Who's Influencing Who? Goop, Glossier and Why Size Doesn't Always Matter

It’s only a matter of time before ‘goop-y’ enters our day-to-day vocabulary, identifying the inane, the bonkers and the outrageously expensive. But also, of course, the highly aspirational. 

Goop’s transition from just a slightly onomatopoeic blog-name, to all-encompassing adjective for the lavish and vigorously healthy, has been a steady one. Goop is the purveyor of everything from vaginal steaming to $120,000, 18k gold dumbbells and was once understood simply as Gwyneth Paltrow’s elitist side project. 

"90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously and are therefore almost entirely driven by emotion rather than logic."

But Paltrow’s new position as a global authority on everything from health and wellness to lifestyle and lavish gifts, is rooted in the way the public perceives her. 90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously and are therefore almost entirely driven by emotion rather than logic. What does a person, or a brand, or a song, make you feel? The strength of a consumer’s emotional relationship with these things is based on their resonance with, and respect for, perceived emotional values. SoundOut BrandMatch is a powerful new product enabling brands to quantitatively benchmark their own core emotional values, against the actual consumer perception of those brand values. The power of BrandMatch isn’t limited to brands. The tool enables you to accurately measure the emotional brand values associated with any piece of media, be it a song, a video, a marketing message or celebrity. We ran Gwyneth Paltrow through our simple yet powerful BrandMatch tool. The resulting outputs identified that several hundred of the individuals on our SoundOut panel connect with Paltrow because she is cheerful, relaxed and trustworthy [1].  These are, of course, the central tenets underpinning the success of Goop. A company, which more than anything else, proposes that if you trust their extortionate hints and bourgeois tips, then maybe, just maybe, you might one day be inexplicably serene yet cheerful, just like goddess-in-chief Gwyneth.

In April, Goop announced that it was teaming up with Conde Nast to produce a quarterly print publication. The move from being Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website, to fully formed glossy entity, is a big one. One that wouldn’t be viable if Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t the enigmatic and aspirational figure that BrandMatch indicates. Any shiny-skinned, shiny-haired wellness advocate worth their salt (or lack thereof), has a website. But how many can lay claim to their own magazine, published and distributed by the legendary Conde Nast? 

The inaugural issue hit newsstands this September and is really, truly, peak goop-y. On the cover, Paltrow lies topless and smeared neck to toe in a vat of grey goop. Scrawled across her toned torso is a cheekily self-aware headline: “Earth to Gwyneth”. 

This latest development in the Goop brand is an interesting, and at first glance, backwards one. For the past decade industry experts have been declaring, with increasing volume, that Print Is Dead! The new wave of online bloggers and social media influencers are generally understood to be the ones who dealt the final blow to the already exposed and fragile heart of glossy women’s magazines. It’s print publications who are now all scrambling to curate slick online content, put out high quality email newsletters and craft follow-worthy Instagram feeds, all in an attempt to stay in vogue. The announcement of the Goop’s magazine has flipped the script, ushering in new opportunities for a symbiotic relationship between online blogs and publications. What Goop and Conde Nast have shown is that the two industries needn’t be engaged in a contentious power struggle. Rather, they can co-exist, each offering the other a much-needed boost.

This inverted journey, from new-age internet phenomenon to old school brick-and-mortar establishments is a fresh and increasingly lucrative one. In the wake of the 2008 financial crash, independent shops struggled and chains have reigned supreme. But over the past few years, the tide has begun to shift. In an increasingly crowded market, independent brands offer something fun, new, and original. Especially those that come already armed with a large and loyal online following.

Glossier is a prime example of this. A beauty empire that emerged from Emily Weiss’ cult blog Into The Gloss. With an established global audience of dedicated readers, Weiss went on to debut a beauty line, Glossier. These days, she's a leader in the beauty space and the CEO of a multi-million-dollar empire. Glossier instantly gained cult status and regularly sells out. If anything, the waiting lists are an intrinsic part of the brand. 

Glossier opened its first retail store in December. It’s unparalleled, a perfect millennial pink wonderland decked out with pastel plants and huge mirrors declaring ‘YOU LOOK GOOD’ in rosy Helvetica hues. The store is gorgeous, and an extension of Glossier’s Instagram aesthetic. It’s fun and it’s fresh and it highlights how effective an ‘influencer’ led business model can be for flagging industries. 

"The lines between celebrity and influencer, lifestyle blog and magazine, even Instagram feed and retail store, are becoming far less distinct."

What Goop and Glossier show, is that the lines between celebrity and influencer, lifestyle blog and magazine, even Instagram feed and retail store, are becoming far less distinct. There has been a marked shift in the ways that brands gain notoriety. Influencers and social media stars are every bit as impactful and profitable as the time-honoured celebrity. 

