In late 2021, acting on troubling information raised by a Facebook whistleblower, the British handmade cosmetics retailer Lush decided to turn its virtual back on its 12 million followers and get off social media. Notably, the whistleblower’s revelations described in detail the harms caused by social media platforms, particularly for teenaged consumers, and also documented evidence that the social media companies know about but have done nothing to address the pervasive problem.

This decision actually represented the second time that Lush tried to get off the socials. The first time was in 2019, and it didn’t stick—a fact acknowledged by Lush in its statement about this second quitting: “Like so many teenagers have experienced before us, Lush has tried to come off social media, but our FOMO is vast and our compulsion to use the various platforms means we find ourselves back on there, despite our best intentions,” the company said. “So here we are again, trying to go cold (plant-based) turkey.”

Well, this time, Lush has stuck the landing (at least so far). Furthermore, its more recent assessments reiterate its commitment. In light of even more recent social media shenanigans—Twitter’s public corporate meltdown and the massive exodus of users, Facebook parent company Meta’s stock collapse, TikTok’s increased regulatory scrutiny—Lush is feeling pretty vindicated these days. “People can see why we came off now,” Annabelle Baker, brand and marketing director, noted.

But without inexpensive, easy social media connections to its shoppers, Lush has had to amp up some of its other marketing strategies. In particular, a live chat tool is available on its website, and its Bathe app offers self-care ideas and content. It has announced plans to launch an SMS function. In addition, Lush greatly expanded its PR efforts, then invested in notable partnerships with Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things and the streetwear brand Lazy Oaf. The transition appears sufficient and effective, such that Lush’s annual pre-tax profit reached $35 million in 2022, a radical difference from its $54.5 million loss the year before.

Other brands are ditching the socials too, including the luxury fashion brands Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga (though no one is holding up the latter brand as an enviable or model business at the moment, given its deeply disturbing and very poorly received advertising campaign featuring children in sexualized situations, as well as its noticeably slow decoupling from its longtime celebrity collaborator Kanye West, following his series of antisemitic remarks). Balenciaga’s renowned and specific problems aside, more companies appear to be getting ready to travel down this social media-free path soon, unless and until the platforms do some serious work to address their “toxic” aspects. Otherwise though, “more and more brands might soon hop on the ‘no social media’ bandwagon to preserve their identity and originality as well as the well-being of their consumers. Now, it is up to brands to make a choice that addresses the concerns and aligns with their brand values.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is Lush likely to stay off social media forever?
  2. How can companies make up for the engagement and marketing they lose by quitting social media?
  3. What types of brands might, or should, follow Lush’s lead and stop using social media?

Sources: Jennifer Faull, “‘People See Why We Came Off Now’: Lush Has No Regrets about Quitting Instagram and Facebook,” The Drum, November 28, 2022; Bella Webb, “Lush Is Quitting Social Media. The Start of a Trend?” Vogue Business, November 22, 2021; Nidhi Singh, “Why Are Brands Breaking up with Social Media?” Jumpstart, January 1, 2022; Isobel Asher Hamilton, “Cosmetics Company Lush Says It’s Shutting down Its Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat Accounts Because of the Facebook Whistleblower,” Insider, November 23, 2021; Niamh Carroll, “‘The Right Decision’: Lush on the Impact of Its Social Media Ban One Year On,” Marketing Week, November 28, 2022; Chloe Burney, “Lush Reveals Impact of Deleting Social Media One Year Ago,”, November 29, 2022; Miles Socha, “Balenciaga Scandal Seen Contributing to ‘Bad as It Gets’ Q4 for Kering,” Yahoo, January 5, 2023