July 16, 2021

How Goop Used Community To Create A Wellness Empire

by Cory Schröder
Goop Deep Dive Thumbnail

From psychic vampire repellent spray to 24k gold playing cards, Goop offers a wide, rather eclectic range of products.

The luxurious, the mysterious, the downright odd — you can have it all for the low, low price of… wait. Scratch that, not a single one of the prices on this site is reasonable.

However, that doesn’t mean the brand isn’t successful.

Goop — spearheaded by actress turned wellness guru Gwyneth Paltrow — has been sharing its highly specific and eccentric aesthetic with people all over the world since 2008. But what is Goop, really?

Is it a wellness company? A peddler of the luxury lifestyle? A mixture of both high-quality and borderline insane products? Yes, yes, and yes.

Above all, Goop is a brand. Whether it’s selling golden vibrator necklaces or to-go coffee enemas, the brand identity is consistent. From the messaging to imagery, Gwyneth and her fellow Goop-ies know exactly what they’re doing: creating a community.

So, what can you learn from Goop? This article will take a deep dive into the brand’s journey to success and the controversy it’s encountered along the way — as well as provide some tips you can use when building your own brand.

Where Did Goop Come From?

Source: NYTimes

Gwyneth’s Goop empire grew from humble beginnings — namely, a weekly e-newsletter offering “new age” advice on health and wellness.

Early-days-Goop encouraged readers to “Nourish the Inner Aspect”, and each newsletter came with an editor’s note from Gwyneth herself, offering insight into her daily life and routines. People ate it up.

By 2011, Goop was incorporated — now with a website and an eCommerce angle. Over the next few years, Goop collaborated with exclusive fashion brands, launched pop-up shops, started a print magazine, and even hosted its own “wellness summit” — which customers could take part in for the meager price of $500.

Everything was looking up.

However, around 2014 doctors began to note that Goop’s “wellness” content had become increasingly radical — moving in the direction of what some called pseudoscience. The New York Times even claimed that Goop’s content was “no longer ludicrous — no, now it was dangerous.”

From potentially hazardous “snake oil” vaginal steaming to the wearable “Body Vibes” sticker which falsely claimed to “rebalance the energy frequency of our bodies”, Goop has promoted many unverified, untested remedies and products.

In 2017, Truth in Advertising, an independent advertising watchdog, even filed a legal complaint with California regulators citing over 50 health claims made by Goop. The results were a $145,000 settlement and a five-year injunction that prohibited the company from making “unsubstantiated, and therefore deceptive health and disease-treatment” claims about the benefits of its products.

To prevent any further issues, all blog articles on Goop now come with a disclaimer at the end, which states:

“This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.”

While Goop is covering its legal bases here, thousands of people all over the world love the brand and are still highly influenced by it — which leads us to the next section.

Why Are People So Critical of Goop?

Source: NYTimes

Dangerous products are not the only criticisms that Goop has faced.

The wellness brand has also faced critique for its incredibly expensive and “out of touch” product recommendations — which Gwyneth herself defended, stating they were “aspirational” — as well as its controversial marketing strategy.

In an article for Jezebel, Stassa Edwards pointed to Goop’s marketing strategy and claimed that it “profits from endless illness.” Doesn’t really fit into the whole “wellness” theme, does it?

By focusing heavily on traditional Eastern medicinal philosophies, Goop frames its wellness products as “healing agents (...) supposedly untapped by Western doctors who refuse to see their potential” — meaning, they are “almost magical approaches to nearly any disease or disorder.”

Brand analyst Jill Avery also weighed in on the situation, making astute observations about the way Goop handles almost all criticism — with a clever change of narrative and a focus on community.

When faced with a critique, they double-down on their “open-minded” worldview, leaning into their brand identity and using the situation to “draw their customer closer.” Avery further stated that Goop’s response to such criticism evokes:

“themes from feminism, Eastern medicines and philosophies, and anti-establishment politics to incite (Paltrow’s) consumers to action: to make them feel as if they are under attack, to reassure them that their ideology will be supported by Goop, and to arm them with arguments to help them defend themselves.”

Furthermore, Gywneth and her team seem to enjoy the “cultural firestorms” such scandals create, which only end up drawing in more potential customers. All press is good press, right?

Essentially, Goop has succeeded in identifying an extremely open-minded (some would say vulnerable) target audience, who are looking for a supportive community and, therefore, are more than receptive to all her wellness remedies. For one reason or another, traditional Western medicine has failed them and they’re seeking a new source of truth.

