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by GK Strategy 6th June, 2018
3 min read

Bath Bombs… and Bombing More Generally

British high street retailer and cosmetics brand, Lush, has received fierce criticism for its campaign #SpyCops.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the Undercover Policing Inquiry, led by Sir John Mitting, established in 2015 to investigate undercover police operations by English and Welsh police forces. The inquiry is the result of a string of high-profile instances of undercover police officers entering into intimate relationships with and then breaching the trust of activists they were investigating.  The inquiry is now not due to report back until December 2023.

While the campaign has been successful in getting people talking about the #SpyCops, this has been at the expense of Lush’s own reputation.

There is plenty of evidence to shows that consumers want socially conscious brands. 63% of respondents to MediaCom’s latest consumer survey said they believe brands have the responsibility to give back to society. The same research found that consumers are willing to pay more for brands whose ethics and behaviours have a positive impact on society.

Attacking the police force, the majority of whom serve honourably to protect us, is not a good marketing idea.

The main problem with the campaign is that it has oversimplified an important and emotionally-fuelled issue. It makes you think “…but you sell soap”.   The campaign has diminished the complex issue of police accountability to a window display.

The cause is an important one but the execution of the message is ham-fisted. Since the backlash, Lush has released a series of tweets and a statement clarifying its position and defending itself against claims of being ‘anti-police.’

While Lush are known for their strong voice on ethical, sustainable sourcing (and the heavily-scented products that almost deliver a knock-out blow when you walk past their shops), they are certainly not an authentic voice when it comes to issues of policing. There is a disconnect between the issue they are highlighting and their brand proposition. Rather than rallying public support, they have done just the opposite. People trust them less.

For instance, The Body Shop has a long and award-winning history of championing causes such as Anti-Modern Slavery, the environment and sustainability, and a ban on animal testing in the cosmetics industry.

This long history includes a dog protest outside the UN in New York earlier this year. Key to the Body Shop’s success is the fact that consumers can see the relevance of the message and commitment of the brand to these issues, and ultimately to them.

The campaign may have come from a good place. It certainly got people talking, but at what cost to Lush?

For more information on how GK can help your business successfully communicate with the people that matter, contact Viya@gkstrategy.com

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