When a brand becomes anti social

| Updated on April 18, 2019 Published on April 18, 2019

Has cosmetic brand LUSH done the right thing by quitting its social media accounts?

In a digital marketer’s playbook, social media is a key channel to engage with consumers. Indeed, a hot debate rages around whether social has overtaken Search, given that 98 per cent of digital consumers are hooked to one social media platform or the other.

So, when cosmetic brand LUSH announced that it was quitting all social media accounts in the UK, earlier this month, it made marketers sit up.

The LUSH announcement said: “Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed. So we’ve decided it’s time to bid farewell to some of our social channels and open up the conversation between you and us instead.” Was this a revolt by a brand? Would others follow? Was LUSH being bold or foolish?

Brand consutant Giraj Sharma, says “It’s a gutsy step and may become a huge differentiator in the category.” Sharma points out that while brand managers are aware of the pitfalls of social — its uncontrollable nature and the operational difficulties of staying in sync with the changes in the various platforms — the lure of instant reach is what makes them stick on. LUSH’s move is therefore interesting.

Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEO of Mirum India, a digital agency, also feels this is a bold step by LUSH. “It appears as though somebody in the decision-making circle in the brand just got fed up,” he says.

Mehta says these days Facebook and Google are regarded as frenemies by marketers. “You cannot do without them. But at the same time, you have to pay a price of sorts to be with them. You are subject to their whims and fancies and sudden changes in algorithms.”

Mehta, however, draws an interesting parallel. Some years ago, e-commerce brand Myntra had decided to abandon the web and be a mobile-only platform, mainly to get away from the tyranny of Google search. But it was forced to abandon that mobile-only strategy. We will have to wait and watch if LUSH can stick through this decision. Though, as Sanjay Sarma, co-founder and CEO of Design Worldwide, points out, “LUSH is not going off social totally. It is just pruning its presence.”

According to the announcement, the move is only in the UK market, and LUSH will continue to be on social platforms in North America. And in the UK, while it may not directly be on social media, it will still work with social media influencers.

Is it a monetary move?

Sanjay Vasudeva, Founder and CEO of BuzzOne, an influencer marketing agency, feels that it could be a monetary decision rather than a marketing decision. “This action could possibly be in reaction to Facebook’s new rule of paying for advertising and featuring on customer’s news feeds.

Ad spots are increasingly becoming a blind spot — whether they are on website or on social media platforms. Every post that a brand page does now needs to be boosted to even reach the page followers, which is a huge drain on marketing budgets.”

As he says, “Technically, LUSH UK isn’t exiting social media platforms per se. They have only decided to stay away from paid advertising and this is something that other brands could catch on to.”

For Giraj Sharma, LUSH’s stance seems to do more with customer centricity which takes customer engagement to a new level. It is more one-on-one and personalised. While the move reduces the cosmetic brand’s chances of 'discovery' Sharma argues that the intensity of engagement with relevant audiences weighs heavily in its favour.

Sanjay Mehta has a pertinent point when he says that a cosmetic brand which has a direct contact with consumers could afford this. But not all brands can. Yes, in the past, powerful brands have boycotted YouTube because of concerns about the content and how it could affect their reputation if their ads are paired with terrorist propaganda. Only when YouTube promised to clean its content did P&G end its boycott.

Brands are aware there is Facebook Fatigue, but if used well, social can be effective, argues Sarma.

Vasudeva feels that brands in India are unlikely to emulate LUSH. But he says increasingly influencers are considered a better option than using paid ads on social media platforms. “This step by LUSH UK is reinforcing the fact that more and more marketers are allocating budget spend towards engaging social influencers.”

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Published on April 18, 2019
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