SXSW 2023

Lush discusses how to achieve a more social future with Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen

  • Lush pledges to reduce spend on big tech by a third by 1st July 2023
  • Lush & The Future Laboratory introduce a new SOCIAL framework for all brands to access free of charge, in the hope of enabling an optimistic future of social media with greater ease.
  • Lush launches first consumer tech product, introducing the Bath Bot
  • Lush announces plans for episodic content for Snow Fairy and Lord of Misrule characters.

Lush Cosmetics was at SXSW from March 10th-13th, with a vibrant and buzzing Lush House, showcasing moves from the fresh handmade cosmetics retailer that positions them as pioneers at the intersection of technology and cosmetics.  

Not only were SXSW festival goers and Austin residents able to play with Lush’s first piece of consumer facing technology in the shape of Bath Bot – the world’s first digital bath bomb – and party with Glitterbox DJ’s and dancers … but the 4 days were also filled with conversations and discussions on subjects stemming from a new foresight report that Lush released in partnership with The Future Laboratory, entitled: Digital Engagement, a Social Future.  

Lush hosted discussions on subjects ranging from divestment away from big tech and how the retail experience could be enhanced by the Metaverse; to the reinvention of social media and music and mental health.  All with an optimistic, hopeful outlook at how tech can help create a better future. 

The Big Tech Rebellion

Jack Constantine, Chief Digital Officer at Lush, opened Lush House with a talk brimming with small tech energy and outlining Lush’s digital divestment roadmap, in which the business plans to: reduce its big tech spend by a third; publish an open policy on its entire tech approach; and encourage the customer to its app or shops instead of checking out on its website. You can learn more here 

Social Media Reinvented

The Lush House closed its talks on Monday 13th March with a conversation with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen and Aerica Shimizo Banks, discussing what a social future could look like. The conversation, titled: Social Media Reinvented was hosted by Annabelle Baker, Lush’s Global Brand Director. 

As the first international brand to step away from Facebook, Instagram and TikTok in 2021 after Frances’ ‘Facebook Files’ exposé – this is a subject close to Lush’s heart.  The brand is inherently social and has always valued and thrived on engagement and connection with customers, only not on platforms that knowingly put them at risk for profit.  Both fearless in their determination to make social spaces better and safer places, Frances and Aerica discussed Lush’s new SOCIAL Framework for creating a healthier and happier social future.

When asked what the ideal social media world would look like in 2030, Frances shared that she predicted that “By 2030 we will not have any under 12-13 year olds on platforms.  We’re now seeing enough data that there’s a danger window, when kids are 10-13 and going through puberty and literally their brains start changing.  No-one in this room is going to receive a compliment so sublime or a criticism so severe as what a 12 year old girl receives. And we’re seeing that percolate out into things like suicide rates.  We know how to keep the kids off the platforms” 

Aerica added she hopes it will be more about “finding causes you care about, how to connect with people you love, how to support people … I’d love to see social media become a place where the seamlessness between our real lives and our online lives actually helps us and makes things easier in a beneficial way, versus driven by commerce.”  

And of course a place where hate is eliminated.  Where people are safe to not just be themselves and find their own community, but can enter an online space and not be threatened by another community.  And also where ideas are representative of people and not an amplification of views that are scaled up to cause real world harm”.

Haughen also said she predicts that social media platforms will be smaller and more community-driven by 2030, that are driven by intentionality where people are talking about causes that are important to them. 

And how are we going to get to this future perfect?  Aerica would like to see more laws and regulation.  “Laws don’t have to be a barrier to progress, they can actually facilitate, streamline and uplift.  Where is the accountability in tech and social media platforms?  The buck stops with legislation.  When it’s all voluntary, most companies will do the bare minimum, so unless we have legislation with real consequences they will continue to break the rules”.   

Frances points out that “When it comes to social media we are missing the entire ecosystem of accountability. The only way we will actually heal social media is if we can bring more people and more kinds of people to the table”  She added: We have to have transparency if we ever want to force accountability” .

The freedom of speech versus safety conundrum Frances calls out as a false choice, “we have lots and lots of solutions that don’t involve content moderation … but that may negatively affect the bottom line … but we can and should push forward with those”. 

Frances is positive we can have a better, more social future thoughEvery time before when we have created a new technology, it’s been chaotic.  It’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed, because this is overwhelming.  But every time before we have learnt, figured out different things to do and we have adapted.  We can do better and do something different, because every time before we have”.

Other exciting news from the Lush House at SXSW …

Get on the waitlist for the world’s first Bath BotLush showcased what the bathroom of the future could look like at the Lush House, with a first look at its digital bath bomb prototype.  Provisionally called Bath Bot – ‘a likeable and honest bot, unlike other artificial bots that manipulate, frustrate, or cyber-attack you’ – Bath Bot has been five years in the making.  Invented, engineered and manufactured by Lush’s own in-house Tech R&D team in the UK, with as ethically sourced components as possible, Bath Bot is designed to help create a unique and sensory-transformational experience in the bathtub.  

The design is identical in size and shape with Lush’s iconic bath bomb and features a distinctive domed convex speaker for 180-degree sound.  Water literally dances on top of the product.  Three banks of lights provide full-spectrum, multi-directional colour to create incredible illuminations in the water and surrounding space.  It pairs with the Lush Bathe feature on the Lush app via Bluetooth, to personalise your experience in the bathroom.  

