If you were active on Instagram between 2014 and now, there’s a good chance that you are familiar with, or at least recognize the name Glossier.
During the mid-2010s, the brand was essentially impossible to escape. Seemingly overnight, Glossier came to dominate the makeup and beauty industry and change the way it functions forever.
The branding is hard to miss, with its millennial pink and red packaging and its dreamy, effervescent quality. Product names like “Cloud Paint Blush” and “Super Glow Serum” just feel pretty speaking them out loud.
While the brand has been a staple in makeup lovers’ bag, since its dominance, many fans are worried and skeptical about the future of the brand considering its quick rise and subsequent plateau.
Having attributed most of its success to its unique “digital first” model, Glossier’s history begins similarly, with its audience being born from a makeup blog started in 2010.
HER BLOG SHOOK THE WORLD WIDE WEB.
With over 8.5 million monthly visitors, it became a one-stop shop for all kinds of tips, tricks, and beauty recommendations.
During the early years of Into the Gloss, beauty content online was on the rise. Beauty bloggers, YouTube makeup artists, and celebrities creating their own beauty empires were all fighting for dominance of a large and eager audience.
For Weiss, the timing could not have been more perfect.
Into the Gloss went from being a place to read about makeup to a full-blooded community.
Users were sharing their own experiences with certain products, creating discussion forums, and learning new ways to re-create the hottest looks.
Growing From The Gloss
Weiss, with even more knowledge about what women wanted in makeup, thanks to her active following, decided it was time to expand.
After receiving over $2 million in seed funding, Weiss launched Glossier in October 2014 with just four beauty products:
- Priming Moisturizer
- Balm Dot Com (lip balm)
- Soothing Face Mist (rosewater spray)
- Perfect Skin Tint
Fast forward and Glossier has taken over Instagram. Hundreds of thousands of devoted fans await their pink, bubbly packages in the mail.
While Weiss’s unconventionally unique direct-to-consumer (DTC) model for a makeup business scared off potential investors…
IT WAS CLEAR THAT THEY SAID NO TO THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY AND DISRUPTIVE STARTUP THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY HAS SEEN IN YEARS.
Rise Of The Dewy Glossier Girl
At its peak, Glossier was a beauty brand that completely took over everyone’s Instagram feed.
Despite it all, Weiss’s DTC initiative worked in their favor. Traditionally, makeup would be bought in stores with a saleswoman helping you.
FOR GLOSSIER, HOWEVER, THEIR APPROACH OF SELLING MAKEUP EXCLUSIVELY TO CUSTOMERS ON THEIR WEBSITE WAS WORKING OUT BETTER THAN EXPECTED.
The rise of Instagram as a social media platform coordinated with the rise in Glossier’s popularity.
The app’s approach to beautiful, stylized images was aligned with the brand’s mission of refined, natural beauty.
IF POSTING TO INSTAGRAM WAS A MATTER OF PRETENDING THAT A CAMERA HAPPENED TO CATCH YOU LIVING A BEAUTIFUL LIFE, GLOSSIER WAS THE MAKEUP TO MATCH. – THE NEW YORKER
With their inherent overlap, Glossier was able to chaperone and influence the No-Makeup Makeup look on the social site.
This look was defined by creating a dewy, clear, healthy-looking face which could be conflated with not wearing makeup at all.
This was a break away from traditional messages in makeup which were usually to hide any imperfections and blemishes.
With the company’s tagline “Skin First, Makeup Second”, all you needed to be a Glossier Girl, was be yourself…
While wearing the perfect lipstick, brow gel, and blush to match.
Another major attribute of Glossier’s success on social media was its avid fan base. The brand’s devotees were happy to be posting their colorful, pretty makeup and skincare hauls on Instagram and TikTok…
Which provided the brand with free marketing (a technique other brands have since adopted).
Glossier further developed this highly unique customer relationship by creating a direct line of dialogue with their fans…
GOING AS FAR AS INCLUDING THEM IN PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT.
Weiss would often take to her Instagram stories and ask “What product do you want to see next?”
The team even created a Slack channel for 1000 fans to share their ideas with their development team.
IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, GLOSSIER BECAME THE MAKEUP BRAND FOR THE DIGITAL AGE.
This rampant success landed Weiss a spot on the 2014 Forbes 30 under 30 list.
Her revolutionary brand earned the unicorn startup title, valued at 1.2 billion in 2019.
