Lessons from the lovely Lush

Had another great blog-enabled meeting yesterday with Denise from Lush, who leads their corporate communications for Europe. What a nice and very smart lady. The insights I got from meeting Denise reinforced what I learnt earlier this year from Tom at Method and Dan at Innocent.

If you don’t know Lush, they sell "Fresh, Handmade Cosmetics" in their own amazing stores. They are REALLY ethical and environmentally responsible, whist also being super indulgent and pleasurable. What Tom from Method calls "sex and substance"! The handmade feel of the products is also reflected in the store design and communication.

So, what did I learn from Lush?

1. Yup, you guessed it. Build on a brilliant product
Bit of a theme here. Lush products are so differentiated that they have been able to build a big and growing business (£75 million turnover in 2004, +43% vs. 2003) with 370 stores without any advertising. Here are just a few of the things that make the product so special:
– Not tested on animals, at all: none of that sneaky "we don’t test our products on animals (but we use ingredients tested on animals)"
– Handmade: so they feel sort of rough and individual and imperfect. And you even have a photo of the person who made it on the pack or in-store display
– Fresh: no chemical preservatives
– Distinctive naming/design: Such as the "Haagenbath", described as "a refreshing minty, pink, slow-fizzing, creamy bath bomb with grated chocolate bath melt for extra skin softening"
– 75% of the products are "naked", with no packaging


2. And a unique in-store experience
Here’s a vivid description from a case study done by Rotterdam Business School about the shop, that look more like a deli than a cosmetics store:

"Your senses literally wake up in a fraction of a second;
the colours of the forms of soap or of the bath ballistics make the effect of a
rainbow in the room. The shop has also a nice
and cosy atmosphere, with the lighting creating a warm environment, the walls
painted with warm colours, the furniture made of natural wood and the use of
natural stone for the floor and for some displays.

You simply look, touch, smell and try whatever attracts your
attention and at the end of the process you pick up the products you like, go to
the counter and pay. A self-service system is in place with banners describing
the products and at the end of it a nice and friendly cashier looking forward to
attending to you with a sincere smile."

3. Have a Brand CEO who leads by example
The founder, Mark Constantine, is still leading the Lush business he started in 1994. According to Denise, he and the other four key leaders, including Mark’s wife Mo, are still very much hands on in running the company, and leading by example. They are the living, breathing manifestation of the brand. And they protect and propagate the company’s values.

4. Bring creativity inside
Here we go again… same as with Method and Innocent, the creative genius is inside the business, with a small team led out of Poole in Dorset where the HQ is. This way, the creative team live and breathe the brand so they really, really "get it". Compare this with the normal creative process inside BigBrand PLC that leads to breakdowns in the creative process:

Brand manager writes brief=>Shows to boss, who re-writes it=>Brief account director/planner=> briefs creative team, but best one is busy and can’t do it=> re-brief other creative team etc.

5. Hire on values, not skills
Many people don’t have university degrees, and those that do didn’t often study something relevant to their job. But what they do all share is a passionate belief in what the company stands for: making beautiful, natural products. Saw this at innocent as well.

6. Have such a great product that your customers become fans
Lush, like innocent for a long time, don’t need advertising because their products are so cool. The products generate high loyalty and lots of word-of-mouth. One sign of how passionate the customers are is the number of people who actually participate in the Lush forums.. the US one has 801 104 articles from 22 000 users!

7. Brand engagement comes from an engaging brand
In a recent post, Brand Engagement is Dead, I wrote about how employee engagement comes above all from making products people are proud of. And Lush is living proof of that. Denise described how loyal people are to Lush, as they love the products and what the company is trying to do.One example of this in action is store staff agreeing to go to work naked apart from a Lush apron as part of a campaign called "packaging is rubbish", promoting the "naked"  products  Lush sells. Can’t quite imagine that at your local WalMart or Tesco!

8. Break out of the boxes to bring to life your vision
Lush is another example of a brand making good use of a brand manifesto (tips on writing one here), a much more effective way of creating a brand vision with heart and soul than relying on a box-filled brand onion/pyramid/key:

– We believe in making effective products out of fresh fruit and vegetables, the
finest essential oils and safe synthetics, without animal ingredients, and in
writing the quantitative ingredient list on the outside.
– We believe in buying only from companies that test for safety without the
involvement of animals and in testing our products on humans.
– We believe in making our own fresh products by hand, printing our own labels
and making our own fragrances.
– We believe in long candlelit baths, massage and filling the house with
– We believe that our products should be good value, that we should make a
profit and that the customer is always right.
– We believe that words like “fresh” and “organic” have honest meaning beyond