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Marie Suter’s Masterclass in Authentic Branding at Glossier

Building Authenticity and Community: Insights from Glossier’s Chief Creative Officer Marie Suter

By Mackenzie Richard

I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Marie Suter, the creative force behind Glossier. Known for its digital prowess and heartfelt community building, Glossier is redefining what it means to connect with customers in the luxury beauty industry. As Chief Creative Officer, Suter leads the brand’s holistic visual identity, encompassing everything from stickers and campaigns to product packaging and immersive store designs. Since joining Glossier in 2018, following her tenure as Creative Director at Teen Vogue and Allure, Suter has been instrumental in establishing Glossier’s role in the market with convention-disrupting campaigns and designs that attract a dedicated fandom.

In our conversation, Suter shared invaluable insights on how Glossier navigates digital marketing strategies, the trials of expansion, and the unwavering commitment to authenticity. Her approach to fostering a genuine connection with customers, balancing market trends with core brand values, and creating immersive store experiences offers a masterclass in maintaining brand integrity in the beauty industry. Here, Marie generously shares her insights, sprinkled with the kind of candor and wisdom that only comes from living at the intersection of creativity and commerce.

Leveraging Digital Marketing and Social Media:

At Glossier, the digital marketing strategy isn’t just about product promotion—it’s about creating a genuine human connection. “Our editors in store are the unsung heroes,” Marie begins, her voice brimming with admiration. “They foster community by understanding what our customers want, like, and dislike. This care is reflected in our campaigns, where we treat all participants—whether influencers, team members, or customers—as equals…

Marie Suter | Chief Creative Officer at Glossier

From a campaign, you might have a grantee from our grant program, an influencer who usually does our content, or someone we found on the street. Treating people as equals brings a sense of community and helps tell different stories.”

– Marie Suter, Chief Creative Officer at Glossier

Marie continued, “One of the first brand campaigns I worked on was ‘Feeling Like Glossier,’ where we featured an editor from the store as the star. We also had Paloma Elsesser, our first body hero, along with her sister. This continuity, where people are truly part of the whole process, not just a one-time shot, is what makes our approach unique.”

Building an authentic brand community involves deep, ongoing relationships with diverse participants, treating everyone as equals, and ensuring continuity in collaboration. This approach not only promotes products but also builds a loyal, engaged community through authentic connections and continuous collaboration.

Navigating market trends without selling your soul is a delicate art, one that Marie and her team seem to have mastered.

“We don’t follow trends strictly, especially in product development,” she says, with a tone suggesting both conviction and a hint of rebelliousness. “Our decisions are driven by what makes sense for our brand and community. We might consider a popular color if it aligns with our essence, but we avoid creating products just to fill market gaps.”

She elaborates, “It’s not just about doing what people expect because otherwise, you’re not an innovator. We’re doing what feels right for the brand and what the community wants. If there’s a popular color trend, we might explore it if it makes sense for us, but we won’t create something from scratch just because it’s trendy.”

Innovation should be guided by core brand values and community needs rather than fleeting market trends. By focusing on authenticity and what makes sense for the brand, Glossier ensures that it remains innovative and true to its essence, avoiding the pitfalls of merely following the crowd.

Expansion and Maintaining Brand Identity:

Glossier’s recent move into Sephora marks an exciting expansion of the brand’s horizons, driven by a strong customer demand for greater accessibility. “Expansion was driven by customer demand for accessibility,” Marie explains. “Our customers wanted more ways to experience Glossier, and partnering with Sephora allows us to meet them where they are.”

Marie enthusiastically shares the journey of this process: “Working with Sephora has been a wonderful opportunity for us to grow and learn. It’s been about finding the right balance between maintaining our unique brand presentation and embracing the broader reach that Sephora offers. They know how to do things well, and we have to listen and adapt while ensuring our products are represented authentically.”

Successful expansion, according to Marie, involves a harmonious blend of accessibility and brand integrity. Collaboration and mutual respect with partners like Sephora are essential, ensuring that Glossier’s essence remains intact while reaching a broader audience. “It’s about mutual respect with partners like Sephora,” she adds.

