DIP 003: Community #goals

Plus: Kith x Estée Lauder, Bonobos for women, and garbage pesto

👋 Hi. It’s Thursday. I took 20mg of CBD in the form of two Not Pot gummies before a dentist appointment yesterday and now firmly believe that all dentists should offer CBD before cleanings.

The Chips 🏓


The Dip 🤖

I’ve been thinking a lot about community in the context of brands. Specifically, aspirational lifestyle brands

Glossier Play

DIP 001 dug into the way that brands tease products on Instagram and specifically referenced Glossier Play. For about a week and a half, Glossier posted stills, GIFs, and videos that illustrated texture and encapsulated a very particular #mood (think Studio 54 meets kirakira with a dash of Nick Knight).

Then it launched to some very favorable press from Fast Company, Business of Fashion, WSJ, and Vox, as well as a bit of criticism because the sparkles used in Glitter Gelée are not biodegradable.

What I can’t fully grasp is why Glossier is referring to this as a separate brand rather than a collection under the Glossier umbrella. It’s true that Play’s vibe is distinct, but the product families are not exclusive to each other. After all, shortly before Play was announced, Glossier conveniently launched Milky Oil: "the ultimate waterproof makeup remover" that's "optimized for targeted application on eyes and lips."

Glossier’s core products are about a barely-there look that you can’t screw up, and Glossier Play is anything but. It’s for people who “get” makeup. So is it an acquisition play, or a means of deepening an existing relationship? My guess is that it’s the latter.

With this in mind, and in thinking about Glossier’s forthcoming social network, I’m wondering if there’s a risk in putting too much emphasis on community. Yes, brands want to own the conversation. But by creating products that are less accessible, and by drawing customers onto a private platform, does the community become too difficult to penetrate, too insider-y?

Outdoor Voices

Jia Tolentino’s writing is a gift, and her feature on Outdoor Voices in The New Yorker is no exception. (See: "Am I taking care of myself, doing sun salutations in my motivational crop top, or am I running survival drills for life under an advanced capitalist economy? The answer, I’m sure, is both.)

Outdoor Voices’ aspirational point of view is a primary focus of the story. Tolentino serves as a curious, if skeptical, outsider: she doesn’t explicitly aspire to be what Outdoor Voices is selling.

While delightfully snarky, Tolentino also surfaces details about Outdoor Voices’ perspective on community. There are plans to make the brand’s internal recreation-tracking app public and build photo sharing into it, “further blurring the line between brand fan and brand ambassador.”

But what grabbed me most was this bit from Haney:

"What I get really excited about is decoupling community growth from product revenue,” she said, meaning that she wanted people to become connected to Outdoor Voices without buying anything, yet. “How do we grow a Doing Things community that could be ten times what revenues are,” she went on, “and then, over time, we understand the correct way to get them into product?”

That’s the opposite of what Glossier is looking to do.

Outdoor Voices is looking to bring people into the fold by first having them fall in love with pop-up Zumba classes and dog jogs (the brand’s ideology), and then guiding them toward crop tops and matching leggings (the physical manifestations of that ideology). Glossier, on the other hand, is product-led and community-driven: its community is built upon a shared love of product.

It’s true that in both instances, the community would not exist without the product. But I wonder if these differing approaches to community will inform how accessible each brand — and its network — becomes.

Your Better Self

By engaging with lifestyle brands, we entertain the possibility of becoming something more than what we are today.

Community is a self-perpetuating engine within that.

Think of Tupperware parties. People would gather to ogle food storage containers and invest in a more organized future. In the case of Outer, it’s the possibility that you, too, might become someone who hosts chill backyard hangouts with your neighbors. If only you had the right furniture…

It makes sense. As humans, we tend to seek more, different, better.

But there’s an underlying risk here. In hinting at the possibility of a better self, these brands are tacitly catering to insecurities. (The irony here is that marketing to insecurities is exactly what many of these brands set out to combat.) As their communities grow, and if they grow more insular, there’s a risk that that will only become more true.

Counterpoint:
  • The Sill recently launched a touchingly wholesome forum that (in a roundabout way) allows us to bare our vulnerabilities and acknowledge our shortcomings.


Real Dip 🗑

Garbage pesto.

Two rules: one, the greens have to be scraps (think: carrot tops, broccoli stems, a rogue scallion); two, no measuring.

Put one garlic clove (two if you want the pesto to ✨linger✨), your greens, juice from half a lemon, a couple of large pinches of salt, shaved parm if you're feeling fancy, and nuts or seeds (I like almonds, pine nuts, or pumpkin seeds) in a food processor.

Pulse until everything is roughly chopped and sticks to the sides. Scrape it all down, pour some olive oil in there, and turn the food processor back on. Things should start to emulsify. If they don't, add more olive oil. Make your pesto as smooth or as chunky as you want it. Taste it. You’ll probably need more salt.

Thanks for snacking. Questions, comments, compliments? Hit reply and type to me.

— Emily 🐣