In the mid-70s, Gordon and Anita Roddick decided to close their hotel and restaurant business. Gordon took off to fill a long-held ambition to ride a horse from Buenos Aires to New York, while Anita opened up The Body Shop, a small boutique in Brighton, on the south coast of England. A second shop was soon opened, and then a third, until by the time the company was acquired by L'Oréal in 2006, there were over 2,000 stores around the world.
From its inception, the company had a focus on natural and organic goods. Furthermore, throughout the company's history, Anita Roddick had been a passionate supporter of various causes such as the eradication of poverty and bans on testing products on animals. Notable examples of The Body Shop's cause-related partnerships included those with Greenpeace and Cruelty Free International.
The legacy of being a cause-oriented organization lives on in the brand's ethos today and is a key component of its social media marketing. In a recent conversation with Jennifer Barckley, Director, Brand Communications & Values at The Body Shop, the word "authentic" was frequently used. Barckley says, "The brand is really rooted in authenticity. Its DNA lends to rich story lines that are real."
While the brand is serious about its work with causes, it also displays an ability to be light-hearted, fun, and a bit irreverent - qualities that also originated with the founder. During the recent Oscars, The Body Shop hosted a Twitter "slumber party" around the hashtag, #GreatInBed, built around a product launch for Vitamin E Overnight Serum-in-Oil.
A Twitter party is not unlike a Twitter chat, but usually held as a single event as opposed to being a regularly scheduled chat.
#GreatInBed was The Body Shop's first formal Twitter party. The online event included engagement with participants as well as product giveaways. Barckley describes the event as being fun, with conversation and product giveaways being interspersed with virtual pillow fights and makeovers.
The brand's activism doesn't exist only within its marketing. Barckley says, "We have a certified program called Community Fair Trade, for instance, which is how we source many of our ingredients from around the world. And, through this program, we cultivate ethical, long-term partnerships with our spuppliers and their communities."
Being an organization with social justice at its core - that is, it was embedded in the company's makeup from its origins by the founder herself - provides the brand with the ability to communicate with a shared passion point. Barckley says, "We've tested a lot of different types of content, and often the more emotive content performs better than the very product or promotional-specific content. Because there is really heart and humanity within. It's authentic in a way that can just be felt and sensed."
Social media is undergoing ongoing enhancement at The Body Shop. Barckley mentions the thinking around content marketing and social media, "A current focus is to make sure that when we're talking about social, we're not just doing it in isolation, but that we really have an integrated content marketing approach; creating more of a process around it. We're launching content streams over the next few weeks with the Vitamin E Overnight Serum Oil: different chapters, if you will, that make up our Great in Bed storybook." That content is to be launched on Facebook, linked to the website, then shared across to Twitter and Instagram as appropriate, too.