Life is trending: Welcome to the IRL Revolution

Imagine owning a cosmetics company that boasts 570,000 followers on Instagram, 400,000 on Facebook, and 200,000 more on Twitter – and then one day deciding to abandon social media altogether.

A move like that in 2019 probably sounds impossible, but that’s precisely what Lush, the UK-based cosmetics brand best known for its bath bombs, soaps, and environmentally-conscious approach, put into practice last month.

“Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed,” Lush wrote in its final posts to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

In the same caption, Lush goes on to describe its move as a bid to open up the conversation with customers, inviting its soon leaderless social following to connect via telephone, email, or a new live chat feature on its website. While some industry experts have been quick to call Lush’s departure from social everything from a publicity stunt to a big, fat mistake, we believe it’s a hint of what’s to come: an IRL revolution. As tech becomes less novel and consumers continue to seek out things they can smell, taste, and touch, the IRL Revolution will rage against algorithms and champion physical interactions and organic relationships. That’s not to say social media won’t have a strong presence in an IRL-driven world, but its role is likely to change from the click-at-all-costs platform it’s become.

While we don’t necessarily recommend following Lush’s lead and jumping the social ship, we do urge brands to consider how they will fare in an IRL-focused future – one in which consumers engage with brands that provide them with an opportunity to feed the soul rather than their newsfeeds. As consumers begin to look beyond just what is Instagrammable, keep the following in mind as you update your strategy accordingly.

Social Media Campaigns Should Be Localized and Actionable

Social media’s reach is undeniable. As of October 2018, Facebook had just over 2 billion active users. Instagram recently hit the 1 billion mark. Any way you cut it, that’s a lot of eyeballs. When leveraged appropriately, marketing on social platforms will remain a solid strategy for increasing brand awareness and hauling in customers. But in the IRL Revolution, brands need to do more than put up tired Happy #NationalWhateverDay posts.

The IRL Revolution seeks meaning, personalization, and inspiration to “get out there” and live life beyond the screen. Brands can use social to capture attention, organize and drive action. Social campaigns should focus on localized content, not only to communicate in a relevant way, but to offer consumers a chance to engage with their community. This is where Lush undeniably has it right when it comes to their approach to social. While corporate social media accounts have been removed, “the individual shops will, however, maintain their personal accounts.” In this way, Lush is using social media to further localized conversations, which allows the stores to speak directly to their unique audiences. The brand also emphasized “that content will still be posted using #LushCommunity,” further showing that their “exodus” from social may just be more a refinement.

In addition to localizing, brands should use social media to drive action and encourage consumers to embrace their IRL desires. Inviting them to participate in community events (brand-sponsored or otherwise), experiential activations, or simply inspiring them to live their best lives will resonate and give brand’s a platform to build brand equity.

Spend Up, Up, Up on Brand Activation  

Experiential marketing is, of course, the natural conclusion when it comes to IRL engagement. With millennials and Gen Z suffering from a legitimate case of ad fatigue (a phenomenon where people stop paying attention to traditional marketing), brands need to ideate and execute less-expected methods for connecting with audiences – especially for those that occur IRL. Going back to Lush’s commitment to meaningful connections with consumers, the brand’s latest experiential activation came at SXSW. There it celebrated the launch of 54 new bath bombs by inviting customers to use the Lush Lens app to view its new products’ digital packaging as well as a virtual product demo. Here the brand used activation not only to connect with their audience, but to further demonstrate its commitment to the environment through digital-only packaging.

“We’re measuring success by how many people interact in our shop and buy, but also through how people rethink digital and physical together,” said Lush Cosmetics CEO Jack Constantine. “For us, it’s a combined experience to see what more we can do.”

Just because Lush corporate no longer appears in your social feed doesn’t mean the brand is rejecting the modern world. In a way, removing itself from an overly cluttered, often murky platform and using tech in a way that improves their value proposition makes the brand as cutting-edge as they come.

Meaningful IRL Experiences Are Timeless

Social media isn’t going away but, when the IRL Revolution sets in, we’re likely to see it leveraged differently. The fact of the matter is, 91 percent of consumers have more positive feelings about a brand after attending live events and experiences. “Effective brands, or those aspiring to increase their equity, will undoubtedly chase that figure by reallocating resources and their focus toward meaningful, IRL experiences people will notice and appreciate,” says Hogan Shrum, President at A Little Bird.

Just last year, Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s largest CPG brands, cut $200 million in digital ad spend and actually managed to increase its reach by 10 percent.

If that doesn’t feel like the beginning of a IRL revolution, what does?