Eventually, they started experimenting with flagship stores and pop-ups around the country, in New York City, Miami, and Chicago before opening their first store in 2018.
But entering the new decade, the brand began a stumble out of grace, leaving many of its original die-hards jaded.
Taking Off The Rose-Colored Glasses
In recent years, the darling of digital age beauty has had more than its fair share of missteps.
Glossier’s Glitter Goof
The disdain began first, and most innocently, with the company’s launch of a sister brand, Glossier Play. This new line of makeup featured bright, playful colors…
A FAR CRY FROM ITS ORIGINAL PRODUCT LINE WHICH HONED IN ON NEUTRAL, SUBTLE LOOKS.
Glossier Play launched in 2019 and released gel eyeliners, shimmer highlighters, and the infamous “Glitter Gelee”, an eye glitter. After the releases, customers complained en masse about 2 things:
- The glitter used in products was non-biodegradable
- The packaging was wasteful and excessive.
Since Glossier’s main audience is Gen-Z and Millenial women, two demographics whose environmentalist values influence buying habits…
THIS WAS SEEN AS A HUGE MESS-UP ON BEHALF OF THE PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT TEAMS.
Not to mention, environmentally friendly cosmetics are only going up in demand. To the fans, it was seen as an inconvenience to some and an utter betrayal to others.
Glossier quietly discontinued its glitter goo in 2020 and reintroduced the other products to its main line of cosmetics.
Outta The Gloss
To make matters worse for the company, an Instagram account, @OuttatheGloss, documented incidents of racism experienced by former employees.
These employees, most of whom remained anonymous, came forward and accused the company of racism, ableism, transphobia, and retaliation from managers.
Retail workers at the company’s few brick-and-mortar stores were given little to no support when dealing with problematic customers.
EMPLOYEES WERE TOLD THAT THEY WERE WELCOME TO LEAVE IF THEY DIDN’T LIKE THE ENVIRONMENT.
The account made a list of demands for Glossier to answer, including an open town-hall-style Zoom call where the former employees are given a platform to address their issues and offer feedback.
UNTIL GLOSSIER’S RESPONSE, THE COLLECTIVE ENCOURAGED ITS 11K FOLLOWERS TO BOYCOTT THE COMPANY.
Weiss responded in an Instagram post, “We’re so sorry that we didn’t create a workplace in which our retail employees felt supported in the most critical ways.”
While Glossier didn’t meet the demands of the collective, the account has not been active since December 2020.
After this slew of controversy, Glossier surprised everyone in a move no one expected. In January 2022, the company laid off a third of its workforce due to Weiss’s “Missteps in hiring”.
A few short months later, after eight years of leadership, Weiss announced that she was stepping down from her position as CEO, effective immediately.
The new CEO, Kyle Leahy, has experience working with Nike, Cole Haan, and American Express.
She’s entering the position ready with a plan to bring Glossier back to the dominance of its past…
Can Glossier Keep It’s Cool?
Entering the new era, Glossier’s new CEO has leaned into opportunities that have been shunned under Weiss’s rule. Leahy is creating wholesale opportunities for the brand to attract new customers to their products.
Shocking the company’s longtime fans, Leahy ushered a retail partnership with Sephora to (finally) have the complete catalog of Glossier products available online and at the retailer’s 1,400 stores.
Beyond the wholesale efforts, under Leahy’s leadership, the company has been able to:
- Speed up the time between product launches from 10 weeks to 6
- Hire its first celebrity ambassador, Grammy winner, Olivia Rodrigo
- Continue partnership with the WNBA as their first beauty partner
Even in the face of the company’s controversies, Leahy has been able to regroup; expanding the brand’s reach and re-establishing its presence in the beauty industry.
All of this paired with a recent book release about the company’s history, Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier…
It might seem like the company is picking up some of its lost traction.
This year will bring about the 10th anniversary of the company and while the brand is (as we’ve seen) imperfect, there is one sentiment to take from their story:
No one thing can kill a deal, or a company for that matter.
Disclaimer: This content is intended to be used for educational and informational purposes only. Individual results may vary. You should perform your own due diligence and seek the advice from a professional to verify any information on our website or materials that you are relying upon if you choose to make an investment or business decision. Investment, real estate, and business involve great risk and there is no guarantee of performance or results.We are not attorneys, investment advisers, accountants, tax professionals or financial advisers and any of the content presented should not be taken as professional advice. We recommend seeking the advice of a financial professional before you invest, and we accept no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage you may incur.