If you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you might not need SPF, and you might not be aware that SPF has become the new skincare staple — especially thanks to all the “get ready with me” and “my morning skincare routine” videos circulating on TikTok and Reels. And while the sunscreen category overall is extremely saturated, it’s only recently that brands have focused on producing formulas that don’t weigh the skin down with their consistency and make wearing sun protection fun (because let’s face it, self-care is fun).
We can’t discuss this shift in the category without an honorary mention of Supergoop!.
Supergoop! is making SPF “cool” with a mission to disrupt a sleepy category through innovation and differentiation. Founder Holly Thaggard set out to change the way the world looked at sunscreen, and to “deseasonalize” SPF – which she believes should be worn all year long (and she’s right, it should – go put on your daily SPF). For Thaggard, completely shifting the way people look at an entire product category and setting out to educate on the importance of sun safety through a product line was no easy feat, “It wasn’t like I was starting a handbag company and then having to convince women that they needed to carry a handbag every day…I was creating a skincare company with a foundation in SPF and having to convince everyone that they needed to wear SPF daily”.
Having launched in 2007, Supergoop! is not a “new” company per se. They worked to establish themselves and build their startup as a category killer before eventually expanding and prioritizing global growth. As a result of this, Supergoop! has become a household name, applied again and again, and has built a successful strategy for its sustainable growth through an innovative, high-quality product line, community-led growth strategy, and has expanded into the territory of being a lifestyle brand.
Let’s explore the steps they took to get there.
Quality Comes First
Holly Thaggard set out to create something no one else had before and spent a great amount of time researching ways to make this possible. There was an opportunity in the market to create something no one had before, innovative SPF products. And we’re not talking about tanning oils or a sunscreen face powder, we’re talking about something no one had seen or felt before.
Her initial goal was to formulate one great product, that’s it. As we know, the key to starting any successful company is to start small, do less, but deliver great value and a quality product. Supergoop! started by focusing on making one great formula. One. The task seems simple, but took an extended amount of time and research to accomplish: create a sunscreen formula that wasn’t anything you think of when you think of sunscreen – not goopy, sticky, and won’t leave your face with a white cast.
In addition to formulating a sunscreen that was opposite of everything a traditional sunscreen already was, Holly had noticed a larger growth shift in the natural cosmetics industry and wanted her products to follow suit. There was evidence that natural cosmetics were growing YoY and there was a demand at the time for SPF products that were not only effective but clean. Holly made this a priority as she set out to formulate.
SPF wasn’t by any means a new idea when Holly set out to validate her idea of the perfect sunscreen, but she wanted Supergoop! to be everything previous formulas weren’t and this was going to have to be done through unique formulations and branding. The history of SPF and sunscreen use may be less “historic” than you think. Back in the 1960s, cancer became more heavily linked to sun exposure, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that people were starting to apply the most advanced level of SPF, which was 15. It was in the 2000s when higher SPF sunscreen was more readily available and used by the general public. Bottom line, I’m glad I was born into a generation with sunscreen. This brief history lesson is all to say that in order to become a category killer in such a saturated SPF market that was seeking higher demand as the years went on, Supergoop! formulations had to be innovative and the branding needed to stand out amongst the crowd.
Not only did Holly know she needed to create a killer formula in order to shake up the sunscreen category, but she was also going to need to educate consumers on why this product mattered, and why it needed to be worn day after day. Educating consumers on the importance of SPF was going to help build her brand and form an identity, so she needed to keep that in mind as she continued to ideate.
As she continued to form this brand, she knew she could attract all different age groups to this product, and that there was always going to be a need for SPF. Holly took the necessary time to develop the right formula and research properly to build her brand. During this time she knew that Supergoop! was going to start with one strong product offering and be very clear and communicative on its value proposition. This is what would ultimately develop a strong sense of loyalty and community over time.