With this partnership, Glossier continues to uphold its core values, bringing its distinct brand identity to new customers and expanding its community in meaningful ways.

Experiential Marketing and Store Design:

Marie’s approach to store design is both methodical and inspired, reflecting local culture while ensuring each space feels uniquely Glossier. “Each store is designed based on local inspirations,” she says. “For instance, our Seattle store draws from nature. We aim to create spaces where customers can interact, learn, and feel part of the Glossier community.”

She elaborates, “Overall, every store is designed to make people feel welcome. They’re not just there for a transaction; they’re there to interact, learn, and communicate with others. We continually adapt based on what works in different locations—some stores love having a wet bar, while others don’t use it. It’s a mix of many things, and we keep learning.”

Creating immersive and welcoming store experiences involves understanding and integrating local culture and continuously adapting based on customer interactions. This thoughtful approach ensures that each store is not just a place for transactions but a hub for meaningful interactions.

Navigating Social Media Algorithms:

Controlling the narrative on social media is no small feat, particularly when algorithms seem designed to keep brands on their toes. “The algorithm always favors newness,” Marie notes with a knowing smile. “It impacts what we create and how we present it. Having clear brand guardrails helps us maintain our identity while experimenting with new formats.”

She emphasizes, “There are a few things that make a Glossier image distinct—design, product photography, and the inclusion of diverse voices. It’s about having clear guardrails and knowing the areas where we can experiment without losing our core identity.”

Maintaining a strong brand foundation and clear identity is crucial in navigating the ever-changing landscape of social media algorithms. By balancing consistency with experimentation, Glossier ensures that its brand remains authentic and recognizable.

Engaging Younger Consumers and Creating Community:

Glossier has a knack for making Gen Z feel right at home, even without a purchase. Marie emphasizes the importance of staying true to the brand’s community-focused origins. “From the beginning, Glossier was created as a community,” she says. “We involve our customers in the brand experience through thoughtful gestures like gifting, packaging, and exclusive merchandise.”

She adds, “What people say they want is not always what they truly need, but it’s about showing up authentically and making them feel seen and valued. We innovate while staying true to our community-focused roots.”

Inclusivity and community-building are central to engaging younger consumers. Through authenticity and thoughtful engagement, Glossier fosters strong brand loyalty and a sense of belonging among its customers.

Reflecting on Campaign Successes and Creative Process:

Marie’s reflections on Glossier’s campaigns reveal a deep commitment to authenticity and representation. “One of our powerful campaigns was Body Hero during the pandemic,” she recalls. “We let WNBA players tell their stories authentically. It was a celebration of inclusivity and representation.”

She shares the emotional impact of these campaigns: “Seeing people who were part of these campaigns taking photos in front of their own images was incredibly powerful. It’s about showing real beauty and real stories without having to call it out explicitly.”

Authentic representation and real stories resonate deeply with audiences. To Glossier, successful campaigns are rooted in genuine connections and inclusivity, reflecting the true essence of the brand.

Marie Suter’s insights are a masterclass in balancing authenticity, community, and innovation in the luxury beauty industry. Glossier’s strategies—leveraging digital marketing, maintaining core values amidst trends, thoughtful expansion, immersive store experiences, and authentic engagement with younger consumers—offer valuable lessons for luxury brands. By staying true to its ethos while adapting to market changes, Glossier continues to set a benchmark for building meaningful connections in the beauty industry.

In a world of fleeting trends and fickle algorithms, Glossier’s steadfast commitment to authenticity and community is a refreshing reminder that sometimes, the best way forward is to stay true to who you are.

*We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the SCAD team for hosting SCADstyle 2024, where the insightful talk “Revamp the Lifestyle Brand” featured Glossier’s Marie Suter and amika’s Matthew Stetson. Their discussion on “Beauty Ritual: The New Chemistry of Branding” provided invaluable insights into transforming products and ideas into vibrant lifestyle brands. Marie Suter and Matthew Stetson shared their wisdom on branding, industry trends, and the essence of defining success on one’s own terms. This event has not only enriched our understanding but also inspired us to think differently about brand authenticity and community building. Thank you, SCAD, for facilitating this enlightening exchange of ideas.