Watermelon Glow and Strawberry Glaze: How Glow Recipe and Erewhon Win With Influencer Marketing (HBBIP #9)

Alex Rawitz
Alex Rawitz
Nov 16, 2023

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Over these past eight weeks, our newsletter has covered some of the biggest names and hottest brands in the world. Everyone from Taylor Swift to Kim Kardashian to MrBeast to Rick Ross has received the HBBIP treatment—it’s pretty much what made them famous. If you haven’t been covered yet, time to fire your publicist.

This week, we took a look at a titan in the skincare space: Glow Recipe. Since launching in 2014, this Korean Beauty-inspired, Shark Tank-approved, SkinTok-beloved brand has rocketed to the top of the industry. So what’s their secret ingredient—the recipe behind this glow-up, if you will? (I’ll understand if you won’t.)

Let’s dive into the data and find out.

Setting the Stage

Take a trip with me back to 2018. God’s Plan by Drake ruled the Billboard Hot 100. The Royal Wedding between Harry and Meghan captured hearts around the world, and things presumably turned out great in the end. Most importantly, the No. 1 skincare brand in the U.S. by EMV was Tatcha, with $104.6M EMV.

Glow Recipe? They were all way down at No. 33, with $15.1M EMV.

CreatorIQ Data Analytics for 2018 Skincare Brands by EMV with Tatcha leadingGlow Recipe and other Top Skincare Brands in 2018

So yeah, there was a bit of ground to cover. But even back then—indeed, from the day it was founded in 2014—Glow Recipe had several things going for it:

  • Product Quality

In skincare, only the finest products survive. Skincare creators and consumers are a highly informed army of connoisseurs, eager to crown new favorites and depose pretenders to the throne. Glow Recipe’s focus on quality helped set its products apart amid a competitive field.

  • Favorable Trendlines

You know, a newsletter might be funny (key word might), but if it doesn’t provide any valuable insights, then it’s not really worth your time. In the same way, you can have the world’s best product, but if you can’t weave a compelling story, then it’s just going to gather dust. Thankfully, Glow Recipe savvily capitalized on a rising interest in K-Beauty, anticipating a broader industry shift toward skincare products that complement consumers’ makeup usage.

  • Community-First Growth Strategy

Guess what, folks? You can have a great product and favorable trendlines and still not win—it’s a cruel world. The final piece of the puzzle is making sure that you’re continually investing in your creator community, and prioritizing organic creator relationships. That’s what brand founders Sarah Lee and Christine Chang preached to us all the way back in June 2020, when they were guests on Episode 5 (can you believe it?) of our Earned Podcast.

Well, both Glow Recipe and Earned have done some serious growing since June 2020. Let’s go to the charts:

How Glow Recipe has grown by EMV since 2017Glow Recipe EMV Growth from 2017 - 2023

We love some good up-and-to-the-right action. It’s clear that in Q2 2020, Glow Recipe’s creator marketing strategies had already helped the brand achieve considerable momentum. But Glow Recipe has only gotten stronger since then, with 2023 representing the peak—so far—of the brand’s exciting journey to No. 1 in skincare.

That’s not hyperbole. After starting down at No. 33, Glow Recipe has made it to the top of the mountain:

Top skincare brands by earned media value in 2023 with Glow Recipe in the leadTop Skincare Brands in 2023 So Far

A few things jump out when looking at the 2023 top 10. For one thing, leaders in skincare are a lot more bunched-up than they were in 2018. Gone are the days when Tatcha boasted twice as much EMV as the next-highest brand. In an increasingly saturated market, parity reigns supreme.

Another thing worth noting is just how much turnover there’s been in five years. Just two of 2023’s top 10 skincare brands—Drunk Elephant and Tatcha—ranked among 2018’s top 10. Meanwhile, six of 2023’s top 10 didn’t rank among 2018’s top 33 brands. One—RHODE Skin—didn’t even exist. (Summer Fridays, which was founded in 2018, just barely made the ‘existence’ cut.)

