At an increasing pace, contemporary businesses tend to create sophisticated marketing campaigns, especially with regard to cause-related marketing (CRM). Galan Ladero, Galera Casquet, and Singh (2015) have aptly noted that, “Today, consumers are willing to reward the companies that give back to society by paying more for their goods and services” (p. 52). This concept encompasses a wide range of commercial activities that enable firms to develop a specific cause, which will generate capital and social benefits simultaneously (Galan Ladero, Galera Casquet, & Singh, 2015). For instance, Lush, a global cosmetics retailer, has positioned itself as an ethical and animal-friendly manufacturer whose products are all-natural. Although the company has a strong eco-friendly reputation and is highly competitive because of its all-natural production, anti-animal testing campaigns, and a strong socially responsible stance, its CRM approach cannot be perceived as one-sided. Of course, following environment-friendly strategies is a good contribution to providing consumers and community at large with quality goods and attitudes. However, this is still a well-planned and justified method of money acquisition rather than a business donation to the evolution of community. Therefore, the report considers that a Lush Dirty Line marketing campaign is effective in reaching the target audience, though has specific ethical implications.
To start with, the company’s advertisers used a well-thought-out approach to reach a broad scope of target consumers, including the primary and secondary audience. On the one hand, the figure of a topless athletic male pictured in the advertisement (see Figure 1 and Figure 2) is intended to attract attention of men aged 18 through 40 of “middle-upper class income” (Ponce, 2013). Indeed, men of this age are mature, have their own worldview, and are capable of earning enough money to buy green goods as a means of taking care of their appearance and health at the same time. On a similar note, the fact that the Dirty Series’ image of the man shown below is not for men only has an implicit meaning, whereas it underlines that the secondary audience of females of the same age is targeted with this advertisement as well. Therefore, the goods promoted are unisex “fresh handmade cosmetics” (see Figure 1). As a result, the primary goal of this campaign is twofold. First, the company intended to prove a universal use of Lush products by both genders, which allows a larger consumer base for the company. Second, it aimed to manifest environmental friendliness and high quality of the branded products. Probably, the marketers have been guided by the fact that the annual sales growth of organic and conventional goods is 17-18% as compared to 2-4% respectively (Bezawada & Pauwels, 2013, p. 31).
Apart from demographics, several other techniques and strategies have been effectively used to target the audience. For instance, the issue of lifestyle is traceable within the advertisement concept. To be more precise, the image depicted promotes not only organic nature of the products but also a healthy lifestyle of customers given the figure of a well shaped, athletic and clean cut man. By the same token, the emphasis put on the natural origin of the cosmetics is embodied in covering of the body with natural substances and a textual message that it is “fresh” and “handmade” (see Figure 1), which refers to lifestyle tastes and earth-friendly worldviews simultaneously. With the advertisement, the campaign appeals to multiple feelings and attitudes of the consumers, such as environmental consciousness, preference of healthy lifestyle products, and satisfaction from consuming of natural products. In this respect, the advertisement creates a consumer’s self-image of a buyer with a rationalized and conscious approach to what is consumed. At the unconscious level, individuals are convinced that purchasing Lush cosmetics could mean acquiring self-worth and self-respect in the general public context.
Additionally, the message of the advertisement is accurately communicated through a cognitive dissonance based on the sloganish language (Danesi, 2008). For instance, this issue is exemplified by the slogan “Dirty is new clean” (see Figure 1). This slogan is linked to this Lush’s campaign specifically rather than to the company in general, evidencing the flexibility of its marketing strategies to “fit the time” (Danesi, 2008). While an allusion to cleanness through dirt seems illogical, this approach to promotion can be justified. In this case, dirty may be interpreted as an implicit and figurative meaning of raw, fresh, organic, and natural, which refers to the eco-friendly production of the firm. As a result, the word dirty acquires a new connotation and is to be associated with earth and a respectful attitude to its resources. This issue is embedded in the dirt on man’s body as well, which multiplies this effect. Hence, human’s closeness to earth-friendly products, i.e. Dirty Series, becomes a transition to new cleanness as it is announced by the slogan. What is more, another illustration of this feature is an accent put on the characteristics of Lush products embedded in the brand-focused text above the items displayed. Again, naturalness of the cosmetics is emphasized. Therefore, all the above discussed means and strategies eventually incorporate the techniques suitable for CRM; namely, they altogether formulate a cause to buy a product as it will bring a social benefit on the grounds of an artificially created need.
Although the campaign’s image and message conveyed are seemingly intended as solely positive, certain ethical issues can be observed with regard to the advertisement. In particular, a naked male body with teasing tattoos may be interpreted as sex-centric. This image is an allusion of intertextuality since, by its nature, a body shape of a naked to the waist man (see Figure 2 and Figure 3) refers to “erotic symbolism as portrayed in all kinds of other texts” (Danesi, 2008). In this regard, the social issue concerning a paradigm shift in transformation of buying behavior as to eco-friendly goods is marred with manipulations of the target audience’s opinion through the sexual desire. Thus, the communication of the intended message of earth-born goods by means of overemphasized sexual fantasy is not too ethical.
At the same time, while the campaign promotes a reduced environmental impact of Lush products, its content is controversial in this regard. For instance, the study by Gershoff and Frels (2015) has found that 77% of consumers are likely to pay more for greened rather than conventional goods in case they “are confident that the products are truly environmentally friendly,” while less than 55% of purchasers “feel informed about the environmental impact of the goods they use or buy” (pp. 97-98). Drawing upon the message created by the advertisement, it is evident that the campaign is more commercial than eco-friendly. Indeed, it clearly formulates the cause determining and enticing purchasing behavior as appropriate for CRM, which is manifested through the previously discussed appeals and techniques. Moreover, a QR code picture and a reference to the company’s website near the products’ series confirm the above assumption (see Figure 1). Nevertheless, no explicit explanations regarding actual environmental components of the products or their carbon-free constitutes are provided. This aspect undermines the ethical quality of the advertisement and demonstrates that the campaign manipulates human consciousness in order to encourage the target audience to buy Lush goods. Thus, consumerism and commercial gains blur the image of new cleanness as it should be perceived, diluting its initial implications with veiled cupidity and pursuing business self-interest.
Summarizing the findings of this report, it is relevant to conclude that Lush developed a well-thought-out and rationalized marketing campaign given the number of strategies implemented in the sophisticated promotion. The analyzed advertisement cannot be interpreted unambiguously. The image considered in the scope of the paper clearly evidenced that it was developed in accordance with the CRM principles, where commercial activities assume business capital generation and certain social benefits in the process. For instance, the overall impression created by the advertisement is positive. Both primary and secondary audiences are persuaded that Dirty Series products reduce environmental impact of the business and give customers an opportunity to enjoy all-natural goods. The marketers appeal to the consumers through offering an opportunity to change their lifestyles, improve self-perception within the social context, and change attitudes to own health and image, to list but a few. A variety of advertising techniques draw a picture of an eco-friendly product. In contrast, instead of providing explanations regarding what exactly makes Lush production environmentally friendly, the advertisers speculate on sexuality as a means to impact the consumer’s attitude towards the goods and entice their purchasing behavior. This issue evidences the real sense of the company’s CRM as it is: it is a sophisticated and up-to-date way of money-making. The aforementioned factor makes it possible to doubt the ethics and eco-friendliness promoted by Lush as well as the values which are communicated to customers. In this way, it seems more relevant to assert that the company has wisely used a favorable and timely approach towards business vision and strategic direction.