Disruption of a category calls for an educated consumer:
Supergoop! launched one product to start with, their Everyday Formula, which was not only formulated to be everything existing sunscreen was not but was also clean. When Supergoop! launched this product, it was the first chemical formula in the United States to ever debut without oxybenzone, parabens, or chemical fragrances. Since Supergoop!’s launch, clean and natural cosmetics have become a priority in the beauty and skincare space with a more educated consumer who wants to both understand what ingredients are being used in their skincare as well as how they work together. And bottom line – no one wants goopy white sunscreen showing on their face or body, at least I don’t.
After launching the first product, it was time to focus on educating consumers on the importance of wearing sunscreen daily, not just in the summer months. This was the main goal of the brand and the drive behind its innovation. Education was also Supergoop!’s way of defining and validating their value proposition. If consumers are going to wear SPF every day, it had to be something they wanted to apply every day, again and again. The validation stage is all about finding that product-market fit, and in order to do this education had to be at the forefront.
Making a quality product is one thing, but getting consumers to understand why is just as important. This can be applied to any brand and in any industry. Informing consumers on the value proposition and reinforcing that with a why in addition to social proof through various channels.
Daily use, year-round is at the heart of the Supergoop! brand and really has played a role in every move Holly Thaggard made as she scaled the brand. When she was making a deal with Sephora (which is a HUGE deal, by the way) to break into the retail space and expand the brand, they offered her a seasonal window to feature her products. Supergoop! on a retailer’s shelf year-round was a non-negotiable for Holly. Supergoop! stayed true to its mission and reinforced the everyday use mantra by only agreeing to be on Sephora’s retail shelf year round. So, they gave her 6 inches of space and told her to pick 2 products.
She wanted her display to look exactly the same in January as it did in July – the importance was to educate consumers on the value of purchasing sunscreen and wearing sunscreen all year. In addition, it speaks to the quality of the product rather than relying on the scope of the line. Educating consumers and staying true to the values of the brand was more important than taking the easiest route to get into a retailer – and any brand can learn from this. Growing through education and a display of authenticity all while building community is more sustainable than taking a shortcut to the biggest retailer.
Driving it home with UGC for Social Proof and Brand Recognition:
Education also feeds into the community through UGC, finding others who are passionate about sun safety, and who understand its importance. In addition, in the validation stage, it’s important to connect with consumers and build advocates for your brand. With the disruption of a new category, it’s extremely important to educate the consumer. Doing this can be done through influencer partnerships, UGC, and a carefully crafted social media and website presence. Supergoop! has always been passionate about forming the right partnerships with influencers. Not only that but ensuring that their partners are educated on the product and genuinely are passionate about it. Organic content is important for social proof and strong brand recognition.
Forming meaningful relationships with creator and influencer partners is worth the extra time and investment. Going beyond a transactional relationship with these partners to create genuine advocates and daily users is what Supergoop! has done with their influencer partners – and it worked. In skincare routines, beauty favorites, what’s in my carry-on, and more you’ll find various Supergoop! products being praised by the masses. Holly Thaggard fosters relationships with her influencer partners by “going to dinner with them, spending time helping them be my megaphone. Everything for me ladders up to our mission. If someone who has a large following can help be that megaphone for us, I certainly want to invite them to dinner and get to know him better”
These are a few of Supergoop!’s influencer partners who not only demonstrate how they use the products and how the products look on the skin, but they reiterate the importance of SPF and the value proposition at hand, which is how Supergoop! has formed such a strong brand recognition and community.
Influencers are your “megaphones” and they are your educators, so it’s important that they are well-versed and feel genuinely excited and interested in the products. Forming relationships with them can come in the form of influencer trips hosted by your brand or hosting events in a populated influencer city such as LA or NYC. Not only does this forming community among your brand and its influencers, but it is also the perfect playground to film and push organic content.
In addition, Supergoop! uses its consumer’s content as a growth loop in itself. The consumer buys the product, they then review the product or use it in their routines on TikTok or Instagram, Supergoop! then reposts this content to drive home social proof and contribute to authenticity. A new customer discovers this content and is inclined to buy. And repeat, again and again.
