Space, which also explored the reasons customers love particular brands and the commercial implications. The best-loved brands are shown in the table below.

The most human businesses of 2017  
Industry Top Performer CQ Score

Household, Beauty, and Personal Care Lush Cosmetics 8.15
Travel and Hotel Emirates 7.61
Department or Discount Store John Lewis 7.32
Restaurant Pret A Manger 7.27
Specialty Retailer IKEA 6.57
Amusement Disney 6.38
Grocery Waitrose 6.36
Food and Beverage Manufacturing Birds Eye 5.84
Financial Services First Direct 5.79
Healthcare and Pharma Boots 5.76
Healthcare Insurance Axa PPP 5.67
Apparel Next 5.62
Media Netflix 5.33
Technology Apple 4.86
Automotive Manufacturing BMW 4.54
Fitness Fitness First 3.87
Telecommunication Three 2.27

Discussing how Lush has been hitting the headlines and whether it will be damaged by the recent bad publicity, Claire Sippitt, consultancy director at C Space, says: “I was reminded of Lush twice last week. First I read that it had ranked top in a study of shoppers by consumer group Which?, and again shortly afterwards, when I read about SpyCops, its campaign that addresses the scandal over undercover police officers forming relationships with the women activists they were employed to spy on – one that is rapidly becoming a PR disaster.

CQ and Loyalty


This chart describes the relationship between a company’s CQ score and the percentage of consumers in our study that said they’d continue purchasing from that company. Each dot represents a company, arranged by CQ score (horizontal axis) and percentage who would continue purchasing (vertical axis). The companies are clustered tightly around the regression line, which illustrates how closely CQ and loyalty are related.


“What’s interesting is that the campaign is on-brand for Lush, a company that has built its brand through authenticity. It makes cruelty-free products, supports grassroots charities, voluntarily pays all staff a living wage and offers a reward to its customers for returning empty pots. Lush does all these things because it knows that’s what its customers are passionate about. That’s why it’s loved so much.”

Sippitt describes why Lush has such a strong ethos: “this purpose comes from the top, as Lush founder, Mark Constantine says: ‘People don’t just want to buy something, they want to belong to something, we’re not a cult but we certainly have strong ethos and personality that’s difficult to describe,’  and to date this has been reflected on the bottom line: in 2017, total sales were up 32%, while UK comparable sales rose more than 12%.

“It hasn’t shied away from tackling controversial issues either, such as fracking in the UK and the death penalty in the US. Indeed, as values-based marketing has become more commonplace, it seems its campaigns have become more provocative.

CQ and Advocacy

This chart describes the relationship between a company’s CQ score and the percentage of consumers in our study who said they have actually recommended that company to a friend or family member. Each dot represents a company, arranged by its CQ score (horizontal axis) and percentage who have recommended it (vertical axis).The companies are clustered tightly around the regression line, which illustrates how closely CQ and advocacy are related.


“Until now (to use the language of our CQ framework), what Lush has known is exactly who it is for. It’s picked a niche and delivers on its customers’ needs with impeccable relevance. But despite this focus on emotionally connecting with its customers, Lush might have missed the mark with SpyCops. Given the recent political unease around safety and security, the public at large have been in support of the police. On the other end of the spectrum, not all activists have supported the campaign. The BBC reported that one former animal rights activist, who had a child with an undercover police officer, demanded an apology from Lush as she felt her case was being ‘used to sell soap.’”

Customer imperative table: five key measures used to gauge top-performing brands

Sippitt concludes that only time will tell if Lush will lose its customers’ respect in the long term: “Although Lush knows who it is for, the brand may not have managed to address any of its core audiences with this campaign. Right now, we’re in the process of collecting data for our 2018 CQ report so it would be interesting to see how this is reflected in its 2018 CQ ranking. Is it still the cosmetics retailer that consumers love, or has this campaign led to its fall from grace?”

Opinion

One PRO who hopes Lush will rise again from the ashes of the PR disaster is Claire Thompson, freelance consultant at Waves PR: “Lush may appear to be on the back foot, but its campaign is creating change, raising the issue, and is bang on brand: many of its own workers are environmental activists. It’s a brand that demands change.

“The rank hypocrisy of those opposing the campaign is notable – many of those now mocking were suggesting, a few months ago, that we rally around colleagues in crisis rather than criticise.

“Does it take them finding their partners, mothers or daughters duped into a relationship (even a pregnancy) to acknowledge that SOME policing needs examining? Lush can still win this back – I sincerely hope it does.”

Methodology

Customer QuotientTM UK (CQ UK) is a nationally representative study of 5,000 UK consumers evaluating the self-selected brands that consumers feel really understand them, their needs and their wants.



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