The Middle Eastern beauty market, while enticing, can be difficult in terms of marketing. Some brands alter marketing materials via airbrushing or removing imagery for markets with strict rules on how women can be depicted. However, Lush, in a recent catalog for the Middle Eastern markets, decided not to cover or brush out any imagery. Instead, it retouched images using its Emotional Brilliance makeup range. Additionally, Lush released the first bilingual edition of its Fresh Matters brand catalog for the Middle East in both English and Arabic, working to appeal to more consumers in the region.
GCI connected with Alessandro Commisso of Lush’s international branding team in the U.K. to ask some questions about Lush’s efforts in the Middle East.
GCI magazine: First, can you give me a little background on Lush’s Fresh Matters catalog? What’s the purpose of it for the brand and for its customers? How has it been used in the past?
Alessandro Commisso: The Fresh Matters catalog is part of a major rebranding exercise for Lush that includes messaging, photography and typography. This booklet is a collectible brand publication, with articles about Lush’s stories, ethical campaigns and creative buying at the front, and a complete product catalog at the back. Jack Constantine, head of branding for Lush UK, and the branding agency Method worked on defining and refining our global branding, and this is the first piece of communication in the new style available to the public.
GCI: Why the decision to change the Fresh Matters catalog this year, to release it for the Middle East in English and Arabic? Are there other global editions?
AC: We found ourselves struggling getting some of our messages across, and this new format is a great platform to tell our stories to the public. We released this catalog in all our European and Middle Eastern countries (for the first time in Arabic and English), with plans to roll it out in North America, Asia and Russia [in 2014]. The Middle East is one of the most exciting retail spaces at the moment, with great potential for growth in the future—we definitely didn’t want those customers to miss out.
GCI: What are the most distinct changes that were made? How do they help the brand reach its customers better?
AC: While the format is global, we made sure that there is room for local stories and for the required local adaptations. The Middle Eastern version has been the most challenging one, with changes to the photos and to the naming of some of the products. In most countries we sell a body lotion called Charity Pot, and all proceeds from the sale of this products are donated to small, grassroots, local organizations that make a big difference to the communities. In each edition of the catalog, we also told the stories of the local charities we support and gave info on our local campaigns.
GCI: How do you develop the stories and information that are available in the catalog? How do you decide what story to tell?
AC: All the articles are related to what’s happening in the company or to the campaigns and the ethical groups we support. We have so many great stories that sometimes we struggle to pick. My favorite articles in this edition feature our project to produce the world’s first fair-trade vanilla absolute and our buying story for our Zambian honey.
GCI: How important to you feel like sustainability is to consumers globally? What does Lush do to help cultivate these desires?
AC: Sustainability is not just important—it’s the only way for a business to survive in the future. Consumers are realizing this more and more ,and we try to educate them along the way, especially in countries where this is not on the top of the consumer agenda. The Lush experience is fun and exciting, and the products work. Sustainability is one of the key elements of Lush, but we don’t want to be too pushy about it.
GCI: How do Lush’s products tell a sustainable story for its customers?
AC: Lush is often thought of for its enticing, distinctive smell and for the big displays of naked products in the shops. The nakedness is definitely one of the most effective ways to explain our sustainability message; for instance, one solid shampoo bar replaces three bottles of liquid shampoo, with the consequent impact on landfill and transport emissions. Where we have to use packaging, it is recycled and either recyclable or reusable. All the products are vegetarian and more than half are vegan too, and we only buy from companies that do not test on animals. Each Lush product itself is an ambassadors for the core beliefs of the company.
GCI: Is it difficult to translate your message to consumers in other regions of the world/other cultures? How do you work to do so?
AC: We are a global brand, but we want to be relevant in the local markets. All our core brand messages are the same around the world, just like our products, but we work alongside local teams to make sure our communication has the right flavor and quirk in each country. I would say that it’s not hard to translate the messages—it’s much harder to localize the humor!
GCI: Bringing the catalog, the products and Lush’s message of sustainability together, how do you feel like the typical Lush consumer relates to the brand?
AC: It’s quite hard to answer this question as there is no typical Lush consumer. Teenage girls come to Lush for their sugar lip scrub; environmentally conscious customers may come to Lush for the natural, fair trade massage bars; and many customers come to Lush to find the right product to solve a problem with their skin or hair. We know every customer relates to our brand in a different way, and our job is to give them all the information they need to make an informed choice when they shop.
GCI: What plans for the brand’s future can you share? Anything from new product launches to new sustainability efforts to new markets you are looking to reach—how is Lush growing its brand responsibly?
AC: Lush is currently present in 50 countries and at the beginning of 2014, we opened our flagship spa shop in São Paulo, Brazil, which is our second market in South America. We are experiencing exciting growth in many areas of the world, especially North America, the Middle East and Asia—although we have decided not to enter China until we are sure we can stick to our policy against animal testing. Plenty of opportunities—but my lips are sealed about new products.
The online catalog can be read (with English on the front, Arabic on the back) at http://issuu.com/lushmena/docs/fresh_matters_online.