Goop (company)

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Goop
Privately-held
Industry Publishing
Internet retailing
Founded 2008
Founder Gwyneth Paltrow
Headquarters Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Key people
Gwyneth Paltrow, CEO
Elise Loehnen, CCO
Website Goop.com

Goop (often stylized as goop) is a company owned by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. It was launched as a "lifestyle brand" by Paltrow in September 2008, beginning as a weekly e-mail newsletter providing new age advice, such as "police your thoughts" and "eliminate white foods", and the slogan "Nourish the Inner Aspect".[1] A lifestyle website was later added, and then Goop expanded into e-commerce, collaborating with fashion brands, launching pop-up shops,[2] holding a "wellness summit",[3] and launching a print magazine.

Goop has faced criticism for promoting and selling products and treatments that have no scientific basis, lack efficacy, and are recognized by the medical establishment as harmful or as misleading. In 2017, consumer advocacy group Truth in Advertising filed a complaint with the government regulatory agency regarding over 50 health claims made by Goop as dangerous and false.[4]

History[edit]

Goop began as a newsletter in 2008,[5] with an editor's note in each email from Paltrow offering insight into her daily life.[6] Goop was incorporated in 2011.[7] According to Paltrow, the company's name "is a nickname, like my name is G.P., so that is really where it came from. And I wanted it to be a word that means nothing and could mean anything."[8]

Seb Bishop served as CEO of Goop from 2011 to 2014.[9] Several other celebrities were inspired by Goop to launch their own lifestyle websites.[10] In 2014, Goop hired Oxygen Media founder and former CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Lisa Gersh as CEO.[11] From 2014 onwards, Goop's wellness content became increasingly radical: to the point where doctors would begin to call it pseudoscience and media outlets would describe Goop's content as "no longer ludicrous — no, now it was dangerous".[12]

In 2015, Paltrow stated that she wanted goop to "be its own stand-alone brand".[13] As of 2015, around two dozen people worked for Goop.[2]

The company had approximately 60 employees in 2016.[5] In the same year, Goop's most searched topic was "detox".[6] Later in 2016, Paltrow moved the company's operations to Los Angeles from the UK following her separation from Chris Martin[14] and Gersh left the position of CEO. The position remained vacant until early 2017, when the board named Paltrow - who had previously announced in 2016 that she would be stepping away from Goop[15] - to fill the post.[16]

By 2017, Goop had 90 employees, and was attracting criticism, including a lawsuit filed by Truth In Advertising.[17] In an April 2017 Jezebel article, Stassa Edwards criticized Goop's marketing and retail strategy, claiming that the company profits "from endless illness."[18] A brand analyst has noted how Goop's response to criticism seems designed to "strengthen their brand and draw their customers closer",[19] noting Goop's use of feminism, traditional Asian medicines and Eastern philosophies, and anti-establishment politics to do so.[19] Paltrow characterizes criticisms as "cultural firestorms" which cause an influx of website traffic, stating that she can "monetize those eyeballs".[12]

In 2018, Goop began assembling an internal "science team", including two people with PhDs in nutritional medicine, one of whom is also an expert in Traditional Chinese medicine.[20]

Funding and revenue[edit]

In 2011, Goop generated £81,000 in sales, and the year after it generated £1.1 million in sales, with a loss of £23,000.[21] As of 2013, Goop had net liabilities of £540,086.[22] Goop doubled its revenues from 2014 to 2015, and again from 2015 to 2016.[23]

In 2016, Goop received $15 million USD in Series B funding from venture capital firms NEA, Felix Capital and 14W Venture Partner.[24] This corresponded with Goop centralizing their operations in the Los Angeles area, where Paltrow is based, and away from New York, where Gersh lives.[25]

In 2018, Goop raised $50 million in Series C funding from firms including NEA, Lightspeed and Felix Capital,[26] bringing total investment in the company to $82 million. The company's valuation rose to $250 million.[27]

Products and distribution[edit]

Goop launched an online shop in 2012, and it earned $1.5 million for Goop during its first year of operation.[28] By 2014, the Goop newsletter had an estimated 700,000 subscribers.[21]

In 2015, Goop launched a publishing imprint, Goop Press, with Grand Central Publishing, and planned to release one title per year.[29]

In 2016, additional funds also led to an increase in staffing for Goop, as well as the launch of new products, including a fashion label[30] with a focus on "elevated basics".[31]