If this floats your bot, you can get on the waitlist here … Bath Bot will ship to customers closer to Holiday 2023. 

For more details see here.

Welcome to the Lush Storyverse … shower gels that really speak to you! 

This one-of-a-kind conversation merged the world of real life and digital characters, as Snow Fairy and Lord of Misrule joined Jack Constantine, Rachel Tatchell-Constantine and Carl Addy (creative director at The Mayda Creative Co.) live on stage.  Directed by Mayda’s Alex Horton (a specialist in crafting rich interactive experiences using game engine technology) the fan favourites were brought to life using motion capture technology and Unreal animation.  Lush is the first cosmetics brand in the world to turn 2D animation into moving, animated 3D characters using Unreal Engine technology. 

Jack Constantine comments: “With the energy Lush brings, to get people excited about our products, developing their characters and world building was a natural next step for us.  We’ve used the tech that’s normally used for gameplay to enable live and spontaneous interactions with 2 of our most loved products.  It’s inevitable we’re heading into a future where these multidimensional platforms are an important part of people’s lives and this is a natural extension of where we go from an experience point of view”

Carl Addy comments: Lush is a brand with an engaged audience who are particular about their favourite products and Lush is leaning into that. As opposed to a brand jumping into the entertainment space just with the intention to sell.”

Carl worked on developing Snow Fairy and Lord of Misrule into animation at The Madya Creative Co., he comments “We’ve taken the ideals and emotive themes from the product and embodied them in character in 2D.  Then when you take it to something live, it’s more community led, as you can have conversations that are ideals led on things you care about  – think about that along with the future moves like decentralisation and blockchain … you could have these characters living their own lives in multiple places.  This takes it away from a brand talking about it, it’s more dimensional.” 

Lush announced that it will be partnering with The Mayda Creative Co., to expand the Lush storyverse into long form entertainment properties across a range of platforms and develop some episodic content for the characters. 

Jack Constantine: This is our first foray into new ways to connect with customers and have community driven conversations, but we’re keen to keep talking about the things we care about in an entertaining way”

Listen to learn all about Lush Storyverse here

Forget the megastore, enter the Metastore…

Adam Goswell, Lush’s Head of Technology R&D, was joined by Cathy Hackl, popularly known in tech circles as the Godmother of the Metaverse and one of the top female voices in the tech space, to discuss the evolution of the Metaverse, extended reality and increased digital capabilities in physical locations and what that means for the future of the retail experience.

When asked to define the Metaverse, Cathy said, “I don’t think there’s an agreed upon definition of the metaverse. … It’s about merging both the physical and virtual worlds, and virtual shared experiences that happen in virtual worlds, but also the physical world. It’s enabled by many different technologies … VR, AR, AI, 5G, 6G, cloud computing, block chain and so on. It’s not one single company, and it’s not one single technology. This is a broader concept and idea that we’re creating right now.”

A lot of Lush’s speakers emphasised the importance of brands entering these spaces with an entertainment first strategy, as opposed to being sales focused.  

Cathy: “It has to be fun, there has to be an incentive for them to come back.  This creates a wider conversation around fandom and loyalty, so it’s an amazing time for experimentation and immersive experiences that allow us to put people inside the show.  That’s what the metaverse will allow us to do in the long term”. 

Lush House on Decentraland

Lush built a digital-twin (with even more added feature) replica of the SXSW house activation on DecentraLand”- user-owned and governed by its users through the Decentraland DAO, a decentralised autonomous organisation. 

Visitors will be able to visit its Disco Floor, featuring a first look at the Digital Bath Bot, with interactive sounds and music; learn about the exciting future forward messages the brand is exhibiting at SXSW, with a quest to complete: whereby if a visitor collects all five of the hidden fan favourite bath bombs in the house, they will be rewarded with an exclusive limited edition “All Are Welcome Always” Digital fashion T-Shirt or Hat which they can wear around Decentraland!

Rave & Bathe with Lush x Glitterbox’ SXSW exclusive collaboration!  

To celebrate the announcement of this special partnership, Austin was treated to a night with the nightlife phenomenon and label Glitterbox on Sunday March 12th, with live performances from vocal trio Dames Brown and DJ Melvo Baptiste and spectacular performers and entertainers.  The Glitterbox team also hosted a conversation earlier in the evening that explored the relationship between wellbeing and dance music, including finding community and connection, how healthy living is becoming increasingly present in club culture, and how companies, like Lush, can create tech to support next-level wellbeing experiences. 

Watch this space for more exciting announcements from this brand collaboration in the near future!


For more information, please email [email protected] 

About Lush

Since establishing in 1995, Lush has been driven by innovation and its ethics. Creators of pioneering beauty products, one of Lush’s most well known creations is the bath bomb.  

A beauty company with a campaigning heart, Lush is on a mission to create a product for every need and a cosmetic revolution to save the planet.  The ultimate goal is to leave the world Lusher than we found it.  Lush operates a strict policy against animal testing and lead the cosmetics industry in combating over-packaging by developing products that can be sold ‘naked’ to the consumer.  Today Lush operates in 49 countries with over 900 shops, 38 websites shipping worldwide and a global network of native apps, broadcasting channels and digital communities in over 30 languages.

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