How Fresh Are You?





Are you agile and flexible in delivering for your customers (and employees)?

There’s a rule of thumb at LUSH cosmetics, and that’s to fearlessly retire one-third of the product line every year. Change is the magic behind the suds at LUSH. Rather than waiting for customers to tire of products, LUSH imposes a rigorous process to get rid of the old to make way for the new. It is what keeps LUSH fresh, and it is what keeps pulling customers back. LUSH grows because customers fuel its growth.

Remember when you were a kid and couldn’t walk by a candy store without going in, because of the lure and the scent of the candy? That’s how LUSH lures people into their stores. It’s hard to walk by without going in to see what’s new, and it’s hard to walk out of a LUSH store without a bag full of its fresh cosmetics.

How Fresh Are You?

Beloved companies offer the freshest products.

“If anything, as businesses mature, they get more dull,” says LUSH founder Mark Constantine. A major product development guru in his previous ,life at The Body Shop, Constantine had developed products that, by the 1980s, made up about 80 percent of that chain’s sales. As The Body Shop matured, Constantine felt the fizz leave the business, and so he departed with his concept of the “bath bomb” and eventually founded LUSH. Irreverently calling their bath bomb “A Giant Alka-Seltzer for Your Tub,” LUSH has stayed true to its core of creating natural products with surprising ingredients and off-the-wall names.

To stay constantly fresh, LUSH brings together an annual meeting of senior managers for what it calls the “mafia meeting,” during which they decide what products to kill. Their goal is to offer “the freshest products in the history of cosmetics.” The company is making this happen by not sitting still. “Innovate like mad, then start over again” is the mantra LUSH lives.

Word of mouth grows beloved companies.

Every day, LUSH sells nearly 60,000 bath bombs, the concoction that created the LUSH fan base. LUSH spends little on advertising (customers spread the word) and packaging (they use less material in order to stay green). Because of this combination of customers’ word of mouth growing the business and LUSH’s enviable low margins resulting from minimal advertising and packaging, a new LUSH store can break even in as little as three months. In fiscal year 2007, 462 LUSH stores in 46 countries had a combined revenue of $292 million, up 28 percent over fiscal 2006. And LUSH has kept growing from there—reporting over $338.4 million in recent years.

What do you do to stay fresh for your customers? As customers’ needs change, do you commit to understanding what they need? What should you consider retiring? A service, a practice, a product?

Are you fearless in dismissing the old and bringing in the new? How do you keep customers enticed and interested?

16 Comments ▼

Jeanne Bliss


Jeanne Bliss Jeanne Bliss is the founder of CustomerBLISS; a consulting and coaching company helping corporations connect their efforts to yield improved customer growth. Her best-selling books are; Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions for Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

16 Reactions

  1. Do you tell customers which products are on death row so they have a chance to stock up on their favorites? Would you consider a re-release if you heard enough customer feedback (like Disney does with their classics)? I love the freshness, but sometimes you want the comfort of a classic.

  2. Jeanne Bliss

    Hi Robert,
    Thanks for making this great point!

    Lush does give customers plenty of notice. In fact, they are so open and transparent about it that there is plenty of conversation back and forth between the Lush folks and customers. This company really is driven by customer passion and the passion inside the company to keep it fresh. They have been known to reinstate something if customers get nuts about keeping it!

  3. TJ McCue

    Great point, Robert.

    And amazing post, Jeanne. The tweet I just sent out tells it all — “if you care about serving customers, read anything you can by @JeanneBliss…”

  4. Jeanne Bliss

    TJ you are so kind. I’m blushing! Hope you have my book from whence these great case studies come!

    If anyone out there wants to see a bit of the “I Love You More than My Dog” book let me know and I’ll send you the first chapter as my gift!

  5. Tynnisha Hamilton

    I’m looking the site right now and I must say, I’m impressed. I’m a big makeup fanatic and am very picky about the products that I use.