This raises a whole heap of questions. Who is the real authority? Who is it that we trust most to sell us lipstick or moisturiser or a new phone? Is an Instagram feed more powerful than a billboard? 

Where does the boundary lie between a celebrity and influencer? And why, indeed, does it matter? In a blog for Simply Measured, Lucy Hitz grapples with this very question and asks a number of industry insiders for their opinions. Ron Schott, Senior Communications Manager at Microsoft quips that “Social influencers don’t show up on TMZ.” He expands, explaining that “it’s a question of mass reach versus mass impact. Influencers carry weight in subjects. Celebs bring exposure”. Likewise, Matthew Knell, VP of Social and Platform Partnerships at About.com told Hitz that for him, “Influencer = self-built star, using social channels. Celebrity = built up by traditional channels”.

Knell’s definition is especially pertinent, as with both Goop and Glossier, what are understood as “traditional channels” overlap and intersect with increasing regularity. Traditionally, it was influencers who had the monopoly on the online space and celebrities who ruled more conventional avenues, such as magazines covers, billboards and brand collaborations. 

But now, a cursory scroll through your Instagram feed tells an altogether different story. Celebrities are regularly posting paid for #ads, promoting products in the exact same way as influencers. Conversely, glossy magazines have also dedicated issues to social media influencers. Glamour magazine, for example, now has an annual social influencer issue, featuring UK blogger Tanya Burr on their cover in 2015. This is a coveted space, ordinarily reserved for actors, singers, models and whoever else might show up on TMZ. So really, what is the difference between a celebrity and an influencer? And when it comes to advertising and empire building- who is more powerful? 

Influencers garner trust from their followers and their endorsement of a product is interactive. Whereas a celebrity endorsement is not. You can’t simply send Natalie Portman a DM on Instagram, asking if the Miss Dior scent lasts all day or does it need regular top-ups?  The close relationship between influencers and consumers is built upon trust. Their power lies in the ability to influence through authenticity and honesty. Influencers promoting products are often knowledgeable in that field, whereas celebrity endorsements tend to be a little more obtuse. Influencer marketing platform MuseFind confirms this, showing that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. One key example of the power that influencer authenticity breeds is the partnership between YouTuber and videographer Casey Neistat and Samsung. 

The electronic giant's relationship with Neistat - a YouTuber with 7.8 million subscribers and a combined 3.5 million on Facebook and Instagram-  goes well beyond the typical promotional briefs. He doesn't just front their campaigns. He creates full, high quality, videos on YouTube, exclusively using Samsung's products. As The Drum recently reported, “Samsung is working to a new marketing 'playbook', which aims to humanize the brand by positioning its technology as enabling and empowering authentic creatives and makers”. 

In 2017, we exist in an entirely digital age. The way we communicate has shifted dramatically over the past decade and so have ideas of authenticity and honesty in advertising. For a hot second, a few years ago, sponsored social media posts by influencers with millions of devoted followers were a brave new territory. But now, Instagram is no longer the destination of Guerrilla marketing and followers are well aware of the inauthenticity of #sponsored #ads. Branded social media content is really, no different to plastering Johnny Depp’s face on a massive billboard. Hence why ventures which combine the fruits of both the old-school and the new-fangled are so effective. Goop becoming a magazine might have been seen as a step backwards eighteen months ago, and perhaps it may be? Only time will tell. But when it comes to who we trust to sell us stuff, the landscape is increasingly changeable.

Trying to trick consumers just isn’t viable anymore. That’s why  SoundOut BrandMatch is such an innovative and valuable tool. BrandMatch succinctly demonstrates just how effectively an influencer or celebrity embodies the emotional values and positioning of a brand. Equally, BrandMatch will bring light to any potential misalignment, sorting the wheat from the chaff and re-centring authenticity and nuance in steadily more bloated arena. 

Copyright © 2017. Tiffany Amuah

[1] SoundOut BrandMatch is underpinned by rigorous academic methodologies (Asmus 1989/Aaker 1997/Müllensiefen 2014), re-engineered via machine learning technologies and now automated within the SoundOut platform and powered by our 2m strong consumer community. Starting with over 100 carefully selected adjectives, over a 12 month period, calibration was achieved by testing hundreds of brands and media with hundreds of thousands of consumers and then, using principal component analysis and variable reduction techniques, we statistically identified the 12 adjectives that captured over 95% of the emotional variance of any brand. The process also calculated the appropriate weighting for each word and the complex matrix interrelationships between them.

The result is a uniquely powerful quantitative tool that is increasingly being used by leading branding agencies and FMCG businesses.

Copyright SoundOut 2019