The only consistent thing about skincare, apart from people wanting to look like glazed donuts, is that the brands on top might not be on top for long.

Glow Recipe, however, is looking to buck that trend. The brand’s initiatives in 2023, particularly in May, demonstrate its powerful potential and continued command of the creator marketing space.

First, Glow Recipe partnered with beauty subscription service IPSY to feature a variety of brand offerings in an ‘Icon Box.’ Next, Glow Recipe honored #AAPIHeritageMonth by joining forces with slime company (yes, really) Snoop Slimes to launch a limited-edition Watermelon Dew Drops Slime Bundle, which featured a custom iridescent Watermelon Dew Goo inspired by the brand’s fan-favorite Dew Drops. Finally, Glow Recipe also got a head start on #Pride celebrations by bringing back its limited-edition #Pride Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner.

The results of this busy month? Not only a ton of slime, but all-time highs in everyone’s favorite trio of metrics:


Glow Recipe Engagement 2021-2023Glow Recipe Engagement from 2021-2023


Glow Recipe Impressions 2021-2023Glow Recipe Impressions from 2021-2023

And—oh no! 

Glow Recipe Reach 2021-2023Glow Recipe Reach from 2021-2023

Come on, Reach! I had a whole bit planned—rule of three and all that. Oh well.

So what have we learned from the data, apart from the fact that sometimes my set-ups don’t go as planned? For one thing, we’ve seen that skincare is a more challenging space than ever. Top brands face greater competition, and new favorites are constantly emerging.

That said, thanks to its tireless focus on community, Glow Recipe is in a solid position to succeed despite these challenges. Consider this: though it ranks No. 1 by EMV, Glow Recipe doesn’t boast skincare’s largest Reach in 2023—that honor goes to Hailey Bieber’s RHODE Skin. Nor does Glow Recipe top the charts in Impressions; for that, you’ll have to go to CeraVe, TikTok’s certified viral skincare brand.

But you know where Glow Recipe does rank No. 1, and by a wide margin?

Top 10 Skincare Brands by Engagement in 2023The Top 10 Skincare Brands by Engagement in 2023 So Far

This dominance in Engagement (there’s a bigger gap between No. 1 Glow Recipe and No. 2 CeraVe than between CeraVe and No. 10 La Roche-Posay) is a clear sign that Glow Recipe’s community-first strategy is still effective. Despite not reaching as wide an audience as some other brands, content about Glow Recipe is garnering likes, comments, shares, and interactions at a higher rate—proof of highly motivated creators. This passion, plus product quality and a winning narrative, is why we’re confident Glow Recipe will still be around to talk to us about its success when we reach Earned Episode 1,005.

This Week’s Headlines

The Influence of De-Influencing on Influencer Marketing

Key Takeaways:

    • No, I’m not trying to ‘Buffalo buffalo’ you. I’m trying to tell you about an influencer marketing strategy that’s gaining more and more, uh, influence.
    • Just as content creators offer positive recommendations for brands and products, an increasing number of creators are tipping off consumers on brands and products to avoid.
    • These creators aren’t trying to be negative—they’re looking out for consumers’ well-being, and heightening their authenticity/authority while doing so.

The CIQ Perspective:

    • De-influencing is nothing new: when I started analyzing influencer marketing in the beauty industry way back in 2016, there were plenty of less-than-stellar reviews floating around out there.
    • As noted by MarTechCube, de-influencing goes hand-in-hand with more niche creator content from brands, and a focus on trust—both of which can be found in the industry’s broader shift toward micro-influencers.
    • With so many consumers trusting creators, and so many brands using creators to reach consumers, discerning reviews and limited endorsements help bolster the space as a whole.

Black Creators Call for Equal Compensation

Key Takeaways:

    • 11Alive, Atlanta’s leading local news authority, reports on calls for equal pay at the city’s Black Girl Digital Awards.
    • The ceremony, which recognizes “Black women creators for their achievements in brand partnerships and positive impact in their communities,” saw several attendees advocate for eliminating the pay gap between white and BIPOC creators.
    • These attendees cited stats from our friends at the MSL group, which recently found a 29% pay gap between white and BIPOC creators, and a 35% gap between white and Black creators.

