For some years now, I have been outspoken in my criticism against LUSH Cosmetics. LUSH is a purveyor of premium bath and body products, and it regularly engages in misogynistic stunts to promote them. With every renewed critique I raise, I can expect a number of LUSH devotees to come to the company’s defense. I have always found this curious, as LUSH is not even a vegan company. Indeed, LUSH not only profits from the exploitation of women, but, in selling a large variety of animal-based products, it also profits from the exploitation of other animals. What’s the disconnect here? Why are vegans so committed?
Companies are considerably invested in building consumer trust and brand loyalty. Neuroscience has identified just how powerful this marketing can be.
First, consumers form meaningful, emotionally rich relationships with brands. Brand loyalty becomes embedded in the consumer. For instance, researchers exposed participants in a study to pictures of beloved brands and then measured their skin response. For comparison, they also measured their response to images of good friends. The result? There were no significant differences between the response to favorite brands and favorite people.
Brands can also become tied to people’s own identities. When a brand is discovered to have behaved unscrupulously, this can elicit negative feelings in the consumer by association. They may feel ashamed, threatened, or insecure. A criticism of a favorite brand, in other words, becomes a criticism of the consumer themselves.
Perhaps, then, it makes perfect sense why so many vegans are adamant about their Karma soap and LUSH bath bombs. They are in a committed relationship.
This research will also have implications for other vegan outreach. Strong consumer relationships with “meat” and dairy brands like Oscar Meyer, Jimmy Dean, Carnation, and Cadbury’s will certainly complicate activist efforts.
Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.
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