Lush runs into storm with latest campaign, claims intimidation of staff

Cosmetics company Lush was heavily criticised on social media and in the press at the weekend as the potential of creating controversy with cause-based campaigns was graphically illustrated. 


Lush

The criticism came after its new #Spycops Facebook, Twitter and store window campaign - which aims to draw attention to a long-term undercover police operation - was interpreted by many as accusing the police force as a whole of dishonesty. 

Windows in over 100 UK stores have been given over to its support for Police Spies Out of Lives (PSOOL), a group “working to achieve an end to the sexual and psychological abuse of campaigners and others by undercover police officers”.

The Lush windows include signs saying police were “paid to lie” and crime scene-style tape emblazoned with the words "police have crossed the line.”

This follows revelations that for decades from 1968 a secret police unit sent over 100 officers to infiltrate activist groups. Some formed long-term ‘stable’ relationships with (and in one case had a child with) members of the groups. The supposedly-single men were often in reality married with families and later disappeared from their targets’ lives after years together. 

The operation is the subject of a public enquiry but there has been dissatisfaction among victims over how long it’s taking, the secrecy surrounding it and how wide its scope is.

Lush said it was not anti-police but wanted to draw attention to a "small and secretive subset of undercover policing.”

It added that it “fully supports [police] in having proper police numbers, correctly funded to fight crime, violence and to be there to serve the public at our times of need” but that it is addressing “a controversial branch of political undercover policing that ran for many years before being exposed.”

But the backlash has been intense with very heavy press coverage and the Police Federation of England and Wales calling the window campaign “very poorly thought out and damaging to the overwhelmingly large majority of police who have nothing to do with this undercover enquiry.”

More worrying from a business viewpoint is the consumer reaction. Lush has received some support, but much comment online has been negative. One post on the firm’s Instagram account (which hasn’t been running the campaign) summed it up: “ I fully understand the issues and the investigation is much needed but ‘Police have crossed the line’ implies all police officers have done something wrong. Badly marketed campaign which has tarnished the reputation of the police force. Such a brutal shame to have such an ethical, vegetarian, low-impact company have such horrifically bad marketing.”

The campaign is meant to run for three weeks and Lush said it remains committed to it. But it has reportedly been removed from some stores with the company saying it had seen its staff being “intimidated” by former police officers.

"Whilst intimidation of our shop staff from ex-police officers and unhelpful tweets from those in high office are ongoing, not all of our shops feel able today to have the campaign window,” it said. “However the campaign is still running for three weeks and we will be constantly weighing up what to do about the situation."

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