Expanding Advertising Mix and Pushing Prosperous Collabs
Supergoop! has really promoted exponential growth in the last few years and a large part of this is attributed to expanding its advertising mix in order to attract different demographics. They wanted to go beyond the millennial woman, and since they had already built a strong product offering and had their footing, they could now do so in a sustainable way. Supergoop! began to scale by stepping away from the advertising channels that they were more comfortable with and moved to more traditional mediums that attracted different audiences and generations. This included mediums such as print and out-of-home, as well as new social platforms they had yet to explore such as Twitch and Snapchat. These new advertising channels are aimed at acquiring men and older generations as customers. Expanding your reach is done through expanding your channels, and this is what Supergoop! slowly began to do in order to build out its brand.
The financial backing and investors that have signed on to support Supergoop! have also been instrumental in growth, which shows the importance of finding these right partners and understanding the influence this has on the growth of your brand in multiple different verticals.
Supergoop! has been around since 2007, and now is the time that fit the company to bring on a majority stakeholder, which is an indication that they are going to rapidly expand into a lifestyle brand because that is what they have slowly positioned themselves to be able to do.
Blackstone is currently the majority stakeholder of Supergoop!, the same private equity firm that has a majority stake in Bumble and also acquired Spanx in 2021- quite the portfolio if you ask me. The common denominator here? These are all companies with female leaders who boast extremely high growth potential. Not only this but fellow female founders who also work with Blackstone, Blakely of Spanx and Wolfe Herd of Bumble, invested in Supergoop! as well. The partnerships that are developed in the form of investors are another very important step to long-term growth. There is power in numbers, and women supporting women — win-win. Blackstone aims to accelerate their global growth, and we’ve already seen this with the brand beginning to lean into lifestyle, and expand its reach on a broader scale through brand collaborations.
Leaning into Lifestyle
Now that Supergoop! has gotten a solid footing based on its hyper-focused brand positioning as well as established trust and advocacy among consumers, they are evolving into a lifestyle brand. They are continuously offering new products and collaborations that are contributing to turning the brand experience into a lifestyle.
They’ve expanded their product line massively in 2022 so far alone, and have been able to do so because they have established that advocacy and trust through the time they took to build quality with their brand. From SPF cream eyeshadows to vitamin C and SPF serums, and more. Beyond this, Supergoop! is going even further by expanding its reach through carefully selected brand partnerships.
Gray Malin is a well-known photographer most known for his landscapes and outdoor scenes from Aspen to Palm Beach. Supergoop! collaborated with Gray to make packaging with his photography. An upscale photographer shooting outdoor scenes, where everyone should be wearing sunscreen – it makes sense. They also have a collaboration with sun scoop, an ice cream company. Limited-edition ice cream along with an ice cream truck traveling across the country during the summer months to hand out free ice cream and sunscreen samples. I can only imagine how long the line is in downtown NYC to get something free, but hey, it’s a great way to gain additional exposure and to capitalize on the busy summer months for sunscreen sales. It doesn’t stop there, you can also find collaborations with MZ Wallace, Minions, and Susan Alexandra.
In addition, they have been slowly ramping up their presence of pop-ups. They recently opened a pop-up in NYC where they are able to real-time educate their consumers and partners. They also have more temporary pop-ups called “The Sunshine Shack” that have found its way to popular events such as Gov Ball the music festival and even frequented ski destinations such as Aspen – reinforcing the idea that sunscreen should be worn anywhere and everywhere, year-round.
In a Nutshell…
Supergoop! set out to change a sleepy category and make SPF daily wear the new norm. Since being founded in 2007, Supergoop! has undergone some serious changes, and gained momentum with a killer growth strategy along the way. Success came in the form of patience, a quality product, and lots of education and social proof. Founder Holly Thaggard was careful to grow in a way that aligned with her mission: only allowing her SPF products to be on the shelf year round. While this may have slowed growth in the beginning stages of the company, it has proved to be successful as she has now scaled into a lifestyle brand with an extensive product line. Advocacy and trust through UGC was another way Supergoop! turned into a household name and category killer. They became something the general consumer didn’t know they needed every day, and it has changed the sunscreen market indefinitely.