In 2017, Goop entered into the vitamin and supplements market. Paltrow first had the idea to market supplements after receiving a Myers' cocktail from Alejandro Junger in 2007.[32] The supplements range sold over $100,000 worth of product on the launch day.[24] In April, Goop announced that they had entered into an agreement with Condé Nast to launch a new print magazine under the name Goop.[33] The quarterly magazine was launched in September,[34] but only ran for two issues, with Nast replacing pieces that failed their fact-checking process by travel articles,[35] and a disagreement over the use of the magazine to promote Goop products.[12] In December 2017, Goop announced the launch of a digital shop in Canada, following its first physical store in the country in partnership with Nordstrom.[36]

Goop generates revenue from advertising and also sells a Goop-branded clothing line, a perfume, and books.[24] As of 2017 Goop readers have an average household income of $100k+ per year.[23]

Goop launched a podcast in March 2018 with Cadence13. Its first guest was Oprah Winfrey.[37] The podcast hit #1 in the Apple Podcast charts on March 8.[38] It is largely hosted by Loehnen and has a weekly audience of 100,000 to 650,000.[12] The company also partnered with Westin Hotels & Resorts to offer a range of fitness programs called "G. Sport Sessions" later that summer.[39]

Goop expanded its fashion offerings in 2018, hiring Danielle Pergament of Allure to be Goop's editor in chief, directly under CCO Elise Loehnen. Ali Pew of InStyle was hired as Goop's fashion director and Anne Keane, formerly of Lucky magazine is now Goop's fashion strategy director, and they will be attending New York Fashion Week as representatives of the company.[40] In June 2018, Goop launched a capsule collection with fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer.[41]

In June 2018, Goop opened its first international pop-up shop in London. The company also hired its first chief marketing officer, Andres Sosa, to work on further expansion in the UK.[42] In August 2018, Goop launched a furniture and home decor line with Crate and Barrel’s CB2 brand.[43][44]

Brands and product lines[edit]

Since Goop's inception in 2008, it has launched a number of brands and product lines. The "Beauty" section of the website works in tandem with the products sold in the shop.[20] Goop brands and product lines are sold online, at the Goop Lab in Brentwood Country Mart in Los Angeles,[45][46] and at pop-up shops in LA,[47] New York,[48] Chicago,[2] the Hamptons,[49] Dallas[50] and Aspen,[51] and in collaboration with Nordstrom stores.[52] Goop-branded products quadrupled in value in 2017.[40] These brands include:

  • goop by Juice Beauty, a makeup and skincare line launched in partnership with Juice Beauty[53] in 2016,[54] influenced by the popularity of a Goop article the year before about beauty products without formaldehyde and endocrine disruptors.[12] The brand's products are made from USDA certified organic ingredients and are considered to be vegan.[54]
  • goop Label, a fashion line launched in September 2016.[55] The collection is based on Paltrow's personal favorites and styles,[56] and has been described as "high-street staples".[57]
  • goop Fragrance, an all-natural fragrance line including perfume and scented candles.[58] The first fragrance, Edition 01 Winter, was created by the perfumer Douglas Little[59] and released in November 2016.[60]
  • goop Wellness, which sells GMO and gluten-free[61] vitamins and other supplements.[32] The line was launched in 2017,[18] and was influenced by the popularity of a Goop article that year about "postnatal depletion".[12]
  • G. Sport Sessions, a range of fitness programs offered in partnership with Westin Hotels and Resorts launched in 2018, with classes led by Tracy Anderson, Paltrow's personal trainer.[39]
  • cb2 x goop, a furniture and home décor line in collaboration with Crate and Barrel, launched in August 2018.[43]

Wellness summits[edit]

Goop held its first wellness summit in June 2017. The event had over 600 attendees.[3] The company's second In goop Health summit in NYC in January 2018.[62][63] Celebrity guests and speakers included Drew Barrymore, Chelsea Handler and Laura Linney.[64] Panelists included Kelly Brogan, a "holistic health psychiatrist",[64] who has disputed the effectiveness of both vaccinations and HIV medications. The invitation of Brogan has been criticized by Page Six[64] and Jezebel.[65] The third summit was held in Culver City, California in June 2018. Guests included Meg Ryan and Janet Mock.[66] Paltrow is considering ways to take the wellness summit "on the road", so that it can access a wider audience.[12]

Parodies[edit]

