This article is part of our ‘Marketing Strategies’ series, an in-depth look at how some of the world’s most successful companies promote their brand and their products.
Many business owners dream of an organic explosion; the possibility of going Instagram viral overnight through a powerful campaign, and not spending a dime in the process. Yet while it is true that the best form of marketing is often by word-of-mouth, it is difficult for businesses to generate that kind of impact on their customers.
In attempts to rectify this and create more organic growth, influencer marketing and content marketing have become essential components of brand strategy. These approaches didn't just appear from anywhere, though; indeed, at their roots, these strategies can be largely attributed to a few key players. One of them is Glossier, an enterprise whose brand was built long before a company name was ever registered.
Well-known for its cult-like following, the beauty brand was born on social media and nurtured into an online giant by its deeply passionate millennial audience. And, while it primarily still serves this hugely popular niche, it also presents a great case study for organisations on how to leverage content and influencer marketing to foster loyal communities.
To explore how it has achieved this, we've taken a closer look at Glossier's marketing approach.
Glossier's Marketing Strategy
Founded in 2014 by lifestyle blogger Emily Weiss, Glossier famously featured just four products on launch day. Since then, however, the company has achieved a valuation of $1.2bn, and has expanded to a product range of around 40 SKUs with three permanent physical locations.
In this sense, Glossier is often seen as disruptive in the industry, as it was one of the first companies to fully leverage every aspect of digital consumerism. From Instagram, to online-only shopping, to encouraging its customers to chat on their Facebook group page: the company has dipped its toes in every single digital platform available.
Glossier also heavily invests in perfecting the customer journey. They make this possible through their direct-to-consumer business model, allowing them to own all of the data on their customers and create campaigns focused on data collection that influences future marketing and development decisions. They also strive to create a peer-to-peer connection, offering a see-for-yourself approach to their marketing rather than actively selling and promoting products to their customers in a traditional sense.
Born in the influencer age, Glossier found their demographic in millennials and, increasingly, Generation Z: two generations that are digitally-native, social media-obsessed, and completely experience-led. Their ideal customer is aged between 18 and 24, and prefers the "natural look" because they are busy living their "best life". They have grown up with Amazon by their side and enjoy the convenience of online shopping.
Interestingly, Glossier's products are priced higher than standard drug store products; however, they are generally cheaper than most well-known beauty brands, offering their key demographic a feeling of luxury when providing quality products with great reviews.
Through its primarily online medium, Glossier aims to educate its existing customer base and win new followers by promoting the ideas, reviews and content that existing customers create for them.
Despite their niche style, the brand has explored and leveraged many social mediums to get to know their customers more closely and, in turn, create more organic and authentic campaigns. Some of these include:
Content Marketing and Growth Hacking
Glossier owes much of its early success to the organic content marketing strategy that Weiss cultivated at the start. Her blog, Into the Gloss, featured interviews with women who talked about their skincare routines and their favourite products, thus building a dedicated and significant audience over time.
Indeed, Glossier used content marketing before and after its launch to educate customers on how beauty products should be used, and to inspire new ways of use. Weiss then built upon this strategy through Glossier's Facebook and YouTube channels, with products still promoted on Into the Gloss alongside other beauty brands.
This strategy proved hugely successful, attracting loyal readers to Into the Gloss and then converting them into Glossier customers. In doing so, it created a direct bridge between offering valuable information and providing instant solutions, optimising all the benefits of an e-commerce business.
Weiss often says that she grew her company through Instagram, and this is evident; even before its launch date, Glossier invested in the development of an engaging Instagram account. Through this platform, it became easier to construct a dream image of a glamorous life for its target audience, allowing their existing readers to buy into the au-natural feel of the brand.
This approach was hugely successful, as it offered customers the opportunity to engage with the brand and provide self-generated content for the page – a classic form of digital word-of-mouth marketing that has since been adopted by numerous other brands. By creating prompts within their captions to recreate looks, or drive engagement within the comments section, the brand grows its audience by acting like a friend – not a company.
Instagram is built to promote authenticity and allows users to show their life as it is, and this is something that Into the Gloss leveraged early on through its #TopShelf hashtag, which featured women's bathroom shelves full of beauty products.
This hashtag was then used to inspire the company's influencer strategy. It sent out high-quality PR packages to various influencers within the beauty niche with instructions to create their own tutorials using Glossier products – then using those videos to promote their products. This enabled the company to convey an authentic image while reaching a wider audience.
Crucially, rather than selling the benefits of their products, Glossier utilised peer-to-peer reviews and promoted them as part of its content strategy. This allowed new customers to consult existing customers about the benefits of the brand, removing the brand from the conversion aspect of the marketing process entirely. Additionally, by using influencers as models, the brand was able to become more relatable and less formal in its approach to marketing, to the point where it is often difficult to distinguish between an ad and a regular post on their page. This has helped to drive further customer engagement.
As the business has grown, it has introduced another key component into the marketing mix – experiential marketing. Glossier has opened physical showrooms in New York City, Los Angeles and London, through which customers – who would otherwise only ever interact with the brand online – can go in-store to try products for themselves.
The goal of these showrooms is to create a physical bonding experience between the customer and the brand – a key trend for modern consumers – while offering customers a physical space in which to take photos and continue the user content cycle. This is compounded by the exclusivity of the locations, with each store designed to reflect the culture and aesthetic of its host city.
The company is also attempting to widen access to this experience, with temporary stores popping up in Miami, Seattle, Austin, and Paris.
The Glossier style is very consistent across all of its digital platforms, promoting a "cool girl" image through minimalistic but fun images of diverse models. They also often show “messier” looking photos and repost funny pictures and animal photos to evoke a friendly tone of voice.
Importantly, Glossier never attempts to sell products directly through its social media; even in their promoted material, copy is never overly promotional. Their image aims to be approachable and relatable, and not overly glamourous – a brand that prioritises engagement over sales. This allows Glossier to personify its brand and maintain a strong sense of community across all its channels.
Glossier does not produce many formal campaigns and, arguably, does not need to. It continually increases brand awareness thanks to its consistent and cohesive presence across social media.
Last year, however, the company ventured into television advertising through its "Feeling like... Glossier" campaign. This campaign focused on aspirational realness, and neatly summarised the company's wider objectives. The campaign told the stories of its customers and aimed to highlight how they had found inner confidence through using Glossier products. Visually, the campaign relays ease, fun and authenticity, although the key message is still highlighted.
With this campaign, the company aimed to celebrate the individuality of its customers and convey the feeling of beauty against traditional standards. This approach was successful, as it again used its own customers to promote their products, highlighting the authentic, community-focused values of the brand.
Unlike many beauty products, Glossier relies on ordinary people – their customers – to market the brand. They are so heavily invested in fostering a community that this same community offers to pay for their marketing budget; through this, the company has managed to streamline growth in a way no other beauty brand has in the past.
By getting curious about digital, exploring Instagram, and offering customers easy solutions with relatable figures behind the products, Glossier has managed to organically generate a cult-like following, build a cohesive image, and develop vast brand awareness across every social platform.
Regardless of which sector your business operates in, the example of Glossier demonstrates that through prioritising a community of customers, you can generate word-of-mouth and let your customers do much of the advertising for you. Your business also needs to be proactive with its social media strategy; choosing a medium to grow your community can help it to maximise organic growth, which is key in itself to exponential growth afterwards.
What are your thoughts on Glossier's marketing strategy? Let us know in the comment section below!