Incensed by Incense: Lavender Hill Mob, Lush & the London Riots
There has been almost universal condemnation from Battersea locals this week, in response to a lavender scented incense sold by Lush, which references in its name and marketing, the terrible night on Lavender Hill back in August 2011.
Once the uproar / campaign (delete accordingly) reached a certain intensity, Lush defended itself by pointing to the emphasis of the campaign; the importance of community. The lead image on the product is aggressive, not taken on Lavender Hill and the incense packaging design features cartoons of burnt out shops.
From the brand side they think that are having fun / being provocative / making eye catching content, but it appears I am not the only one who winced, when I learned of this product. By choosing to hook the campaign on the riots on Lavender Hill, Lush appears to claim brand equity from the very looters and fire starters, who scared the living daylights out of many innocent people, smashed chunks out of businesses on the street, stripped retailers bare and burned property.
The BBC article on the incense sold by Lush focuses on the reaction of Battersea locals and features a tweet from a Vauxhall resident who criticised MP Jane Ellison, for taking part in this local conversation and told her to “get a sense of humour and concentrate on the important issues…”. I cannot express in 140 characters how vehemently I disagree with this sentiment – in taking part in this conversation our MP is standing up for better jokes and therefore obviously her sense of humour is intact. Jane should absolutely engage in all manner of issues important to her constituents, because if she didn’t know how to laugh and tweet about things other than Housing and tax reforms, I would definitely unfollow her.
More importantly, by confidently calling out this big, cosmetic brand on this awful choice of content, weak connection, painful pun, grim design and provocative campaign, Jane represents Lavender Hill and the Battersea community wishing to move on from that regrettable date in our diary. If only the BBC website would call it Battersea and not Clapham – no doubt they will have heard from our favourite neighbour and fellow Battersea tweeter @LoveBattersea1, with the correction.
Gorilla Perfumes is the brand who supply Lush with the Lavender Hill Mob incense product. In the blurb alongside the product on the Gorilla Perfumes website, they write: “As the mobs approached the Lavender Hill neighbourhood the community stepped out together to defend their homes and each other. Linking hands they stood united to face the marauding looters until they slunk back off into the night.”. I like the fact that somewhere it has been written that locals came out together to protect each other and their property – I thought this little story might have only been known by those who took part and a handful of others – I was not there at the time but I spoke to some of the restaurant and bar staff who put the human chain across the road to prevent the riot from spreading along Northcote Road – not Lavender Hill.
A company with “Gorilla” in their name, might have sympathies with “gorilla marketing” – that risky, often rule bending kind of promotion. It might be coincidence we are talking about this product and its major retailer, almost 4 years to the day the riots happened in Battersea, but I am sure I’m not the only marketer thinking the company meant this product to be incendiary, in order to fuel coverage in the press.
A product named after the destructive and violent night on Lavender Hill, seems to be a very bad example of a well-known PR man’s words: “There is no such thing as bad publicity”. This was always the marketing plan and when the next story goes viral and this becomes yesterday’s news, Lush will walk away with all the publicity, sales and profits.
Meanwhile on Lavender Hill, our sense of humour is intact, as is our sense of community and our memories of what happened that night. It is a night I will never forget, but it is not one I like to remember. This campaign is not so lush.
You can tweet me @goldichocchick and @gertrudeandivy.
See more at: lavenderhill.co.uk