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Glossier's first faux pas

The closure of the second make-up line proves that the brand doesn’t need new labels to expand

Glossier's first faux pas The closure of the second make-up line proves that the brand doesn’t need new labels to expand

Less than a year ago we reported on the remarkable $1.2 billion dollars valuation of Glossier, the beauty and skincare brand founded by Emily Weiss, who was able to turn her blog into a massive empire. A few hours ago news broke that the brand’s new make-up sub-line, called Play, would be put on hold indefinitely, in what is probably the first real setback for a brand that looked impeccable.

The reasons behind this choice are multiple, as Weiss herself told BoF. The brand’s core philosophy, repeated as a mantra, is Skin first, makeup second, and that’s why Play, the first brand launched by Glossier since 2014, started out with the intention to become a catchy, appealing, elegant and high-quality product - while still remaining true to the DNA of the brand - for those who felt like daring more with their looks, and for whom Glossier main products, all very basic, were not enough. In Glossier’s plans Play was potentially the right move to reach a new kind of audience, young and global, which was looking for a minimal and top quality make-up, distant from heavy palettes and the contouring of the Kardashian clan. Sales number showed that Glossier and Play were hunting down the same exact audience, to the point that two-thirds of those who purchased Play were already Glossier aficionados, proving that Play failed in attracting a new clientele untied from the motherhouse. 

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The audience and the relationship that Glossier has built with it is one of the reasons behind its success, but unexpectedly it could become one of its biggest limits. You just need to take a look at Glossier’s Instagram profile, with more than 2,5 million followers and counting, to see that the fan base is solid - the past as a blog has taught a lot in terms of communication, a communication that is fresh, effective, studied in detail. The brand identity of Glossier lives through the endless shades of Millennial Pink and the graphics in Futura Bold that were essentials in creating a loyal Millennial fan base, but these very identifying elements might preclude Glossier from expanding towards a new type of audience. As much as Glossier represents the beauty brand by definition for the Gen-Z and Millennial generations, when changing the age range the popularity - and the sales - of the brand drop dramatically. 

Despite a limited audience in some ways, Glossier’s numbers are remarkable. During the annual online sale for Thanksgiving weekend, a Boy Brow, the brand’s top product, was sold every two second, and a Balm Dotcom, a multi-use balm, was sold every second. In 2019 the sales of the brand increased by +60%, with a turnover of $160 million dollars. Glossier has only two physical stores, in New York and in Los Angeles, beautifully decorated to reflect the dreamy and Millennial aesthetic of its Instagram, and where last year shopped more than 1 million people, along with a series of pop-up shops around the world, the one in London proved so successful that it will remain open throughout 2020. 

When talking about Play failure, Weiss admitted that what the brand needs and looks for is an expansion, not a reinvention. In its main collection, Glossier features 36 products, called the perfect essentials of every woman, to which the Play products could have been added, avoiding fragmentation and therefore confusion in the audience that had already been won over by Glossier’s narration. From now on the Play products will be included in the core collection and there won’t be new launches under this name. Moreover, at the debut, Play products were strongly criticized for non-reusable plastic glitter. Glossier has accordingly redesigned its packagings, avoiding useless paper boxes and foils. 

Ironically what made Play collapse was the estrangement from a specific and identifying imaginary that Glossier manage to build and cement in just a few years. The same consumers of the brand made the brand realize that they didn’t want and didn’t need a second line, new products or a venture in the make-up world that were too fare from Glossier’s own codes. Play’s setback made Weiss realize that what her fans want is a super brand, the Glossier giant.