Lush are famous for their ethical products and charity work and it’s because of these values that they don’t advertise or market their products using traditional methods. So, if they don’t promote themselves, how do they manage instill such fanaticism into their customers?
That’s a lot of Lush.
Ask a ‘Lushie’ and they will tell you it’s because of the amazing products and exceptional customer service. That’s part of it, of course, but at the end of the day it’s just cosmetics – pretty expensive cosmetics at that – so how do they do it?
Well, I have just read ‘Neuro Web Design – What Makes them Click?’ by Susam M. Weinschenk which looks at psychology within web design and how to increase conversions and brand loyalty using the techniques discussed. Nearly every single section of this book made me think of Lush in some way. Here’s why I believe they are not as innocent as they seem and why they are, in fact, evil neuro-marketing geniuses:
Social Validation - “We’re called to act when we know what others have experienced with a product.”
The most easy way to encourage purchases using social validation is by showing reviews next to products and Lush does this really well:
A review become more powerful when the person writing seems similar to us or when they write in a way that tells a story:
Dream Cream is a great example (reviews above are for Dream Cream) as it is great for eczema and people who have eczema are much more likely to buy a product if it has been recommended by a fellow eczema sufferer.
Obligation - “Giving a gift triggers indebtedness, which increased the likelihood that others will reciprocate by giving you something.”
The book gives many examples of how websites give away useful information in order to encourage sales. Lush goes one step further by giving away products and vouchers for free, usually coupled with outstanding customer service and general loveliness:
If you purchase products online or via mail order, you can occasionally receive a ‘random act of kindness’, usually a free product, with a note encouraging you to do something nice for someone else.
Plus, if you visit their shops you can get free product samples, free skincare consultations, free foot and hand massages, even free cake… How can customers not keep shopping at Lush when they are so damn nice?
Scarcity - “If something is scarce, is will seem more desirable and valuable to us.”
Lush is brilliant at making things scarce. Not only do they routinely retire one third of their products every year (http://blog.customerbliss.com/?p=717), putting some of the more popular ones temporarily on the ‘Retro‘ section of the website, they have seasonal products for Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentines Day. Seasonal products are available for around 2 months and then they can disappear forever. If any product is particularly popular, they tend to return year after year, but this is never guaranteed.
This scarcity causes customers to bulk-buy products that they know they won’t be able to get a few months down the line. A good example of this is the shower gel called ‘Snow Fairy’. It is sold every Christmas without fail, and every year girls buy bottles upon bottles of the stuff, terrified that they won’t be able to last the year without it:
Crazy. Point proven? Maybe. But just to ram the point home…
This is a screenshot of secret.lush.co.uk, which was launched recently to build up hype for a new line of products. Lush has spent around 2 weeks taunting customers with cryptic videos, blurry photos and split-second glimpses of the new website design (It has set off some people’s photo-sensitive epilepsy, but live and learn eh Lush?). The teasing is still going on now, and no-one’s exactly sure when it will end. This is not strictly scarcity, since they are not actually making anything scarce, but they are creating a huge demand for something that is not yet available. I will put money on Lush not creating enough of these new products on purpose, so that when they inevitably sell out customers will crave them even more. Some customers are getting annoyed about the constant secrecy, some are loving it. Either way, they are going to sell a hell of a lot of whatever it is they are bringing out.
All About You - “You are more likely to buy a product if it is sold to you in a way that references you, as an individual.”
Lush is great at treating customers as individuals. Just look at part of the cover of a recent copy of the Lush Times:
On Facebook, Twitter, the website and in the Lush Times, customers are constantly asked questions about themselves – what their favourite products are, what they are up to at the weekend, what new product would they invent… This makes people feel important and that Lush cares about their opinions. The product descriptions also relate to customer’s experiences and feelings:
Not to mention the treatment customers receive in store from shop assistants, who will chat to you about your day and recommend products for your specific skin or hair type. If the option is that, or a huge, faceless department store or supermarket, I know which one most people would choose.
Commitment - “If we go through a difficult experience, we will be even more committed to the product or affiliation.”
This is an interesting one. It sounds a bit illogical, bit if you think back to an occasion when this may have happened to you, you can kind of understand it. It links in to the ‘all about you’ section above i.e. When a brand or company makes you feel special, you will be more loyal to them. Here’s a good example from a blog I found:
The Facebook page is also full of stories like this. Lush products are hand made so things often go wrong and ordering online is always fraught with delivery drama! As I said earlier, Lush has amazing customer service – When replacing damaged products or parcels, they will always give the customer more than they originally purchased. This obviously costs them a fair bit of money, but the value in keeping that loyal customer is much greater. Lush could probably even get away with sending out broken or incorrect products on purpose, in order to show people how incredible their customer service is and gain their loyalty. I’m not recommending it, but they probably could!
Similarity - “We are swayed most by those we think are similar to us”
Lush like to show off their staff at every opportunity.
They even have stickers on all the products with the face of the person who made it:
Making their staff so visible to the public makes them seem more accessible, like we know them. Their hiring policy is pretty strict too, but not in a bad way. They will obviously only hire people who are fanatical about Lush, but staff also have to be fun, chatty and (judging by all the Lush staff I’ve ever met) a bit quirky. Lush customers can identify with this persona. Who doesn’t love a nice, friendly, chatty person anyway?
Fear of Loss - “Fear of losing motivates us more than the opportunity to win”
This relates back to the scarcity section earlier. Lush makes it very clear when products are going to be discontinued, leaving customers enough time to stock up.
Generally speaking, products are only discontinued when new ones are being brought out, but Lush fans always seem to grieve more for the loss of their beloved old products, than celebrate the arrival of new ones.
Pictures & Stories - “combining pictures and stories together is an unbeatable combination to grab our attention.”
Lush likes to describe and tell stories about how the products could be used or how they were invented. Below is a good example of Lush using the story of how the perfume was created in the product description:
And, obviously, Lush has so many pictures of their products, I’m not even going to bother with an example!
Making it Social - “We are social animals. We will always figure out a way to use whatever technology is there to communicate and be social.”
The final part of Neuro Web Design describes social media in a fairly loose way. Obviously, Lush has fully embraced social media and sharing by creating a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel. Their new site also has sharing buttons for each product, as well as user-generated content in the form of articles written by customers, not to mention the ever-present product reviews. (I will be writing more about the new Lush site soon!) I have learned a lot from writing this post.
My main takeaway is that seemingly, absolutely everything Lush does is pure marketing, although it doesn’t seem like that at first glance. Lush may not even be doing all this on purpose – who knows – but I suspect they are. And as long as their customers continue to be influenced by psychology, which they inevitably will, Lush will continue to sell a lot of products and make a lot of money. However, I don’t think there is anything wrong with Lush doing all this to market their products. Far from it. Most of what I have described wouldn’t work without them providing excellent customer service, both online and offline, and a great range of products to base it all upon. The question is, is this psychological marketing just enhancing and fueling the love for this already popular brand? Or did it actually create the love for the brand in the first place?