The CIQ Perspective:

    • It should hopefully come as no surprise that we feel this way—and it’s disappointing that we still even have to say it—but CreatorIQ is taking a very brave stand and declaring that people of all races and backgrounds should receive equal pay for equal work.
    • We’ve reported on the troubling creator pay gap before: from our Practical Guide to Paying Creators (equally), to our report on the Trendsetters Shaping the Future of Influencer Marketing.
    • We’ll continue to advocate for equal pay here at CreatorIQ—major shoutout to the Black Girl Digital Awards for doing the same!

Conor's Corner

If there’s anyone on earth who lives, breathes, and truly believes in the Creator Economy, it’s Conor Begley: CreatorIQ’s Chief Strategy Officer, and a burgeoning creator in his own right. When he’s not planning future editions of CreatorIQ Connect (you didn’t hear it from me, but if you happen to be in London in May, I have a suggestion for you), Conor shares his exclusive research on trending creator marketing stories with his followers on LinkedIn. But you can check out his latest findings right here.

This week, Conor checks out LA’s hottest grocery store/social phenomenon/not-a-cult-but-also-sort-of-a-cult, Erewhon:

Celebrity Smoothie Collabs? I thought I had seen it all. Welcome to the tiny grocery store that’s shooting up our rankings—Erewhon.

📈 Erewhon - US Grocery Store EMV Rankings

  • 2019 - #10
  • 2020 - #7
  • 2021 - #5
  • 2022 - #3 (up 81% YoY!). Surpassed only by Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

It’s not often that a grocery store becomes one of the hottest destinations in town, but so many $20 smoothies can’t be wrong.

While Hailey Bieber’s TikTok-viral “Skin Glaze” smoothie certainly generated a ton of hype for the upscale, health-food supermarket, it hasn’t been Erewhon’s only claim to fame. Smoothie collabs with other celebrities like Miranda Kerr, Jay Shetty, Becky G, Bella Hadid, and Emma Chamberlain have certainly helped as well.

Pretty impressive for a retailer with only 10 locations (all in LA), especially when compared to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods’ 500+ stores across the country.


🔍 Under the Hood | Jan-Sep 2023

  • 5k Creators (up 53% YoY)
  • 16.6k Posts (up 49%)
  • 549.6M Estimated Impressions (up 101%!!)
  • 27M Total Engagements (up 90%)
  • More than half ($27.1M) of Erewhon’s EMV came from Instagram, followed by TikTok ($16.7M) and YouTube ($2.1M).

While micro-influencers make up 59% of Erewhon’s community, they only contribute 13% of its EMV. Powerhouse creators generate the lion’s share of Erewhon’s EMV at 47%, but account for only 11% of its community.

Despite having a top-heavy EMV breakdown, only 1% of Erewhon’s EMV is sponsored, which is low for the industry (4% for Whole Foods, 13% for Sprouts, 10% Safeway).


📷 Top Creators

#1 Erewhon’s top earner was celebrity private chef and TikTok star Brooke Baevsky (@chefbae), who generated $2.1M EMV across a whopping 246 posts unpacking her expensive Erewhon hauls for her clients.

The other four of the top five Erewhon’s creators in this time period (Miranda Kerr, Jay Shetty, Bella Hadid, and Becky G) all collaborated with the supermarket on their own signature smoothies. Miranda and Jay were particularly prolific, generating a respective $1.5M and $871k EMV across 51 and 26 posts.

Also fun (and indicative), “Overheard LA” was Erewhon’s No. 6-ranked earner, reflecting its presence in the cultural zeitgeist.

Guess I've gotta go try these smoothies—let me know if you have a favorite! [Note from Alex: as an LA resident whose girlfriend likes doing trendy stuff, I can confirm that the smoothies are quite tasty. Still waiting for my celebrity collab tho.]

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