    Things I already love about Lush Cosmetics:

    -Made with vegetarian ingredients
    -Little to no preservatives
    -No testing on animals
    -New products all the time–keeping it FRESH!
    -Recycled material
    -Handmade

    …I may very well be a new LUSH customer 🙂

  6. Jeanne Bliss

    Tynnisha,
    Well, there you go. You may also have liked their whimsy and personality that goes along with how “fresh” Lush is! Hope you try them out. Would love to hear from you if you do.

  7. Oh yes, it is hard to pass by Lush and not notice their fragrant store. I guess it depends as well. You can’t just create a new slate of products, shouldn’t you consider if it’s a best seller first or something and retain those products that customers are fond of?

  8. Jeanne Bliss

    Hi Virtual Agent,
    Lush absolutely does take into consideration consumer passion and buying habits and the traditional favorites. They are not cavalier about what they eliminate at all…just gave the meeting they do it in a kind of cavalier name!

  9. Martin Lindeskog

    Jeanne,

    I wonder if Lush is applying the 80/20 rule to the range of products?

    It is hard not to notice a Lush store. The fresh smell is coming out the door!

  10. Instead of ditching products, I’d suggest looking at ways to repackage the offering or see if two products can be merged to make a better one.

    One thing I see in Asia was that companies did very little market testing prior to launch but AFTER it was launched would tweak the product, sometimes rebrand and then do a relaunch.

    Regards.

    Ivan Walsh
    Beijing

  11. i’ve been buying and using lush for several years now, so as someone who’s seen the way things REALLY work, i can say this piece is a little off. if you spend long enough with the company, you’ll see that the items that get cut don’t always get cut deservedly. there’s been quite a few items that have gone that’ve had a huuge following. of course, this is nice for lush because then everyone panics and buy a huge amount of it, only to see a month later they’ve brought it back to “retro” meaning you can only buy it online. cleaver move that, since most people aren’t just going to order that one product…they’re going to order more to “make it worth it”
    Lush also really, really loves to play games with it’s customer’s minds. In several ways… such as, they have a line up of holiday products that people would kill for all year round. as it is, one of the christmas soaps ends up being bought by the lb. and hoarded over the year. this leads to a loss for lush by opening up a huge “black market” if you, for certain products. for example i had a bar of this soap and it happened to be made with their original, wonderful formula *not the plastic-y crap they pass as soap now* it’s not my favorite scent, but everyone else goes ape for it. i put it up on ebay and set a buy it now price of $15. it sold in less than an hour. that much for a 2yr old bar of christmas soap. it makes no sense. it’s like that with many products though…ebay is rife with discontinued products…which isn’t hard since so many get cut so frequently. some of their most beloved items get dumped…and usually so another product much like something they already have. you can’t spit in a lush store without hitting something involving citrus. it’s everywhere, in everything. i wanted a rosy bubble bar. what did i get. rose and lemon. rose and lemon?? why??
    they also like to treat us like donkeys, putting a carrot in front of us. every so often they’ll have some sort of “party” where by they bring out things from the past, etc. the problem come when EVERYONE is so excited, but unless you get there RIGHT AWAY, the things you want are likely to be gone. just another excuse to get us to shell out more money. “oohh! they’re making product A into a shower gel?!?!?! i have to have it!” and it’s all done under the guise of “look how much we love you! we’re doing you a favor by bringing back the stuff you loved *or making it in a form you’ve been begging for for ages* but sorry, we only made enough for about half of you. sorry guys!*
    if you do your homework you can find just how much Mark “respects” his customers and how very thrilled he was to start opening store in the US and Canada. *this is sarcasm, ppl* so excited about all the Lush stores in North America, he’s been here about as many times as you have fingers on your right hand…though actually, the number i came up with most often with the number..2. he’s often made remarks about americans not being concerned with their causes, not appreciating the benefits of the product as far as ingredients, low packaging, eco-benefits, the natural non chemical scents, etc…basically that we’re all a bunch of mouth breathing american consumers. nice.
    there’s so many other things i could say about lush and it’s business practices, but i’ve lost the will. it’s not like lush will ever change they know too many people are just in love with their product and will buy anything the sell at whatever price they want to sell it at. *outrageous profits, btw…their product, such as a bath bomb, takes seconds to make and uses dirt cheap ingredients you probably already have at home. even on a home craft level i can make a bath bomb with all the same ingredients and still make a little profit at $1…not much profit, but a litte…so that same bath bomb, made with cheaper materials because they’re bulk is selling that bath bomb for anywhere between about $4 to about $7. it’s rediculous. especially when one of the most expensive ones is approx. half the weight of other bombs **side note, for some unknown reason, lush has decided to make some of it’s best sellers half the size..but you guessed it, not half the price!***
    Lush is currently seeing an exodus of long term customers…many stopped buying bath products and only buy shampoo or face cream, due to the small size, expense and lower quality of the rest of lush’s products. not to mention the cluster they’ve just gotten themselves in with UK packages either never showing up to us here in the US or showing up after more than a month…and to kick us in the pants, the security breach they just had involving customer’s bank information being stolen and hundreds of dollars being stolen from people. lush covered it up, denied it, down played it and continued selling via the internet while the attacks were going on, all this leading to hundreds of us customers having to order new bank cards, etc. …too bad they were too cheap to allow us to use paypal like every other website on earth.
    Like I said….there’s lots you don’t know about Lush and listening to Mark spew rainbows and kittens out of his mouth is not the best way to get the real facts.

