The Cult of Glossier: Why the brand’s tuned-in community is turning on the company over product complaints

Posted by Caroline Edwards in Comment

2 months ago

Within five years of its launch, US beauty brand Glossier was valued at US $1.2 billion (£1 billion). That was in 2019 and ever since the brand seems to have been dying a slow death by turning its back on the tactics that made it successful and going on to ignore customer feedback and reformulate iconic products.

Glossier’s initial success was thanks to its tuned-in online community. People were eager to share their alignment with the company by sporting its merchandise in selfies, posting about the brand on Instagram and encouraging friends to use their affiliate code. In return, the brand offered superb customer service, innovative and limited edition products and Instagrammable pop-ups. It made consumers feel like they were part of a fun, engaging space. Community was once everything for the brand, but now this has become its Achilles heel.

Glossier’s downfall started with product failures such as 2019’s colourful makeup line Glossier Play, which was discontinued within one year. Then in 2020, the company faced racism and toxic workplace allegations. More recently, in 2022, Glossier laid off one-third of its corporate employees (more than 80 people) and months later its founder Emily Weiss stepped down as CEO. Weiss is now executive chairwoman. Then in September 2023, writer Marisa Meltzer published her “bombshell exposé” Glossy, which includes interviews with Weiss, investors and former employees.

The final nail in the coffin for Glossier is the alleged reformulation of beloved products such as its perfume Glossier You. In February 2023, the brand unveiled a vegan formulation of Balm Dot Com to negative reviews, such as: “Don’t fix something that isn’t broken. Please listen to your customers.” In the case of the fragrance, Redditors speculated that its formula changed to comply with new EU regulations and one Redditor shared that the company confirmed they removed a component from the perfume. CORQ reached out to Glossier for comment but did not receive a response.

Glossier has lost its customer connection

Part of the problem is that Glossier is not being transparent or addressing customers’ valid concerns. Earlier this month, the brand released a new 100ml bottle of Glossier You and people flooded the brand’s Instagram to beg them to bring back the old formula. As one customer noted: “I love how every single post has ‘bring back the old YOU formula’ but Glossier completely ignores them and comes out with new stuff!”

Now the beauty brand isn’t the only company ignoring customer’s concerns. Vinted has been under fire for its poor customer service and in October 2023, Swedish influencer Matilda Djerf’s fashion label Djerf Avenue was called out after it reported people’s videos for copyright if they mentioned dupes of the brand’s clothing styles.

Interestingly, Glossier CEO Kyle Leahy told Fast Company that the team are monitoring Reddit and listening to customer feedback. While the brand has brought back products at customers’ request such as the solid version of Glossier You, it is very “one step forward, two steps back”.

Glossier is trying its best to remain relevant by increasing its influencer activations, upping its product releases and being stocked at Sephora. In 2022, the company named Gen Z singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo as its first celebrity partner, and in 2023 it was unveiled as the official beauty partner of the Women’s National Basketball Association.

The plan is apparently working – Glossier reported 26% growth in the second half of 2022 and its Q4 sales were the largest in its history. Bloomberg noted the company is on track to make $275 million (£225.6 million) in retail sales this year.

For the brand’s long-term loyal fans and online community, it’s all too little, too late. This may not be quite the end of Glossier, but the company needs to focus on its community if it wants to recreate its early success. First steps? Own up to your mistakes, listen to your customers, be more transparent and leave beloved product formulas alone.

By Caroline Edwards, CORQ news and features writer.