For Better or Worse, Goop’s Content Chief Is Building a Brand that ‘Drives People Crazy’

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Goop chief content officer Elise Loehnen knows that fans and critics alike are watching the company’s every move.

Part of it comes with the brand’s founder, Gwyneth Paltrow, the kind of A-list celebrity who inevitably draws constant coverage in entertainment media. And part of it comes with the kind of wellness advice Goop explores across its suite of media properties, which has been called everything from “courageous” to “dangerous.”

At Adweek’s annual Challenger Brands Summit in New York on Thursday, Loehnen, our Brandweek cover star, said the attention has helped the brand find resonance with its millions of fans.

“When we do things, people tend to notice—probably in an extreme way,” Loehnen told Adweek deputy brand editor Diana Pearl. “We’re very interesting to people, and we’ve managed to sustain that, which is shocking to me, for a decade.”

Sometimes the Goop team sees a product that delights them, but when it arrives on the site takes on a life of its own. That was the case with a now-infamous “This Smells Like My Vagina” candle, which went viral after being listed for sale in the company’s store, and has become difficult for the company to keep in stock.

“We had that candle at an indie pop-up event in San Francisco, and I was like, ‘This is so funny,’” Loehnen said. “We sold out. … Then we ordered them for the site, and I think we all forgot about it. And then someone—I think The Cut—found it. That’s typically what happens; we don’t try to get press on it. And then it became this massive viral sensation.”

That cycle of attention is a somewhat regular product cycle for Goop, Loehnen said. (And the candle, she says, smells “beautiful.”)

“It was something that we thought was kind of subversive and funny, and then it’s become a major statement, which I think is really powerful,” Loehnen explained. “It’s just a good example of pointing attention to this thing that drives people crazy.”

After settling a lawsuit over unsubstantiated medical claims on its site, Goop has since “buttoned up” its framing around alternative therapies, Loehnen said, focusing on the research behind some of the wellness activities it explores. The company’s recent endeavor, a six-part docuseries on Netflix called The Goop Lab, immediately made waves with its provocative show art, and has since been met with another wave of attention.

An episode of The Goop Lab dealt with energy healing, selected because the team believed they “needed to do Goop, and do something that would make people go crazy,” Loehnen said.

While the company has grown considerably—from four people “working in [Paltrow’s] backyard” to 250 staffers in 2020—the company hasn’t siloed off its content operations, which Loehnen said helps keep the brand’s tone and messaging consistent.

“We don’t have a branded content team. We don’t have an ecommerce team that writes product copy or styles ecommerce,” Loehnen said. “It all comes out of my team, the content team. So people who are styling ecommerce are also styling fashion editorial, the beauty team writes all the product copy. … We want to make sure everything feels like part of the brand.”

Goop has also largely side-stepped customization efforts.

“We have the capacity to personalize, but we haven’t done it yet,” Loehnen said. “We don’t hand-code the emails from scratch, but almost. Gwyneth approves every email. It’s hard for us to break that habit.”

Paltrow’s hands-on involvement is what Loehnen credits for the longevity of the brand.

“I think that the reason [Goop] has endured is that Gwyneth is really tireless, and the brand jut comes out of her,” Loehnen said. “It just does. She creates what she wants in her own life.”

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