When Glossier launched a little over two years ago, it was David wrapped in a 70% saturation of Pantone 705, hashtagging its way into a fight with Goliaths like Chanel, Estee Lauder, and Nars. These brands had worked their way into our lives to tell us we needed a finishing powder, or that BB cream would stop our foundation from incessantly creasing — because Kristen Stewart or Blake Lively said it would. But Glossier doesn’t expect its consumers to listen to supermodels and marketing campaigns. It knows them, it doesn’t want to waste their time (or fledgling funds) with a million different creams, and most importantly, it treats its consumer base like a bona fide part of its 55+ person team.
Sure, Glossier is first and foremost a business, but it’s a business that readers of its online community, Into the Gloss, feel like stakeholders in — and this isn’t a community of investors and entrepreneurs, but a mix of students, artists, models, and engineers. This community has counted down the days for product launches, covered their iPhone cases in the brand’s famous stickers, and watched the brand work its way through supply-chain dramas (a moment of silence for the great Perfecting Skin Tint Drought of winter 2016). And through that journey, they’ve been the ones who have made Glossier “A Thing.”
This year marked a $24 million Series B fundraising round for Glossier, which gives the brand freedom to grow into two new product categories (Fragrances? Candles? SPF?) and permanently open doors to a gorgeous New York City showroom. Glossier’s total fundraising is now at $35 million, but perhaps more importantly, its Instagram following is over 350K strong, with another 422K following Into the Gloss. None of those followers had ever held the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack in their hands before forking over $22 (before shipping). That kind of brand loyalty requires careful and constant cultivation. In fact, when the latest fundraising round came to an end, CEO Emily Weiss took to Into The Gloss to share the news with her community, breaking down the fundraising process, the key players, and the implications for Glossier’s future. By showing readers the inside baseball of how Glossier was evolving, Weiss sent a clear message: ITG and Glossier are a community that would not exist without one another, and every member of that community should be let in on the details of how the business is developing. Unsurprisingly, Weiss summarizes the brand’s tight-knit following with: “Glossier is cult, it’s not niche.”
It’s a cult relationship built on trust. Glossier doesn’t offer samples, and until this month, it had no physical showroom to test out products. But over and over again, the products sold out, and people bought the $65 Supers (Glossier’s three-piece serum set, which launched in September and wasn’t restocked until a few weeks ago) before YouTubers had a chance to review them. That relationship is what will make Glossier successful for years to come, and Emily Weiss’s golden ticket to expansion is the unconditional love the Into The Gloss and Glossier communities have for the brand.
How did ITG and Glossier get here? By being the nice girls in the lunchroom that everyone felt like they could sit with. The ingenious #GRWM (Get Ready With Me) series that many of the brand’s staff has participated in makes the community feel like they know team Glossier personally, by giving a glimpse into morning skin care routines, fashion taste, personalities, and Emoji vices. Likewise, #ITGTopShelfie is a series that features the medicine cabinets of Glossier staffers, but also, regular people who read Into The Gloss. In an August 2016 episode of Forbes’ Million$ podcast, Weiss remembers asking, “How can we create the first socially-driven brand…how can we create the first luxury beauty brand that involves its community in the creative process?”
It comes down to this: Emily Weiss and her team have figured out how to get people to want to pay $12 for a set of three #glossierpink pouches made of bubble wrap (which come free with product orders). They’ve figured out how to get thousands of people around the world to want to watch them exfoliate, prime, and moisturize. IVP, the firm that led this Series B round (and also invested in Snapchat and Twitter, platforms that play a critical role in Glossier’s rise) stands to gain from a brand that has mastered the profitability of empathy; Glossier knows its community is tired of shelling out for product after product, only to never look like Gwyneth Paltrow. That’s why it’s using people with dry skin, student loans, and jobs in retail to sell the Moisturizing Moon Mask. The giants of the beauty industry had better take note of how much money it is dumping into polished, professional advertising campaigns, and take to their newsfeeds — the latest #GRWM has probably been posted, and it features a shoebox Brooklyn apartment with optimal lighting.