Glossier marketing: How the beauty brand used word-of-mouth to shake up the industry

With 2.8 million Instagram followers, Glossier has built a large community of loyal supporters who serve as not only their primary customers but also their biggest salespeople.

Glossier’s marketing is a digital-first word-of-mouth approach to skincare and beauty products. They’ve transformed into one of the most successful D2C beauty brands in the cosmetics industry today, with a $1.2 billion valuation.

This is how they did it.

They built a beauty-ful community

Glossier’s rise to success as a D2C brand was anything but typical. In fact, you could even say it was somewhat accidental.

Back in 2010, the company’s founder Emily Weiss was an editorial assistant working at Vogue and embracing the New York City grind. While working at the storied fashion publication, she began to notice a hierarchical trend within the beauty industry: beauty brands weren’t looking for any customer input on products they produced; they simply told women to buy the brands’ products because they were on trend.

But Weiss persisted. She rebelled against the idea that beauty companies were simply dictating what kind of makeup and skincare products women should be using. Her idea that the beauty industry should be framed within real conversations with real women led her to launch her blog, Into the Gloss, in 2010.

70% of their online sales and traffic come from peer-to-peer referrals.

Weiss’ first order of business with Into the Gloss was promoting those real conversations. Her personal mantra for the blog was simple: people first and products second.

It was in that vein that Weiss came up with some innovative ideas for her blog. Into the Gloss began to feature a section called The Top Shelf. This column focused on women in the beauty industry who shared their personal beauty regimens and products they loved. It didn’t promote particular products; it simply laid out what these women were using.

Glossier Referral Marketing Example

The next big innovation came when Weiss recognized the value of social media as a direct line of communication with people reading the blog. At the time, most beauty brands were purely focused on self-promotion. You would go to a beauty brand’s social media page, and it would just show you a product photo and how much it was. Additional context was shaky at best.

In response, Into the Gloss did things a little differently: they became one of the first beauty blogs to utilize social media (especially Instagram) in an effort to engage followers and spark conversations with them. They wanted to know what beauty products their readers were using and why – so they asked. Into the Gloss opened the lines of social media communication to their fans and, over time, developed a strong understanding of what they wanted.

Before she knew it, Weiss had inadvertently compiled a mountain of market research on beauty products. Like every great entrepreneur, she also saw an opportunity. Weiss leveraged the reputation and research behind Into the Gloss and decided to launch her own beauty brand, Glossier, in 2014.

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They served the people with social media

Weiss knew exactly what made Into the Gloss so special as a beauty blog, and she brought that same concept to Glossier. Having successfully utilized social media platforms for her blog, she focused on doing the same with her beauty brand.

At this point, the Glossier team had grown and already had a built-in ecosystem of fans and followers. The best place to reach those fans and followers? Instagram. With more and more brands jumping on the Instagram bandwagon by this time, Weiss had already developed a cult following on the platform from her Into the Gloss days.

The content strategy Glossier put together for the Instagram account showed an impeccable understanding of its buyer personas. Primarily composed of millennials and Gen Zers, Glossier used a mix of people and products alongside funny memes and videos in their Instagram posts.

On all of Glossier’s social media platforms, they consciously chose a wide array of content creators regardless of background. The diverse representation reinforces that there is no “right” kind of customer to best rep the brand. Everyone can wear Glossier products-like the Milky Jelly cleanser or the iconic Boy Brow-to be their most beautiful, authentic self.

There was product launch information, but also goofy selfies. The brand never strayed from what made its sister brand such a success: catering to their target demographic of millennial and Gen Z consumers.


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A post shared by Glossier (@glossier)

Keeping the brand consistent across social media was also a priority for Weiss and the team. Glossier’s products developed a reputation for natural, dewy makeup looks and owned soft pink and nude tones. A quick glance at their Instagram feed shows how their content reflects those colors through filters and images.

Glossier’s biggest supporters recognize the brand simply by its color palette. It’s like Coca-Cola’s white handwriting on a red background or the green Starbucks siren. They have put the effort into keeping their branding consistent across their Instagram account and effectively taken social media ownership of these tones within the beauty industry.

Glossier also made sure to always put its community above everything else. They continued to regularly engage with followers through the Instagram account. They still feature product users whenever they can, both in posts and in their Stories. This promotes a sense of community around Glossier and a feeling that anyone can be an influencer for the brand.

They turned fans into micro-influencers

Glossier has brilliantly utilized user-generated content (UGC) and turned many fans of the brand into micro-influencers who spread the word about its products online.


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A post shared by Glossier (@glossier)

Glossier generally reposts UGC through its Instagram account. It will share UGC that promotes new products that followers use in real life. The best UGC creators even get invited to become Instagram ambassadors for the brand. They get a unique promo code that gives them a percentage of a sale every time someone uses their specific code.

Glossier is also known for its “Top 5” Instagram Stories highlight. Each week, the brand finds five of the best UGC posts they’ve been tagged in, reposts them on their Instagram story, and files them under Highlights so people can go back to them later. This drives the sense of community, and anyone can partake using their Instagrammable Glossier content. It isn’t limited to famous Glossier users, of which there are many.

This word-of-mouth marketing tactic has worked wonders for the Glossier brand. A whopping 70% of their online sales and traffic come from peer-to-peer referrals, and 8% of those are linked to their Instagram ambassador efforts. These influencer marketing efforts have paid off in a major way and serve as a primary e-commerce revenue stream for the brand.

The brand’s ties to word-of-marketing go even deeper. According to Weiss, nearly 80% of Glossier’s customers are referred by a friend. Glossier buyers are very loyal to the brand and sing its praises to friends and family looking for products to integrate into their beauty routines.

Glossier marketing: Get to know your audience and build a community around them 

Glossier understands the beauty industry on an intimate level. A lot of that knowledge comes from taking a community-centric approach to their marketing strategy.

Everything they do results in feedback from their audience-product marketing, UGC for social media, and building relationships with brand ambassadors and micro-influencers all help to inform their approach. And, that feedback is crucial to their business model, letting them develop a brand identity that they know their customers crave.

Building a loyal customer base is much more than simply dropping hashtags on TikTok videos and calling it a day. The best thing you can do to manage your audience is to use a growth marketing tool.

Tools, like Extole, help you research strong candidates for influencer and brand ambassador programs. They also are designed to help you manage contracts, payouts, and special discounts to reward customers for loyalty. This not only helps you get new customers but also nurtures the ones you already have.

Schedule a demo to learn more.

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