Glossier – Disrupting the Old Man’s Beauty Industry

How Star Beauty Blogger Emily Weiss Built Glossier into a Digital Marketing Powerhouse

Born from a Blog

The cosmetics industry is dominated by a few large conglomerates that are often over 100 years old and headed up by old men — like L’Oreal’s Jean Paul Agon, Estee Lauder’s Fabrizio Freda, and Revlon’s Lorenzo Delpani.

New York cosmetics startup Glossier is attempting to change that. Founded by Emily Weiss, beauty insider and author of the hit blog Into the Gloss, Glossier sells a highly-curated line of 7 skincare products targeted toward millennial women through the innovative use of technology. Unlike the CEOs of beauty industry incumbents, Weiss is actually a member of the community her company serves, which she has leveraged to form a unique competitive advantage for Glossier in the form of inbound marketing, digital content creation, and social media.

Before Glossier, Weiss’s blog created value for her more than 1 million monthly readers through regular posts about beauty tips, products, and trend-setters. Now that she’s raised $10.4 million in VC funding to start Glossier, she is capturing the value of her cult following with her skincare line. Here’s how:

Launched on Instagram

 The traditional way to launch a beauty line is to develop, formulate, and brand your new products behind closed doors, then unveil them in their finished and perfected form to customers.

Weiss did things differently, by launching the brand on Instagram before the products were even finalized. She solicited feedback on everything from packaging to branding by snapping pictures during the product development process and encouraging followers to respond with their opinions through likes and comments on her posts.


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The Instagram strategy was genius because:

  1. 90% of Instagram users are under 35 years old, representing an ideal forum to meet her target market
  2. Weiss already had hundreds of thousands of followers thanks to her beauty influencer status, ensuring the virality of the @Glossier handle
  3. The followers provided free market research for her cash-strapped startup
  4. She interacted authentically with her future customers (a task traditional brands often struggle with in social media), getting them excited about Glossier, gaining their trust, and even giving them a sense of ownership as they helped shape the new line

The resulting product lineup at launch were just 4 items: a face mist, moisturizer, balm, and skin tint, bundled in a kit as well as available for individual purchase. Weiss’s goal was to keep things simple in order to reduce the stress of “endless choice,” for the consumer. It also simplified operations, and freed up the company to focus on executing a flawless inbound marketing campaign driven by content creation.


Built Loyalty Through Digital Content

Weiss took Glossier’s involvement on social media to the next level post-launch by encouraging customers to post pictures of themselves with their products or sporting the brand’s iconic (and digitally-fitting) emoji stickers. This created a viral movement around the brand, as well as authentic testimonials of Glossier’s efficacy.

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Weiss also utilized the platform to answer customer questions posted not just to the @glossier handle, but also to relevant brand hashtags. One standout example was their campaign to help customers pick the right shade of makeup for their skin tone – a particularly difficult task most women struggle with. Glossier followers just had to post a selfie, include the hashtag #glossier, and ask for help. Then the Glossier team would respond to the customer’s post directly in the comments with a suggestion of which skin tint product was right for them.

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Weiss rounded out the Glossier inbound marketing strategy with a surprisingly not-annoying email campaign. Unlike traditional companies that send emails pressuring you to “buy now” that make you want to immediately hit the delete button, Glossier email subscribers receive tips, videos, free offers, and other entertaining content with subject lines like, “The Must-Try Summer Makeup Idea,” and “Diamond powder, you guys.” This engaging content gives Glossier the right to email its subscribers with a surprising frequency of 3 to 4 times a week – a luxury traditional makeup companies can only dream of.

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Effortless Cool Girl

Weiss has built Glossier into a digital winner in the beauty industry by using social media and content to develop an effortlessly cool and accessible brand. Beyond creating and capturing value through the output and sale of skincare products, Glossier has created a digital community for its customers to interact with each other and with the company. The ongoing dialogue creates value for customers in the form of entertainment and product advice, while creating value for Glossier in the form of loyalty and precious real-time feedback, which all translates into growing and repeat sales for the win.




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Student comments on Glossier – Disrupting the Old Man’s Beauty Industry

  1. Beautiful Pictures + Social Media + Community = What millenials want!
    Glossier is genius in appealing to a generation that is increasingly shunning opaque corporate giants.
    Millenials want to belong, millenials want a community, millenials want real people and simplicity.
    The instagram company is embodied by Glossier!

    1. I totally agree! Weiss spent years figuring out what millennials want on her blog, Into the Gloss, and then she applied her insight to a successful business strategy. I wonder what effect the company has on the user experience of her blog, as there are multiple not-so-subtle advertisements for her brand in the form of banners and articles. How does your impact change when you transition from supporting beauty brands to marketing your own? Regardless, I am excited to watch the evolution of Instagram businesses!

  2. Great post! I LOVE the idea of pre-launching on instagram to get customer feedback! Not only is it much more economical than using focus groups, for instance, but Emily is also developing customer loyalty along the way. Undoubtedly, customers who participated in her Instagram campaign feel an almost irrational or emotion sense of connectivity to the products as if they themselves designed them. I’d love to see numbers on repeat purchasers and customer loyalty she has after the line has been out for a while!

  3. I think two of the most understated wins here were the inbound marketing tactics and the ask #glossier approach. Talk about value creation! Talk about becoming a trusted advisor! Emily pulled back the curtain and let her future customers see how the sausage gets made, so to speak. That is a great way for a new, disruptive company to gain consumer confidence and loyalty. I’m just hearing about this company and I respect the origin story a lot. I think it is great that the big guys are getting disrupted!

    Maybe not digital, but still worth noting is Emily’s ability to keep her product line streamlined. As you provided, it cuts down on the stress of too much choice and allows her most loyal followers to purchase everything Glossier has to offer without overextending themselves. To say you have “all” or “every one” of something is a powerful brand endorsement that Glossier can benefit from.

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