Lush is a brand with a plan. It wants to Leave the World Lusher Than We Found It. How? Through creating a cosmetic revolution that’s going to excite with innovative product and experiences, with regenerative supply chains and a pioneering approach to safety testing that uses human-biology specific methods.
To create a revolution you need the masses, so part of Lush’s strategy is to grow its presence and tell more of their stories across different channels. This is where Collaborative Storytelling comes in.
LUSH has always been a brand in the business of collaboration and growing community, as Global Brand Director, Annabelle Baker explains:
The 2024 Creative Retail Awards are open for entries.
The Creative Retail Awards are much more than a mere accolade; they represent the pinnacle of achievement in the retail industry. Garnering a nomination or winning one of these awards is a testament to innovation, excellence, and leadership.
“Lush has carefully selected collaborations with charities and people historically… As a global brand – that does it all in-house – sourcing the finest ethical ingredients, inventing, manufacturing and retailing, we can innovate unique products and experiences for every partnership.”
However, it hadn’t collaborated so closely with lifestyle or entertainment brands in its 28 year history. Until now! In the last 12 months Lush has launched eight collaborations in pretty quick succession, with a Netflix partnership confirmed before 2023 ends.
Five of those so far have produced total sales of £15.4m, with the Super Mario Bros. Movie collection in particular proving to be a key driving force for creating cross-generational excitement.
Almost 12 months ago, following the launch of its first licensed collaboration with Japanese Anime ONE PIECE, Lush Japan welcomed 71% new digital customers, selling out of all stock by 2pm on launch day.
Even though the Global brand walked away from the main social platforms in November 2021 – with intention, to not be complicit in Big Tech’s duplicitous algorithms – Lush’s community has jumped on the collaborations creating many viral moments across all launches, Melody Morton, Concepts Creative Director says “personally I don’t think people watch a lot of brand based content, people buy from people.”
“What’s great about collabs is that we’ve seen a lot of organic content shared, not by us as a brand but by real customers and then the real bathroom experiences with those products. This has been way more valuable to us than any of our previous brand content.”
That said, where Lush remains to have a presence on socials, it has seen some big community reactions. For example in the UK, for the launch of Lush x Stranger Things, Lush had its most engaged tweet of all time, since the brand account was created in 2009, when posting a sneak peek.
— LUSH UK (@LushLtd) October 31, 2022
This particular collaboration required a very fast turnaround time of only six weeks following the huge popularity surrounding the licensee. Despite this, the bathing duo triumphed generating a 6% increase versus target turnover.
AGILITY OF LUSH MANUFACTURING
Lush Manufacturing has been instrumental with its agility and flexibility in production to launch collections within short turnaround times, ensuring all Lush products are fresh, handmade and distributed to Lush shops all over the World at their freshest in time for local launch dates.
Both Lazy Oaf and Stranger Things launched during Manufacturing’s busiest time of year whilst festive collections were in production.
Manufacturing has also worked with new innovative techniques fusing Lush’s expertise in crafting handmade products to meet the needs of all collaborations.
From hand-pouring checkerboard soap designs for the Lazy Oaf collaboration, individually spraying each eight sided bath bomb for Stranger Things, stacking multi-use Krabby Bathy gifts for SpongeBob SquarePants and placing a soap surprise item inside each Question Block bath bomb for Super Mario Bros. Movie.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ‘X’
Lush is passionate about having the “X” as the brand feels they don’t want it to be white labelled cosmetics product but very much want to show that it’s been a collaborative effort.
It wants everything to feel cohesive from creative assets to the window design to signage.
BRAND SYNERGY MATTERS
“Ultimately collaborating with other brands is a way to introduce Lush to new audiences. That can sometimes mean working with partners who may have historically not aligned with our heritage and ethics.” explains Melody.
“This said, we’re only partnering with brands who have a progressive view of where they would like to go, what they would like to be and who are open to change. We won’t be partnering with companies that aren’t trying to improve.”
“We also obviously know our own value chain and ethical stance on issues, so are keen to introduce Lush to as many people as possible.”
Lush’s recent successful collaboration with SpongeBob SquarePants made a splash in sales, generating over £1.3m in the first week and over £4m Globally to date.
