Ten years at Lush Cosmetics taught Laura Grafton (Social Media Strategist) a ton about fan-based marketing. From serving their 4,000,000+ followers excellent content to running international campaigns, Laura's insight into developing and maintaining fan bases in the ethical retail industry is unmatched. She managed to spare a second to share some of her expert advice with you in the following interview.
What does "fan-based marketing” mean to you?
At Lush, fan-based marketing is all about marketing to our community. We’re not a brand the relies heavily on the traditional definition of personalization when it comes to digital experiences, so rather than using data to create persona-based experiences for our customers, we use it to speak to our community as a whole and create the content they want to see.
We put our fans at the heart of creating our campaigns, our communications, and our entire creative process. We want to make sure we’re meeting their needs and demonstrating immersive Lush experiences that engage and inspire our fans.
What are the top three marketing problems for the ethical retail industry right now?
1) Telling ethics-driven stories in a way that connects with your audience. Sharing the effects of a product, the experience of using it, and the values behind the packaging, ingredients or manufacturing process can be hard with a limited amount of text. We need to be extremely mindful of what we share on which channel at what time – thinking about what is relevant to which audience and when.
2) Distinguishing your message from a “greenwashed” one. Customers are becoming more and more interested in ethical products, which is fantastic, but you end up seeing people using the language without walking the walk, which makes it hard to differentiate ourselves as a truly ethical brand.
3) Knowing which conversations to join: once you establish yourself as an ethical brand, it creates this expectation from your fans that you’ll be adding your voice to any big ethical conversations that come up. Making sure you have a clear strategy about which issues or conversations you choose to engage in helps keep you from getting overwhelmed with issues to comment on.
How do you personalize your customer experience? Why is this important?
Personal connections with our customers have always been a top priority for us at Lush, and will continue to be, both in-shop and online. Providing unique customer experiences has been a big driver of our success and growth.
Because we’re not prescriptive with our products (there isn’t a specific range of products if you have “oily” or “dry” skin, instead we make a wide variety of products that can help you achieve specific effects), the experience in our shops and online needs to be personalized, to help people find what will be the best fit for them. This translates to one-to-one interactions across all our digital channels to help make sure individual customer needs are met.
A lot of how we’ve made the conversation personal for our customers has been through social. Replying personally to tweets, giving personalized consultations on Facebook, and being able to recommend products by responding to comments on Instagram has helped us bring that in-store experience you get at Lush to life digitally.
How do you see user-generated content changing the way you do marketing?
We’ve never been a brand that markets traditionally, so social media has been a perfect place for us to reach new people and expand our brand reach. User generated content has been huge for us – we have so many passionate fans sharing so many photos and even creating accounts specifically for Lush. So, when it comes to finding content we want to share, we’re like a kid in a candy store!
It also means our reach goes even further than our channels alone. We’re extremely lucky this way, and are always thinking about ways to strengthen and elevate the curation of user-generated content!
How do you measure success in fan-based marketing? What results have you seen for Lush?
The biggest mark of success for us is that we don’t even have to ask our fans to create content about our brand! Fans are so engaged they are excited to be capturing and sharing their Lush experiences, and for us, that’s a true sign that what we’re doing is resonating with our audience.
We look at engagement and reach on the posts we share to measure success, as well as the conversations we’re part of. We watch Lush-related hashtags (from #lushcosmetics, #freshnewlush and #bathart to our seasonal #lusheaster or #lushmothersday ranges, along with many, many others!) to see what our fans are excited about. Specific product hashtags also help us track which of our products are most popular at any given time, and we can compare these to how they’re selling both in retail and online.
We also pay attention to the sentiment of the communication we receive – whether it’s people sharing their retail or online experience, feedback about an order or product, or even the brand in general. This helps let us know what we’re doing right.
How do you scale your fan-based marketing efforts?
On a basic level, it comes down to knowing our audiences across our channels. Knowing what types of content and posts resonate with our communities, and making sure that what we’re creating is relevant to those audiences. It affects how much time and resources we devote to each channel (we’ve got most our followers on Instagram, so we absolutely spend the most time there). We’re also growing our team to be able to create more custom content per channel.
How do you envision fan-based marketing for retail changing in the next few years?
I think one of the biggest trends we’ll see for lots of brands is the development of strategies using micro-influencers. Finding fans and superfans of brands that don’t have millions of followers, but are great representatives of particular brands. We’ll see them in social campaigns, web and email, and even in brick and mortar shops.
People want to see other people’s real-life experiences, and I think this will impact what we share on our channels, as well as how we build out relationships with those fans.
Learn more in a free fan-based marketing consultation for your brand. Request a meeting now.