Glossier Changes Packaging after Social Media Outcry

April 23, 2019

From the robin’s egg-blue boxes at Tiffany to Coca-Cola’s classic glass bottles, packaging has long played a role in the success of many well-known brands. In fact, it’s become even more important in today’s social media-driven business environment. Along with catching the eyes of passing shoppers in stores, a product’s packaging must also be bold enough to grab the attention of scrolling Instagram, YouTube, and Reddit users. In the last few years, these platforms have been flooded with “unboxing” videos where users film the removal of products from their packaging. Companies with unique or colorful packaging can stand out from the crowd, increasing both social media engagement and actual sales.

This type of viral marketing has been an enormous benefit to firms like Glossier, an online beauty startup founded in 2010. The company uses vibrant paper wrapping and adds cute stickers when it packages items like its Nightshade liquid highlighter and Vinylic Lip lacquer. Popular products like these along with decorative packaging have helped Glossier grow from a beauty blog to a company valued at more than $1.2 billion. But while the startup’s social media presence has been essential to its success, Glossier recently faced a firestorm of online criticism after perhaps going too far with its packaging.

The trouble began when customers received their first orders from Glossier Play, a sister brand to the company’s original lineup of products. While social media users had marveled at the Glossier unboxing experience in the past, this time they criticized the enormous amount of materials the company had packed into the box. For instance, some plastic products came covered in cardboard boxes that were then encased in foil wrappers. One Instagram user discovered that Glossier had included as much as four pieces of packaging for each product, a ratio that drew concern from many environmentally conscious fans. As a result, Glossier quickly took to social media and addressed these concerns. Along with agreeing to phase out the foil wrappers as well as its stickers, the company also announced that its packaging would soon be made out of 100 percent recycled materials. Glossier’s fast response spared the company from further social media scrutiny, but only time will tell if its greener packaging will have the same spellbinding effect on consumers.

Questions:

  1. Why did Glossier’s social media fan base recently criticize the company’s packaging practices? Do you think Glossier did a good job addressing these concerns?
  2. Do you think consumers could start to lose interest in Glossier if the company changes its packaging too much? Why or why not?

Sources: Katie Roof and Yuliya Chernova, “Glossier Tops Billion-Dollar Valuation With Latest Funding,” The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2019; Jessica L. Yarbrough, “Glossier Play’s Packaging Might Be Changing Soon — Here’s Why,” The Zoe Report, March 22, 2019.

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