Enter Gwyneth and the Goop empire — all too happy to sell them expensive, unverified products laden with disclaimers.

Still, Goop has managed to create a brand empire. Most recently valued at $250 million, the company is extremely influential. They’re masters at generating controversial content to gain attention and spinning criticism to further strengthen their brand image.

So, what can you take away from Goop’s brand strategy?

What Can You Learn From Goop’s Success?

Source: Vanity Fair

Goop has built a cult of eccentricity and luxury around their muse and leader — the “internet’s kooky rich aunt” — Gywneth Paltrow.

She’s beautiful, healthy, wealthy, and more than willing to share all her secrets to success. Whether or not a rose quartz yoni egg will also help you achieve your dreams is up to you.

So — questionable methods aside — why has Goop been successful, and what can you learn from this brand?

1. Identify & Address Your Target Audiences’ Concerns

Source: Goop

While some health and luxury brands focus quite openly on making customers feel unworthy, Goop spends more time delving into, assuaging, and subsequently monetizing consumers’ curiosities, worries, and concerns.

Goop’s target audience is looking for answers they haven’t been able to find anywhere else and is dazzled by the brand’s sleek image and eye-opening content. Goop knows what their readers want and it gives it to them in spades.

While some may claim that the way Goop goes about this process borders on unethical — nevertheless, it does work for the brand.

Should you wish to apply this approach to your own brand, keep in mind: successful brands are the ones that provide solutions to consumers’ problems. (Ideally, trustworthy, safe solutions.)

2. Make Suggestions, Don’t Coerce

Source: Goop

Somehow, whether you’re exploring Goop’s articles or taking “a peek inside GP’s shopping cart”, a certain feeling follows you.

Goop is guiding, suggesting, and showing — but never forcing or coercing.

After a few hours exploring the site, you find yourself slowly getting sucked into the Goop universe — questioning the truth behind modern science and warming to her alternative remedies. It’s like falling into digital quicksand.

But because of the way Goop communicates with its readers, they feel like they’re making their own decisions and not being forced into buying anything. All hail the power of suggestion.

How can you apply this principle? Don’t go straight for the hard sell. Take the time to explain how and why your brand can solve consumers’ issues and, then, suggest your product as the solution.

Trying to force modern consumers into buying your products or services via bullying or criticism won’t work.

3. Create A Community & Sprinkle in the Absurd

Source: Goop

Gwyneth herself has admitted that certain products are released with the goal of creating “cultural firestorms”. These products bring an influx of traffic to the site — with the end goal being to “monetize those eyeballs”.

While it may not be the most above-board approach, it is effective.

To be fair, Goop does sell some great (albeit expensive) products. Sure, they have the eccentric outliers that are used to bring attention to the brand, but as a whole, Goop has built an incredibly strong brand identity surrounding alternative approaches to health and wellness.

This, in turn, fosters impressive brand loyalty. Goop has created a community for its customers. A place where they can discuss their issues openly with like-minded individuals. This creates an incredibly intoxicating allure — one many consumers are likely to indulge in.

How can you use this approach? Create a community for your consumers. A place where they can gather knowledge about your industry and connect with other people who have the same issues and interests.

4. Slowly Integrate Your Own Product Lines

Goop started out peddling products and services from a variety of bespoke, luxury brands. However, as time went on and the brand’s own success grew, new Goop-brand product lines began to emerge.

From a partnership with Juice Beauty (Goop by Juice Beauty) to its own fashion line (Goop Label) to selling vitamins and supplements (Goop Wellness), Goop has been slowly and consistently expanding its product reach.

Though the website still sells products of a similar nature from other brands, each new Goop product line was released and integrated in a strategic fashion.

So, if you want to release your own product line, make sure you do so in an organized, well-thought-out manner. This way, you don’t overwhelm consumers and make them feel forced into buying from your brand — everyone likes choice.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, whether or not you like Goop doesn’t really matter — the brand has been incredibly successful. They know who their target audience is, what they want, and how to communicate with them.

They also know how to spin criticism and media attention in order to deepen their connection with customers. And based on recent valuation, they aren’t going anywhere but up.

So, what’s the truth about Goop? Well, it isn’t always backed by science, it’s sometimes controversial, but — gosh — if it isn’t effective.

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