The 4Cs of the modern brand

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Glossier is one of the most successful beauty companies around. At one point, there were 10,000 people on a waitlist just for its lipstick. But before founder Emily Weiss landed $52 million in Series C funding, no one predicted anything like Glossier. In fact, 11 investors turned Weiss down.

Across industries, success is arguably more unpredictable than ever. Much of it is driven by social influence, or the effect people have on one another's decisions. Thanks to Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Pinterest we are more than ever exposed to one another's decisions when it comes to what to buy, wear, and like.

Glossier succeeded because it recognized that women enjoy sharing their beauty preferences, and gave them the tools to create content that enabled conversations around it. Glossier's value is not in the sheer scale of its user base, but rather in the interactions within it.

The quest for the next Glossier will remain elusive as long we fail to look beyond algorithms and toward social activity as the source of an online business' value.

This social activity revolves around one or more of these four c's: community, content, curation and collaborations. These elements impact how a company launches and markets its products and creates, captures and delivers value for its customers.


A retailer needs to encourage social connections among its customers. These social connections will become its primary source of value and the key driver of competitive advantage. Social connections work best when created around an audience's pre-existing passion, hobby or interest. High-design bicycle wear brand Rapha positions itself as a "vibrant ecosystem for road riders around the world." Its belief that cycling transforms lives translates into the series of local Rapha Cycling Clubs, where cycling enthusiasts can gather for events, rides and races, and to bond with others.


Content created by a retailer generates value even before a single product purchase or use of service. California-based fashion apparel brand Dôen creates social networks around its proprietary content. The brand prides itself in selling "thoughtfully designed clothing by women, for women." This is Dôen's value proposition, and it consistently delivers it through its product design, events and its blog Journal, where Dôen profiles the extraordinary stories of community members that others can have conversations around.


New customers can lower the value for a retailer's existing fanbase. Retailers need strong curation and personalization of the customer experience. In order to ensure that its products and services are relevant and valuable to its customers, Adidas introduced Creators Club, a membership program that gives customers access to exclusive events, products and special offers.


Ask what else your customers are wearing, reading, listening to, experiencing and talking about in addition to your products or services. A retailer's relevance is greater if it is culturally amplified. IKEA's collaboration with streetwear brand Off-White aims at designing an affordable furniture collection for millennials to help them create their first home. More importantly, it reflects the broader taste and aesthetics of their joint audience.

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