Back-to-basics beauty brand Glossier’s reach has gone far beyond the beauty industry, on to retail, architecture, fashion and social media. There’s a large community of Glossiers living and breathing the brand and buying into much more than the product range.
The company has already raised over $86 million in investment – IVP and Index Ventures led a $52 million Series C for Glossier at a valuation of $390 million last year. Moreover, most of the money has come from San Francisco and Silicon Valley VCs who don’t often tend to favour single-sector physical products, nor female-led ventures.
Not just another beauty blogger
Founder of Glossier, Emily Weiss, while working as a fashion assistant at Vogue in New York in 2010, launched a blog, Into the Gloss, for women to access beauty content other magazines she had worked on weren’t offering. Another beauty aficionada launching a blog might not seem all too exciting, but hers brought something new to the table.
For example, The Top Shelf entry profiled models and editors she had met previously throughout her career, mostly at Vogue shoots, and revealed their beauty routines – content people were really interested in and questions they would like answers to but didn’t think were appropriate to ask. Features included supermodel Karlie Kloss, actress Naomi Watts and former football player David Beckham.
Emily Weiss tapped into a new market by removing the untouchable veneer of these high-profiles (or at least seen as such) by making it all approachable, both for those who were featured and the readers. Having done so, was also what impressed and compelled founder and Managing Director of Forerunner Ventures Kirsten Green to seed fund her new business, even though it had no name or business plan at the time. Green has since become a Glossier board member.
Weiss started building her community of like-minded people, who shared her passion for the beauty industry, so when the time came to launch Glossier the people were already waiting outside. @glossier instagram account had 18K followers already before any products had been announced to the public.
No make-up make-up looks
The brand’s mission is to celebrate natural beauty, through simple products and make-up that doesn’t look artificial or painted-on, but helps freshen-up natural looks. Skin first, make-up second – their products are created to bring out the best in people before reaching for make-up. As they put it, ‘make-up becomes the fun part, not the fix’.
Their pale-pink hues and shades of nude set the mood for their architecture, products and online content, giving out a sense of honesty and innocence. Even their voice seems to be on brand and highlight transparency. For example, after closing their Series B investment round, founder Emily Weiss made public where all the funding to date had come from – comments from readers commend her transparency and appreciate being in-the-know.
Weiss keeps on breaking down barriers between herself and her audience and feeding into a much more horizontal and accessible beauty industry.
Beauty seekers, beauty keepers
Emily Weiss has been a positive role model for many worldwide. She has inspired thousands of women with her entrepreneurial achievements – scaling a business with several investment rounds and catching the eye of some of the largest cosmetic groups. The company’s success is a celebration of female empowerment.
Other influencers have leveraged social media following into a product customer database. Social media sensation Kylie Jenner, for example, launched her line of cosmetics and has taken a legion of adoring fans with her. However, Glossier’s community is cut from a different cloth – career woman with a passion for beauty and strong opinions about where the industry should be headed.
Many members of the Glossier community came from earlier stages of Into the Gloss (before the brand was even born) but thousands more came afterwards because the principles haven’t changed.
Glossier has over 500 ambassadors who, despite not being actual employees, have been indispensable for the company’s growth. And even if not ambassadors, many other customers play a huge role in selling the brand. Glossier often reposts pictures and content from its followers on instagram – they increase profile visibility by being featured and reaching a much wider audience, and the brand gets user-generated content in return.
In the end, their community of followers, influencers and ambassadors are their strongest selling point, being both a consumer and a commodity.
Putting their customers’ voices at the core of their mission was a smart move for the company. They are getting valuable insights into what the market wants and needs, whilst building stronger ties with the community.
For most beauty brands the strategy is often to develop a product first and then move on to the challenge of figuring out how to sell it. Glossier puts the need in front of their customers and tries to understand what might be missing both from a brand and product perspective based on the feedback they get.
Their Milky Jelly Cleanser was a crowd-sourced product, for example. In early 2015, founder Emily Weiss wrote a post on her blog asking her readers to describe their dream face wash. Hundreds of comments came through and the product was created based on its careful review: “"From those hundreds of incredibly informed (and generally pretty consistent) answers, [we] made a brief that we gave to our chemist that turned into our very own dream cleanser," said Weiss later that same year. "Thanks to everyone who commented and helped create it." She did the same for a face moisturiser afterwards and received over a thousand responses on the website.
More and more people want to be involved and lay down their thoughts and critics, but founder Emily Weiss claimed that she still reads every comment and tried on all samples before those are put in stores.
Glossier has been extremely savvy in fostering a community and creating the range of products that the community called for – when the product came, it was already sold. It comes as no surprise that the company continues to grow.