The thirty-minute show makes no secret of the seriousness of the allegations to which Meta in general and Mark Zuckerberg in particular is increasingly exposed. Radical content, hate speech and conspiracy theories up to the international drug, arms and slave trade pave the social media channels of Facebook, Insta & Co. and that are always just a few clicks away. What is done, however, is: almost nothing.
Yes, something is happening on the brand side, resistance is stirring. The global body care company Lush, which mostly has its shops in a very good downtown location, has said goodbye to social media platforms with a media impact. Bye Bye Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok. Founded in England in 1995, Lush has 24,000 employees and sales of soaps, shower gels and creams of £ 574 million (€ 675 million). Lush has a little more than 40 branches in Germany, e.g. in Spitalerstraße (Hamburg), Friedrichstraße (Berlin), Shadowstraße (Düsseldorf) and Bahnhofstraße in Erfurt and Leopoldstraße in Munich.
While it’s nothing new that brands are freezing Facebook advertising budgets in protest. – For example, in 2020 there was an initiative called “Stop hate for profit”, in which hundreds, from a German point of view, rather unknown companies stopped placing ads on Facebook for a while. – But Lush can send a new signal right now, because never before have consumers and citizens been so sensitive – and with them politics.
The EU Commission is pushing ahead with the two laws for digital markets (DMA) and digital services (DSA) in record time. The plenum of the European Parliament will vote on the DMA on December 15th, which is supposed to make it more difficult for Alphabet, Amazon and Meta to abuse their enormous market power. Parliament lagged a little behind on the DSA, which is primarily intended to prevent the distribution of illegal content via Internet platforms. But now there is also a compromise on this law, which the responsible internal market committee approved on December 14th. This means that negotiations with the EU member states in the Council can begin in the first half of the new year.
However, Lush did not want to wait for political laws to be implemented. According to the press release, the withdrawal from the aforementioned social channels will continue “until they offer a safe environment for their users. The new anti-social media principles will be introduced in all 48 countries where Lush is represented ”. We spoke to Tanja Hofmann, Strategy Lead for Lush Germany, about the importance of social media, what it means to be a role model and whether the Christmas business is affected.
ADZINE: How important was social media marketing to Lush?
Tanja Hofmann: Lush has always been a social brand. With the advent of social media, we were really excited about the opportunities that would result in engaging with customers. We like word of mouth as a marketing approach, and social media seemed to offer us new tools and new ways to engage with our customers. So we’ve been using social media from the start.
ADZINE: What momentum has changed the way we view social media, or was that creeping?
Hofmann: Over time, we’ve seen how social media has changed. Over the past four or five years we’ve begun to wonder what position we should take on this. For example, we followed the Cambridge Analytica scandal and, more generally, watched the role these social platforms play in people’s lives being challenged.
ADZINE: And that didn’t fit anymore?
Hofmann: Social media should always be an open platform on which brands and communities can come together in a good and constructive way – and we would like this to be the case again. Instead, we can no longer ignore the negative effects. There is evidence (thanks to the Facebook files) that algorithms are used to create constant scrolling – with negative repercussions for users, especially young girls and women.
ADZINE:… exactly your target group. Does the company feel responsible here?
Hofmann: Yes. We know that teenage girls are demographically one of our largest user groups and they often find out about Lush via social media. Unfortunately, by being active there, we are fueling this downward spiral. That is not our intention – it never was and never will be.
ADZINE: What role does money play?
Hofmann: We have found that it is difficult to achieve the growth we are hoping for in the social field without pay. At this point it should be mentioned that we never paid for advertising on these platforms. We want to use creative means to ensure that our customers find us in other ways.
From a commercial perspective, it’s undoubtedly a risk – but we’re making a decision that puts people above profit. Our products should serve well-being, we want to take care of people – so we have to stand by it and not allow these platforms to dictate how we treat our customers.
ADZINE: Lush is global. Were there different social media weightings?
Hofmann: The world’s most important social media platform for Lush was Instagram. We had Instagram accounts in 48 countries, with country accounts and shop accounts for our individual branches. For comparison: our national North American Instagram account had over 4 million, the national UK account 659,000, while our accounts in Germany had just over 100,000, in Austria 17,500 and in Switzerland 15,000 followers.
The decision to leave Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok was at no time tied to the number of followers we had or not had, nor to the question of how much money we could possibly lose through this decision. We made this decision because we believed and still are that it is the right thing to do. We couldn’t turn a blind eye to the evidence … Facebook or Meta knows what is happening on its platforms, and we know it now too. The difference is that we are not ready to ignore it.
ADZINE: With this decision, can Lush be a role model for, above all, global brands? Keyword: impact
Hofmann: The decision to say goodbye to these social media channels was initiated and ultimately implemented by Jack Constantine, our Chief Digital Officer. He is responsible for all digital topics and tasks at Lush. With his many years of experience, of course, he knows that a decision to withdraw from these far-reaching and important platforms will not be without consequences. But he also knows that something fundamental is wrong with these platforms. Accordingly, like all of us, he would welcome other brands to follow our example and put the mental health of their customers first.
ADZINE: It’s not like social media is completely boycotted, is it?
Hofmann: We still create digital content, but we focus on other channels. We are currently still represented on YouTube, LinkedIn and occasionally on Twitter, but we use these platforms with care. We are also working on our own customer forum, where we can talk to our customers.
ADZINE: How does the Insta goodbye affect the holiday season?
Hofmann: In general, the adoption of Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat is of marginal importance for the current Christmas business. What tends to have a negative impact on the Christmas business are the uncertainties among consumers caused by Corona. Many are now avoiding the city centers and thus visiting our shops again. Our online shop can compensate for this trend a little, online shopping has also clearly gained in importance for our customers.
ADZINE: Dear Ms. Hofmann, thank you for talking to us and wish the company continued success.