    • Anita Campbell

      Dakota, thanks for sharing your opinion. But it sounds to me like a number of the points you raise, such as scarcity marketing, are what most people would consider good business practices.

      I don’t know LUSH, never having been in one of their stores, but they must be doing something right because as you point out, “people are just in love with their product.” 🙂

      – Anita

  12. Jeanne Bliss

    Anita, thanks for jumping in here. I do agree that the majority of folks really do love Lush.

    Dakota, have you reached out to Lush to give them your feedback?

    Jeanne

  13. Oh yes, I’ve reached out. I’m an active member of the forums, have emailed, etc.
    And yes, many people love Lush’s products, I’m one of them, what I’mnot so fond of is their decision making process and their apparent unconcern for what their customers want. It’s nice to run your company in a way that it always stays current and fresh, that brings in new customers and helps sell new things to old customers, but there are certain things that Lush cuts that make no sense, and certain things they keep instead that make no sense.

    I suppose you can look at some of their practices as “good” in a business sense, but what about “good for the customers”? For as much as their so proud of their ethics, they don’t seem to have any towards their loyalists. It’s hard to explain to others who haven’t been involved with the ups and downs of Lush over a number of years. It’s hard to see a product that’s incredibly popular lost for something new…people mourn it, buy all they can of it, sometimes at ridiculous prices…only to see it brought back, but online only, as I said, leading to more profit for Lush, since who’s going to pay all that shipping just to buy a bottle of shower gel?
    But, as I said, it’s very hard to explain this in an adequate way to those who are casual Lush patrons or who are only seeing it from the outside. When you see it from the inside, things look different, and some of it looks very manipulative and profit based. Profits are good, yes. But customer care is important too..I find it a bitter pill to swallow when things are done that are strictly profit based and hurt so many loyal customers, especially when it comes from a company that claims to care so much. It gives us *who’ve been with them long term* the feeling that Lush doesn’t care if we leave, there’s another sucker who’ll take our place gladly. That may be true, but there’s something to be said for having customers around and about talking about your product that they love and have loved for years…if you alienate all those customers, I think you’re losing something special, and earning nothing good *and in fact, some bad press* in return.
    Maybe I’m a sentimental company owner who believes customers should have a say…but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Loyalty pays off in the long run, I think.

  14. Using the senses when marketing is important. There are many different reasons why customers buy products. How the product makes the customer feel is an important psychological component of marketing . Interesting topic of discussion! Thanks.

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