Digital detox: Lush Cosmetics Executive doubles down on decision to quit social media
In an interview with Fortune, Constantine elaborated that “In the last two years, we’ve really struggled to be able to see what social media promised us in the beginning. I think there needs to be a big shift in transparency around the algorithms and the data that is being managed by these companies.”
While the COVID-19 Pandemic has made digitalization a vital investment for many companies seeking to bypass physical restrictions, Lush has gone counter to the trend by completely disavowing all social media over the disregard shown by Facebook (now Meta) and other social networking sites on their effects on mental health. After Thanksgiving, Lush’s Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat account were deactivated with Lush’s Chief Digital Officer Jack Constantine indicating that the decision was final.
This was not the first time that Lush has disavowed digital marketing via social networks as the company had attempted to accomplish this in 2019 before the aforementioned pandemic forced it to return to the only forms of marketing that weren’t adversely affected by the disease. This original shift may have been due to changing algorithms and a new focus on paid ads rather than organic content however. Constantine has stated that “every staff member brings their own moral compass” at Lush and the company has championed issues such as environmental causes and general wellbeing. While Lush has always argued that these measures were based on moral foundations and the need for a stance against Big Tech prioritizing profit over mental health or general wellness, others have criticized the firm for “virtue signaling.”
Detractors have argued that Lush’s attempts to push forward social media-free marketing is simply unsustainable for most SME that gain most of their traffic from online sources. While Lush has the brand awareness and sheer capital to be able to survive such a move, this cannot be said for many other firms and therefore Lush can only maintain such an approach due to the privilege of its prominence within the cosmetics sector. Therefore, they argue, while Lush’s move away from social media can be perceived as a noble act, it may be a cause they will champion alone especially given the fact that the total number of social media users is set at 3.3 billion and the fact that social media marketing is one of the most effective and most economical way for smaller brands to make their mark on the market.
While the nobility or pragmatism of their intentions may be up for speculation, what cannot be debated is the fact that the loss of this form of marketing will have significant effects on Lush’s bottomline. Even with them retaining Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube, Lush have outright stated that they expect to lose out on $10 million in yearly sales revenue and that an alternative marketing strategy may be more difficult to implement given their loss of the direct line of communication that social media would have provided.
Will Lush’s campaign have a significant effect on the role social media plays in mass marketing? Given the very contemporary nature of the announcement, the ripples it may have caused are yet to be seen. That said, the sheer convenience social media marketing is for brands large and small, the monopoly Big Tech has on the digital world and at times pragmatic nature of the free market may mean that we won’t see much significant change unless other industry leads also take similar measures, risking their bottom line for the greater good.