It will not have escaped the attention of any social media professionals that marketing on social has had a significant sea change in the last few years. The bottom line is that much of the truly lucrative social media work is done on third-party platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Brands have to invest the sometimes considerable amounts of money required to gain attention, and then to convert that attention into engagement. There simply isn’t much more of a space to exploit in the organic arena. Some brands are doing ‘okay’ with organic, but the majority have to use paid media to make progress.
So how does a brand manage this in a sensible way? Does it keep pouring money into advertising on platforms? Or does it find a more creative way of managing things? Well, an interesting development came recently, when cosmetics brand Lush decided to do things a little differently, and showed a touch more brand confidence than its competitors might expect.
Lush has decided that it is going to stop using 3rd party paid advertising from now on, and is instead going to focus on it’s owned media. This is a pretty bold move to be honest. But it does fit nicely into the way Lush has run things since it entered the industry.
Lush started out in the 1980s as Constantine and Weir, and it wasn’t long before it seemed to clearly offer an alternative to more traditional cosmetics brands in the high street. It saw some considerable initial success due to it selling its products to The Body Shop for millions. This prevented the company from operating fully for years though, as The Body Shop owned much of its product line.
Later, Lush as a brand was founded in 1995 and has seen success ever since, with the founders being awarded the OBE in 2010 for services to the beauty industry. Ever since it was founded it has followed a ‘no advertising’ policy, which has meant it hasn’t used TV or other mainstream avenues to advertise the brand and its products. This has not always been as clear cut as the brand might like you to think it is. The company has enjoyed some celebrity endorsement, which did involve some paid work for TV stars. However, on the whole the ‘no ads’ thing seems to be a serious approach.
As part of this approach, Lush has invested in various ‘owned’ platforms.These gain real engagment from loyal customers and fans, and have always been positive tools in the marketing the brand has used. At the same time, Lush has focused on using 3rd party platforms for organic reach and engagement.
Like many brands in many industries, it has found that organic on platforms like Facebook and Twitter etc. simply isn’t bringing the kind of results it wants. And so it has made the interesting move towards abandoning the 3rd party platforms.
The UK arm of Lush states on its website:
As a business, we don’t pay for advertising. The same applies when it comes to social media. Over the years we have created, published and cross-promoted organic content and conversations with the Lush community across multiple platforms and accounts. However, it has become more and more apparent that these genuine conversations with the Lush Community cannot grow without us paying for the reach and engagement. We are proud of what we have built organically using borrowed platforms, but it is time for a change. An audit of our social content and strategy demonstrated that on average, only 6% of our followers are serviced with our content in their newsfeed because we don’t pay to play. So in an effort to make Lush better educated as both technologists and consumers, we’re making the bold step to evolve our social media strategy.
Well, this is where it gets very interesting. Firstly, it’s important to note that this new owned media approach is being followed only (so far) by the Lush operation in the UK. This is key, because it shows Lush has been looking carefully at it’s metrics, and has made a decision using its data.
Lush is confident that the owned approach is better for the UK. There are clear benefits to having owned media. The most obvious is that the brand is allowed to create the platforms it uses itself. Even with websites designed by other parties and hosted on a rented server, the property is still the brand’s property. This means it allows for direct, unfettered and targeted engagement with an audience that is loyal.
Essentially, it allows Lush UK to have complete control and freedom with its social media. Only brands that are brave enough to ignore paid ads can do this, and only brands that have a dedicated audience on owned media can do this.
On the plus side, it shows that paid advertising isn’t the be all and end all on social media. The negative, however, tells us that paid is shutting brands out. Not every brand is confident enough and capable enough to convert to owned media, and if you aren’t, there is less room to move.
Has this changed social media marketing? No.
Will it make it more interesting?
Most definitely yes.