- Liz Whitaker
Lush - witness the power of personal on a grand scale
Always on the lookout for the power of personal in action, rarely do I find one as big as this. The cosmetics giant Lush proves the power of personal can work on a grand scale and that business size is not an obstacle to making it work. What can bigger professional services borrow from this retail challenger brand and global success story?
Let’s get the numbers in now.
Lush was founded in 1995 and in just 24 years has built global revenue of £524.4 million (FY 2018, up 6% on previous year, while FY2017 saw 26% growth) with an impressive gross profit margin of 65.7%. The company employs 12,371 people in 928 stores across 49 countries (source – UK Companies House).
But that’s not all the important numbers. The Lush CSR programme ticks all the boxes (environment, living wage, supplier scrutiny … the list goes on) to the max. On money alone, in 2017 Lush donated just over £13 million to charities and good causes and their CSR claims are openly audited. And they pay all their taxes in their countries of operation (see Fair Tax mark).
Lush is not a brand I’ve previously warmed to (I’m out of their target age range and find the brand a bit brash). But, a newspaper interview with founder director Mark Constantine about his entrepreneurial spirit and ethics changed my mind. Here was a brand run by a real person with principles. I liked him. My in-store experience was exceptional, so I decided to look further and this is where I found the power of personal alive and kicking across their marketing platforms – see below – with the corresponding pages from my bestselling book, The Power of Personal – How to Connect, Convince and Create Exceptional Client Relationships.
A face for the business - Mark Constantine (plus family members). Shop assistants referred to him warmly as ‘Mark’ as if he’d popped in the day before for a coffee. Top marks for accountability, accessibility and visibility. (Avoid Facelessness - page 41)
Profile for invisible stakeholders – on each Lush product is a sticker, with portrait drawing, profiling the person who made that product. (Beyond the Leadership Team - page 44)
Company story – challenger brand ahead of time, early success, over-trading, bankruptcy, re-birth, huge success. (Work the goldmine that is your unique story bank - page 58).
Personal story – founder, fatherless, homeless, authentically ethical, stands for something, distinctive, finds success, fails, tries again, global success, shares benefits. (as above) Full story here in The Big Issue - www.bigissue.com/interviews/lush-founder-mark-constantine-shares-his-own-experience-of-homelessness/
Managing all touchpoints – Lush is fronted by well-trained, positive, smiley people at all touchpoints delivering beautiful brand consistency. Complaints or returns are handled without challenge. Despite me being out of their target age range, they were interested in what I was asking for, made eye contact and, in a crowded store, made me feel like I was the only person who mattered. (Be useful (no, be completely and utterly indispensable) - page 239)
Random acts of kindness (RAKs) – store personnel have the freedom to gift products to customers. (Generosity of Spirit - page 269)
High relationship capital – the Lush ambassador ‘tribe’ (The Ambassador – Your New Best Friend page 137 onwards) is so big that they have their own name, Lushies, with a dedicated forum. They receive exclusive offers and in advance information (Keep your priority stakeholders one step ahead - page 259) on new products, launch dates etc.
Lushlabs – a new Lush community initiative that demonstrates how to partner with customers (VIPs - see page 126). Profiled as ‘an experimental platform built with the Lush community’ and an invitation to ‘Sign in to join like-minded creators and forward-thinking collaborators as we build a platform that breaks boundaries, with exclusive access to the Lush world.’ A forward-thinking collaborator? Lush, you are speaking to me!
Distinctive voice – Lush knows its voice and uses it (often with controversy – see Spy Cops campaign - but they stick with their decisions). (Find your voice – page 68)
Multi-sensory appeal – The Lush brand, stakeholders can see it, feel it, hear it (and you can most definitely smell it!). (Acknowledge different learning types – page 69)
Lush has out-manoeuvred its pirates and I’ve yet to find any assassins.
Not bad for a company HQed in dear old Dorset, England, competing in a saturated market with some of the world’s biggest and most established brands while bucking the downward spiral trend on the UK High Street.
I might be out of your age range Lush, but I like you, a lot, and especially for giving me the biggest example yet of the true power of personal.