Long-established legacy brands should do away with market studies and focus groups, says Glossier president and COO Henry Davis, and instead leverage digital technology to ask questions at scale.
Speaking on stage at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this week, he said instead of getting a handful of consumers in a room with double-mirrors, they should be creating “pockets of intimacy” with individuals or the subgroups they exist in online.
“In 2018 you have the ability to ask questions at scale.. By changing the channel you can change the offering to suit the consumer of today. So many legacy brands have gotten lazy on these channels and just keep reproducing… We’re seeing increasingly they’re realizing they need to know their customer.”
At the crux of the direct-to-consumer beauty brand’s success, is this focus on maintaining a continuous conversation with consumers from the get-go, he explained.
Since its inception as beauty blog Into the Gloss in 2012, founder Emily Weiss tapped into a fanbase to understand what elements would make a dream product – from consistency to color range. This helped inform the launch of Glossier and its first batch of cult products. It then quickly catapulted the brand as the one to watch among the Gen Z generation.
That collaborative nature now seeps into every consumer-facing aspect of the brand, from how well one of its products photographs, to what influencers it features on its popular Instagram feed, Davis explained.
Inspiration for new products or campaigns always come from an amalgamation of channels and references, but one of the first questions the brand asks itself, is: “If this was an Instagram post, what would the comments on it be?”
Content, Davis believes, should always ask a question, thus creating a “beautiful virtuous circle” to engage people with. The brand even does traditional outdoor advertising for that reason. The analog nature of a billboard, he explains, works perfectly for the brand because it targets younger consumers who themselves are content creators. Putting a billboard up is not the end of the project, but the beginning of a conversation – it allows fans to share it in their own way, he added.
Such is the importance of content – beyond the long-standing popularity of Into the Gloss and its Instagram page – that David said the next step is to vertically integrate the funnel of communications, which is currently owned by social media companies.
The only way to build a brand, he said, is to take it one step further and own more of the customer journey. Ultimately, he feels, the stronger the relationship, the stronger the loyalty. “Customers need to be stakeholders, they need to be a part of the creating of the product and eventually, sales,” he noted.
During the conversation, Davis also talked about how being a direct-to-consumer brand allows for the R&D team to work at its own pace, without the pressures or constraints of being rushed by a retail partner. This has the immense benefit of enabling the company to be more creative and make decisions based solely on the customer, he expained.
It is with that mindset that the brand has also opened its first retail store in Los Angeles, where a third of the space is dedicate to the “Canyon” room, an experiential space that replicates Arizona’s Antelope Canyon, complete with desert sounds that customers can immerse themselves in. This goes against the long-established brick-and-mortar rule of products per square footage but, as Davis said: “By not trying to sell things, you end up selling things.”