Type in the URL for just about any direct-to-consumer brand, and product images, along with prompts to buy, will almost always be front and center.

For LUSH Handmade Cosmetics, however, it's content--well-reported articles on major environmental, animals or human rights issues--that often comes first on their homepage. This story-first approach in both the brand's online presence and marketing strategy as a whole has enabled LUSH to stand out from  its competitors, communicate core values, build a loyal audience, and drive sales.

So, just how has the brand used content marketing to support consistent growth?

"I like to call it the 'un-marketing' philosophy," says Brandi Halls, Director of Brand Communications for LUSH. "We don't really consider ourselves content marketers so much as we tell people what we do."

What they--as a brand--aim to do is create products without harming people, animals, or the planet. Their handmade products are developed with fresh, ethically sourced ingredients, and are not tested on animals. These social values are at the core of the LUSH brand and its storytelling.

Strategizing how to tell this social values story included  two-way communication with customers. LUSH began experimenting with content on its website, communicating the brand's social credo product backgrounds in stories. From there, LUSH listened to its customers, and took the crucial next step of adjusting its storytelling from their feedback.

"Our customers asked for [content] without, perhaps, even knowing it," says Halls. "The way they were responding to stories and videos that we posted on social media and the new things we were exploring on our website led to a very story-led business."

This feedback helped trigger a website re-launch in May 2016. LUSH now threads long-form stories throughout its website, are then translates and repurposes content onto social media channels--including videos on Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube based on customer trends.

These stories can also be found on LUSH's new app, which was downloaded over 50,000 times within the first two days of it's 2016 launch--immediately hitting the three-month download goal.

"It's really looking at how can we engage across all of our touch points with our customers in a way that's going to provide real value to them as well as real value to people, animals, and the planet," says Halls.

LUSH's content goes beyond the digital, and takes a physical form in the brand's 240 shop windows in the US and Canada. In addition to showcasing products, these windows are designed to educate customers on the social issues most relevant to the brand. Walk past a LUSH shop window and you may learn about the Keystone Pipeline, keeping fossil fuels in the ground, the refugee crisis, or shark finning.

Adding another tool to its marketing arsenal, LUSH is now transitioning from static posters to digital signage - a move that enables LUSH to post dynamic content based on inventory and world events. "We're a campaign company, so for us to be able to flip a window overnight as a result of a natural disaster or political support that we need to rally is a game changer for us," says Halls.

The success of LUSH's story-driven marketing and two-way communication can be seen in customer engagement and--of course--sales. In 2016, LUSH is seeing 30 to 50 percent like for like increases on social channels, and 30 to 40 percent growth in some month's over 2015's record sales year.

"The fact that our numbers continue to grow on last year's increase is pretty phenomenal," says Halls.