The Goop Phenomenon: Does Integrity in Business Matter Anymore?
In 2008, megastar and Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow launched a website in somewhat of a blog format known as Goop. At the time of its release, it had a seemingly innocent plot – it was just simply a spot on the Web for Paltrow’s friends, family, and fans to gander at what her interests were, what her daily life was like, and the things she generally was interested in.
Seemingly innocent though it was, as Paltrow began to recommend certain brands that she liked to use, such as everything from face cream to kids’ pajamas, the brands began to see a spike in interest and sales. At this juncture, a business – and not a celebrity blog – was born.
Fundamentally from the beginning of celebrities have also been celebrity endorsements. Whether it is a commercial on television, or an ad in a magazine, or maybe even an infomercial hosted by a celebrity that time forgot, celebrities are constantly endorsing products, and getting paid for it. The idea behind Goop and its business model is much, much different, especially now that other celebrities have begun to take Paltrow’s lead.
The Difference Between Endorsements and Goop
The difference between regular, run of the mill celebrity endorsements and the machine that now runs Goop is the seemingly innocent and intrinsic way that this all began. Instead of keeping the website/blog as a way to connect with fans and to swap stories and ideas, Paltrow saw the hold she had on her audience, how this could help affect sales for her, and how it could benefit the brands she uses. At this point, we have to wonder if the launching of the website was that innocent at all.
Why Does This Lack Integrity?
Paltrow has been so harshly criticized for several reasons. Her sudden rush to fame as a lifestyle guru (reminiscent of Martha Stewart) was based solely on her popularity as an actress and public figure. Keep in mind that she has no real authority to tell consumers which diet is best, or which face cream to use. She holds no dietician or dermatology degrees. Many people see this company as a very cold and calculated move, and just another ecommerce machine. If you visit Goop.com now, six years after its launching, it is a retail site through and through. What began as a way for a popular actress to interact with fans has now caused audiences to believe she is an apparent authority on lifestyles, and in essence she has just become another capitalist venture like so many others in Hollywood. Most people wouldn’t have minded if it were a straightforward sales site from day one. Like many others, she could have easily registered her domain name and created an ecommerce site, using a service, such as Your Company Formations Ltd.
The End Result of Goop
At the end of 2013, Goop was deeply in debt, and many of those who had criticized the venture for years cried “karma.” Is that the issue, or is it simply that the franchise was mismanaged from the top down, and should have been what it began as? By the end of 2014, a new CEO was appointed to help get the website and the company out of debt – and the company and its ventures have fallen out of the headlines quite a bit in the two years following. If this venture had been born as a true startup company with a clear strategy, it’s likely the financial problems would be less.
How could this venture have been handled better? Some say that celebrities have as much of a right as the next person to endorse or recommend products, and to capitalize on their fan base and followers. If Paltrow would have turned what was truly passionate to her into a business, perhaps there would have been better results, but it’s tough to believe she’s passionate about fad diets and face creams. What perhaps angered many was the abrupt switch from lifestyle newsletter, where Gwyneth was selling out recipes via a mailing list, to an e-retailer that hung on the last word of Paltrow’s every recommendation. There is not a lack of integrity in forming a business, a franchise or a partnership, but many felt that forming a following and a fan base for the sole purpose of creating an ecommerce conglomerate after the fact – was misleading.
So, movie and music stars, Twitter aficionados, and darlings of social media take heed – if you’re going to build a business, build a business. If you’re going to build a following, build a following – but don’t build a following for the sole purpose of business, especially when you’ve labeled that business as a fun newsletter to send to fans and friends.