However, most importantly the collaboration supported Paramount’s SeaChange campaign and encouraged litter picks throughout July that contributed towards Co-Founder Rowena Bird’s plastic grab challenge, to clean up 60 tonnes of litter across towns and communities in the UK.
Melody Morton also revealed the sectors she is aiming to tap into:
“There are multiple routes and we have pillars on where we’d like to make sure collaborations are being considered, such as sport, music, entertainment, fashion, art and gaming.
Taking the commercial side away, we want to make sure there’s a product for every need on offer and that there are communities that align with smaller collaboration offerings.”
One example being Lush’s only brand x brand collaboration in the last 12 months with female-owned, North London independent streetwear clothing brand, Lazy Oaf, turning over £1.6m with a UK only launch.
“Both proud, British-born businesses, Lazy Oaf and Lush both like to do things a little differently to the rest of our respective industries, with ethical buying and transparent supply chains end to end.” explains Melody Morton on the synergy between the brands. Lazy Oaf Brand Manager, Emma Shephard shared a similar sentiment:
“Collaboration is a big part of Lazy Oaf’s brand ethos; we couldn’t be happier to be partnering on this exclusive collection with Lush. Aligning on our core values of responsible, intentional production, Lush have been incredible to collaborate with and we’re so excited to be their first ever brand-to-brand partner.”
However, taking the number 1 spot for sales, was Lush’s cross-generational offering on 24th March 2023 of the Super Mario Bros. Movie collection, hitting £10m in sales globally.
Morton feels for the future proofing of the brand, Lush must lean into cultural moments and that cultural currency should always be prioritised over financial currency.
Speaking of cultural currency, a personal highlight for Morton was the personal sign off on Lush’s collection with “Asteroid City” from Wes Anderson himself who, when shown the product, responded with “That’s fun.”
Despite only having 8 weeks to launch the products, customers seemed to agree as products at Lush’s pop-up in Soho sold out, forcing the pop up to close a day early.
COLLABORATION CONCEPT SHOPS: A USP OF LUSH COLLABORATIONS
Lush is fundamentally a retailer with brick and mortar at its core. This extends to the collaboration offerings available. Lush has recently dedicated the shop space of its Soho, London premise to be an immersive, in person space specifically for collaborations.
Most recently, putting pink on pink on pink to celebrate Barbie X Lush in partnership with Mattel. Offering free pink drinks and making customers feel as though they have stepped right into Barbie’s dreamhouse.
In the US, Lush dedicated its Miracle Mile shop in Las Vegas to home the “Asteroid City” collection for a limited time only and to celebrate Barbie x Lush collection, reopened its Century City premise in Los Angeles as a hub for all things pink and powerful. The space was transformed as a must-see destination to embrace the power of pink.
The collection launched in a noisy landscape with reportedly over 100 Barbie collaborations launching globally, however, this didn’t hinder the visibility or success of the products.
Within the first 24 hours, sales through the app were the biggest in its history, +146% on the day of launch for Super Mario Bros and +44% versus the Boxing Day sale.
Following the first week, the Barbie X Lush perfume had sold out across the UK with many other products following suit. Barbie ranked as the 2nd most popular collaboration collection from first week UK sales, closely on the heels of Super Mario Bros. Movie at £335K.Since launch, Barbie x Lush has generated over £1.7m in sales across the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, UAE, Taiwan, Bahrain and Hong Kong with remaining markets yet to launch.
LOOKING TO 2024 AND BEYOND
Lush’s aim with the collaborations is to grow its audiences by having something on offer for everyone to enjoy and to tap into the excitement around cultural moments, with each collaboration bringing in on average 30% new customers. New customers are shopping with Lush following the collaborations with March to June FY23 vs FY22 up 11.2% and 12 month rolling traffic up 1.2% on the same time last year.
So what’s coming next with Lush and collaborations? The beauty brand has in its sights more licensed collaborations with the likes of Netflix before the end of 2023 and 5 collaborations already lined up to excite customers in 2024.
However, growing its retail presence will play an important role with the success of these partnerships and Lush will be opening new shops in Covent Garden, Aberdeen and a new anchor (flagship) destination in Glasgow across the end of 2023 to early 2024.