Before news broke that Glossier had laid off 80 employees in late January – representing nearly a third of its corporate workforce and the bulk of its tech staff – the minimalist DTC beauty brand appeared to be riding high.
Just six months earlier, the company that began as a spin-off from founder Emily Weiss’s popular beauty blog Into The Gloss had scored $80 million in a Series E round. At the time the brand touted its success and its 5 million strong customer base, noting that two out of every five women between the ages of 18 and 34 had heard of Glossier and boasting an increase in year-over-year sales across all product categories in 2020 despite the closure of all its retail locations early in the pandemic.
But trouble was brewing at Glossier just beneath the dewy, millennial pink surface, and the signs were there. Some of the indications that Glossier was falling from its perch as a Gen-Z and millennial favorite were loud and public. The brand, which had long drawn complaints that its options for women of color were limited, faced allegations of racism and a toxic work culture from anonymous former retail employees on the dedicated Instagram account Outta The Gloss. The account got significant media attention and urged a boycott in the summer of 2020. The company acknowledged the accusations but never agreed to meet the group’s demands. Though the account has been dormant since December 2020, the brand’s aspirational, feminist image took a significant hit.
But other clues were subtler, including hints that the digital native brand and one-time social media darling was losing its shine in the social sphere as what was once a groundbreaking company started to look like it was stuck in the past. Using social media data collected by Thinknum, we tracked down the cues that the company was in trouble, and the signals that it likely still is. Here’s what we found.
In its early days, Glossier dominated Instagram. Thanks to the built-in fanbase of Weiss’s 1 million blog readers, the company, which reimagined makeup marketing for the digital age and thrived off organic #glossier posts, quickly appeared in the feeds of the everyday beauty aficionados who were its early users and celebrities alike.
The brand’s unmistakable aesthetic of “no makeup makeup,” glowing skin and prominent brows, along with its sleek white and millennial pink packaging, seemed to be everywhere. Influencers happily showed off their purchases with inescapable pictures of the brand’s signature pink pouches and stickers.
But lately? Its following has been flagging on the platform where Glossier made a name for itself.
The brand’s follower count was steadily growing toward in early 2020, but over the summer, as the Outta the Gloss controversy shined a negative spotlight on Glossier, it plateaued at about 2.86 million followers. It hovered there for a while, and then it started to slump. The data shows the brand’s number of followers has been on a fairly steady decline ever since, and it was down to 2.69 million followers as of the end of January.
Twitter may be less integral to Glossier’s visuals-driven marketing success than Instagram, but the platform is another place where it looks like interest in Glossier is beginning to wane.
Similar to its performance on Instagram, Glossier initially enjoyed a steady upward trajectory in Twitter followers as it gained devotees for its cult favorite products like Boy Brow and Balm Dotcom. The brand’s followers grew from just under 40,000 followers in July of 2017 to 107,000 followers in June of 2020. But once again as the brand started seeing negative press that summer, it hit a wall and hasn’t resumed significant growth since. It did climb slightly higher to around 108,000 followers at its peak and held onto those followers during parts of 2021, before ultimately ducking back down. Currently, Glossier’s follower count stands at 106,800.
At least some Twitter users seem to have been standing by waiting to pounce on the brand's missteps. The layoffs prompted a number of tweets from self-professed Glossier customers (or former customers) saying they weren’t surprised. “As trends changed [G]lossier didn’t keep up,” tweeted one user who identifies herself as a makeup artist. “I kept expecting more from the brand and they just…did the same thing over and over.” Another said that if Glossier wants to stand a chance, the brand is “going to have to work really hard to bring back support of POC.” And one tweeter summed things up simply as “Nobody wants the Glossier look anymore!”
As early as October, the writing was on the wall in terms of where the company was headed. Glossier’s hiring massively dropped around that time, according to job listing data collected by Thinknum. After a year of steady increases in job postings, the number tumbled from 50 open positions on Sept. 1 to just 10 on Nov. 11. That activity has not recovered as of yet.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.