But as the conversationally voiced blog gained steam (and became profitable), Weiss and her team decided to take the plunge and produce their own beauty products–a line of moisturizers and cosmetics inspired in part by interactions with Into the Gloss‘s growing audience.
“What was missing for me as a beauty editor and beauty consumer was a brand that really had a conversation with me as opposed to speaking at me,” Weiss tells Fast Company. “There are many, many, many brands–as any woman knows from walking down the drugstore aisle or through Sephora. It’s also filled with a lot of legacy thinking in terms of how products are made and why products are made, and how the consumer understands and even receives those products. So what I wanted to do was approach beauty from a consumer perspective and think about what I really wanted to see from a beauty brand across the board, and think about it as though there’s never been a beauty brand before.”
Since launching Glossier in 2014, Weiss’s team has added products like face masks and brow kits and raised more than $10 million in capital to compete in a booming beauty and anti-aging market worth more than half a trillion dollars, according to a 2014 report from Rodale and Women’s Marketing, Inc.
Here’s how Weiss continues to infuse her beauty business with content:
There are innumerable examples of content companies moving into the product space. Perhaps most notable is Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, which sold its first item in 2012–four years after launching its website and newsletter.
Weiss, too, launched her product line four years after writing her first blog post.
“The biggest challenge for me was going into a consumer goods industry,” Weiss says. Glossier’s first product–from R&D to consumer–took nine months to create. “Creating a physical product at mass scale is an entirely different game than creating content. We’re fortunate that we are a blend of both. Content is really our heart and soul, and we were really born out of content and the feedback we got from our audience. But once you go into manufacturing, that’s just a whole different beast.”
But that process wasn’t so daunting once Weiss realized her secret weapon: storytelling.
“We’re always thinking about the why’s of what we make and how we can create these worlds–this Glossier world–around our products. We put an enormous amount of thought into the content and communications around Glossier, particularly with emphasis on communicating with our consumers.”
That editorial approach to a product’s narrative and how it fits into the Glossier ecosystem has ensured that each product Weiss unrolls is the right move at the right time. Plus, the continued connection Glossier fosters with its audience through its sister blog and social channels means that the company can constantly tap into what its customers want next.
“By the time we launched Glossier, it was really organic. It kind of was born out of all this incredible market research without me even knowing it–the idea of, as a beauty editor, interviewing hundreds of the world’s most influential style leaders, from Alexa Chung to Tory Burch to Isabel Marant to Selena Gomez. Really getting to know how women shop for beauty today and what they’re buying and not buying,” Weiss says. “It was a mix of this armchair market research that was really just born out of me being nosy, mixed with feedback from our millions of Gloss visitors who’d come to the blog every month saying, ‘Oh, I use this product, too.’ Or, ‘I used it for a while, and I found X,Y, and Z that’s actually better and cheaper.’ We really cultivated this highly engaged community.”
Weiss started Into the Gloss while working as a styling assistant at Vogue, and she quickly learned the difference between the traditional publishing world’s definition of content, and what was really happening online.
Instead of publishing a quota of content or seeking beauty stories that might garner fast clicks, Glossier focuses on more thoughtful, direct hits that are sure to speak to its audience and consumer.
“You can create a piece of content in the blink of an eye now and put it out into the world and broadcast it to a platform of people,” Weiss says. “It’s not ‘fast content,’ the way that I think of fast fashion, that’s about a page-view rate. We’ve never been about that. We’ve always been about thoughtful content, and less is more, and encouraging engagement in our metric. How can we ask the right questions of our audience to elicit feedback that we can actually work into our products and into our company? We’re really not just hopping product over a fence to our customer and hoping she likes it. We kind of know before we even launch it because she’s been involved the whole time.”
Focusing on a company’s mission–for example, how each each piece of content will further a discussion with the Glossier community–ensures that an authentic connection is baked into interactions with the consumer.
“A lot of times people ask me, ‘How do you make your audience feel involved?’ And I find that such a funny question, because we don’t make her feel involved,” Weiss says. “She is involved. It’s not like a gimmick or a marketing tactic. We would be silly not to ask for her input to make a better product.”
While Glossier’s storytelling voice has been ingrained in its business from the beginning (before there was even a business to speak of), Weiss says it’s not too late to add an authentic voice to any brand.
“I don’t think there’s a shortcut. But I think one thing to really consider is being really medium agnostic,” Weiss says. “I think it’s easy for e-commerce companies and new brands to think, ‘Okay, let’s start a blog on the side, and we’ll put content on the blog.’ But I think it’s important to think about where people are consuming content right now. Is your customer mostly on Facebook? Is your customer mostly on Instagram? Is she on Snapchat? Is she on two of the three? And then really focus on and develop a strategy around that platform. I don’t think content equals blog or content equals website. I think content can equal a really incredible Instagram account. Or content can equal an awesome Snapchat game. I think one is not more important than another today.”
Last week, we highlighted how StyleHaul CEO Stephanie Horbaczewski has enhanced her business with social storytelling and tells a different story on each medium she engages.
When Weiss was rolling out Glossier, she didn’t bother waiting for the website to launch. She went for Instagram first.
“We built the brand in real time, showing the how-it’s-made, behind-the-scenes for a whole month before we even announced the company,” Weiss says. “By the time we launched, we had something like 15,000 followers, and people didn’t even know yet what it was.”
Those early clues helped her seamlessly carry over readers from Into the Gloss to Glossier, while making those users feel like a part of the fledgling brand. Comments from those early Instagram posts were even used in the conception of Glossier’s products and ecommerce store.
But even for established brands, building a storytelling voice that resonates can be easy, as long as you stand for something, cherry-pick the right medium (blog, Facebook, Snapchat), and put user interaction before all else.
“Do what’s authentic to whatever your brand or company is. The way we thought about Glossier is, if Glossier were a real girl, where would we eat, where would we shop, who would we be friends with? We even played the game where, if we were dating another brand, who would we be dating? I think we said Byredo, which is a very sexy Swedish perfume company. Maybe we’ll date Byredo, but we’ll settle down with Apple,” Weiss says. “Just know who you are, because the best content feels like a friend talking to you. You don’t have to think about it because it just comes naturally.”