The beauty brand that revolutionised social media marketing.
Before Glossier, beauty brands had a conventional approach to launching products and advertising, often limited to television and out-of-home media. The traditional way to launch beauty products was to build a brand, develop and formulate products behind closed doors, then release the final product to customers. During this time, brands often used social media for self-promotional purposes and viewed them as an additional platform to broadcast their content and advertisements, rather than engaging with their customers.
Since launching in 2014, the company is now valued at $1.2billion and has become one of the most recognisable and successful beauty brands to date.
Emily Weiss never set out to launch a beauty company. In 2014, Weiss was working at Teen Vogue and had started a beauty and lifestyle blog, Into The Gloss, on the side. It featured the latest beauty tips, tricks and trends. Weiss’ blog grew fast, receiving up to 10 million pageviews a month, gained her industry contacts and a large audience of women from around the world. After receiving comments from women about the lack of suitable products in the beauty industry, Weiss decided to build her own brand and launch her own line of skincare products.
Weiss managed to raise $2million in venture capital to start Glossier. Weiss used this initial investment to hire a small team and launch the website. In October 2014, Weiss introduced Glossier’s first four products on her blog; an all-purpose balm, a face mist, a skin tint, and a moisturiser. Weiss’s goal was to keep things simple in order to reduce the stress of “endless choice,” a phrase commonly used by women commenting on her blog. By having a small product catalog, Glossier was able to spend more time focusing on executing a digital marketing campaign centered around content creation. During the launch of Glossier, Weiss noticed that major beauty brands had not yet begun to use social media to communicate with their prospective customers and decided to make this a key component of her advertising strategy.
Glossier recognised the potential of creative content and social media to build a community. It allowed them to focus on accessibility and engagement with their audience. While Weiss was working on her initial four products, she documented the process on her blog to build excitement and gain potential customers. Weiss then launched the brand on Instagram before the products were even finalised and encouraged followers to respond with their opinions about branding, packaging and design through likes and comments. In 2014, it was reported that 90% of Instagram users were under 35 years old, an ideal space for Weiss to meet her target audience and gather free market research. Weiss interacted authentically with her future customers and gave them a sense of ownership as they helped shape the brand.
After a successful launch on social media, Weiss decided Glossier would be a digital, direct-to-consumer business with emphasis on communication with its customers. Once products were released, Weiss encouraged customers to post pictures of themselves using the products and using the brand’s iconic emoji stickers. This created a viral movement around the brand, as well as authentic reviews of Glossier’s products. This use of social media, combined with Glossier’s mission to empower women rather than just marketing to women, has strongly resonated with Glossier’s audience and created a long-lasting impact in the beauty industry.
Around the time Glossier launched, its “skin first, makeup second” ideology corresponded with a new trend in the beauty community.
Popular online feminism started to focus on female empowerment that saw people move away from the idea of using makeup to cover up imperfections and flaws, towards a more natural and minimal look. To reinforce this idea, Glossier created an advertising campaign which focused on real people demonstrating the products, highlighting the products suitability for all skin types. In beauty communities today, “Glossier skin” is now a term to describe a healthy, minimal and radiant look, whether achieved using Glossier products or not.
Since launching, Glossier was able to connect with their customers on a personal level at a low-cost to build its brand. It was cheaper for them to produce quality digital content than it would have been to undertake traditional advertising strategies such as buying television airtime or writing articles for magazines. Their advertising campaigns would be purely digital, used for creative purposes and to engage people at scale. Weiss rounded out the Glossier marketing strategy with a successful email campaign. Unlike traditional companies that send emails to solely increase sales, Glossier email subscribers received beauty tips, videos and entertaining content including posts on summer makeup trends and how to clean makeup brushes effectively. This gave Glossier the opportunity to email its subscribers on a frequent basis and build a sense of community and fandom. The company also utilises social media to answer questions about their products. One example was their campaign to help customers choose the right shade of foundation for their skin tone. Glossier followers just had to post a selfie, include the hashtag #glossier and ask for help. The Glossier team would then respond to the customer’s post directly in the comments with a suggestion of which product was right for them.
From the start, Glossier has operated as a direct-to-consumer brand, meaning you can only buy their products on their official website. Weiss says this decision was taken so Glossier can stay in complete control of its relationship with customers. Therefore, all advertising models are driving traffic directly to their website.
A key part of Glossier’s brand identity is simplicity.
By January 2020, it had a total of 36 different products across skincare, makeup and fragrance. A minimalist offering by beauty brand standards. Weiss states this is because Glossier aims to produce “best in kind” products that are easy to use and become timeless essentials. While other makeup brands may offer hundreds of mascaras in different colours and benefits, Glossier just has one: Lash Slick, available only in black. Glossier spent 18 months creating its first mascara because it wanted the formulation to be perfect. CEO Henry Davis says this was beneficial to the business and was enabled by the fact the team were not constrained by the demands of a retailer or third party. Davis states “We can launch it whenever we want and in whatever way we want. That’s what digital does for your ability to be creative.” In addition, Davis goes on to say the company has a successful repeat purchase rate with 50% of revenue coming from repeat purchases.
Glossier now has a cult following of Millennials and Gen-Zers which is a direct result of mass advertising on social media. Glossier established itself as the go-to cosmetics brand for consumers that don't like to wear too much makeup by embracing a cleaner, "skin first" aesthetic, a niche rarely tackled by others in the industry. Before it had launched a single product, Glossier had more than 15,000 followers on Instagram; today it has 2.6 million. When the company announced its GlossiWEAR merchandise line in 2019, featuring a pale pink hoodie, 10,000 people joined the waiting list to buy it.
Since launching in 2014, several other beauty brands have taken inspiration from the brand and started to embrace a smaller product line and digital advertising campaigns focusing on the consumer, rather than the product itself. Beauty brands such as The Ordinary focus on affordability and products that are suitable for every skin type rather than creating an array of products with different purposes. In addition, Nivea and Simple Skincare adverts have started to focus on real people, telling audiences to embrace their natural beauty and the importance of having a skincare routine that works for each individual.
Glossier set itself apart from other beauty brands by putting customers first, creating engaging digital content, having open conversations with women and building a sense of community. It established a unique competitive advantage using digital marketing and social media and has become a product of organic growth. All stemming from a self-starter who saw a gap in the beauty industry and used her audience and industry knowledge to her advantage to build a revolutionary beauty brand.