In December 2016 a book parodying Goop called Glop: Nontoxic Ideas That Will Make You Look Ridiculous and Feel Pretentious was published and included advice like, "Our modern lifestyles are absolutely full of toxins — nearly everything we come into daily contact with, from Egyptian cotton sheets to 8-carat diamonds to yacht paint, is dangerously noxious."[67][68]

By June 2017 the New York Times reported that parodying Goop had "become a national pastime".[69]

Paltrow appeared on The Late Show in 2018 in a spoof segment announcing a collaboration between Goop and Stephen Colbert's lifestyle brand, Covetton House, featuring a sponge which cost $900. Later that year, Colbert and Paltrow collaborated on a line of goods to raise money for education in the United States.[70]

In March 2018 Botnik Studios created a newsletter called "goob" parodying Goop, which generated text using predictive text; headlines included "Listen to Your Body: Your Migraines are Podcasts Trying to be Produced".[71]

Criticism[edit]

Goop has been criticized for showcasing expensive products and making "out of touch" recommendations that many readers cannot afford,[72] which Paltrow has responded to by stating that such products and recommendations are "aspirational",[73] furthermore arguing that the items available cannot be made for a lower price point, and that the content of Goop is free.[12] Dana Logan argues that Goop is an example of asceticism as part of consumer culture.[6] Goop has also drawn criticism for selling cosmetics containing the same ostensibly harmful chemicals which the site tells people to avoid.[74] In April 2015, Paltrow participated in a food stamp challenge in an attempt to demonstrate that her readers could abide by her dietary recommendations despite living on food stamps.[75] Critics suggested that people on food stamps could not afford Paltrow's recommendations,[76] and Paltrow gave up on the challenge after four days.[77]

A number of products sold by Goop, as well as ideas promoted in its blog posts, have been criticized for having no scientific basis, not producing the desired results, having no medical benefit, or potentially even being harmful:

  • In January 2015, Paltrow advocated for a spa treatment referred to as vaginal steaming,[78] a process she reportedly underwent at the Tikkun Spa in the Los Angeles area, wherein "you sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al."[79] Paltrow admitted that she thought that the process was "insane" but did not disavow it, instead suggesting that it has "real healing properties."[80] Gynecologists were critical, with Draion Burch, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist, indicating that "there's no scientific evidence that shows it works."[81] An article published on July 18, 2017 in TheStar.com documented the ongoing battle over this issue between Paltrow and Jennifer Gunter, an OB/GYN for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, who The Star dubbed an expert in "vaginal health." [82] Also in 2015, Timothy Caulfield wrote a book on the negative impact of celebrity endorsement called "Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?" in which he described the lack of evidence for several products sold by Goop and endorsed by Paltrow, as well as health claims made by other celebrities.[83][84][85][19]
  • In October 2015, in a blog post in Goop, Habib Sadeghi revisited the disproven claim that breast cancer might be linked to wearing underwire bras. The claim was swiftly criticized,[86] with Gunter stating "it’s breast size that increases the risk of breast cancer and not because larger breasts need more manhandling by underwires, but because larger breasts are harder to screen and are associated with obesity, a known risk for breast cancer."[87]
  • In January 2017, Goop marketed the "Jade Egg" for $66.00 USD as a form of vaginal weightlifting which, according to their website, is "used by women to increase sexual energy, health, and pleasure."[88] Again, gynecologists were critical of this product,[89] with Gunter calling it a "load of garbage."[90] In 2018, this post was tagged as an "Ancient Modality".[91] In September 2018 the Goop company agreed to pay $145,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that Goop has posted claims about the eggs and about a herbal remedy, both without scientific basis.[92]
  • In June 2017, a Goop blog post promoted Body Vibes, wearable stickers that "re-balance the energy frequency in our bodies".[93] Originally, the advertisement claimed that the stickers were "made with the same conductive carbon material NASA uses to line space suits so they can monitor an astronaut’s vitals during wear", but NASA denied that they had "any conductive carbon material lining" their spacesuits, with Mark Shelhamer, former chief scientist at NASA's human research division, going so far as to call the claim a "load of BS." The reference to NASA was subsequently removed from the advertisement, with the manufacturer of the stickers issuing a statement to Gizmodo saying "We apologize to NASA, Goop, our customers and our fans for this communication error. We never intended to mislead anyone. We have learned that our engineer was misinformed by a distributor about the material in question, which was purchased for its unique specifications."[94]
  • In October 2017, The Skeptic awarded Goop the Rusty Razor award "for the most audacious pseudo-science." The award was decided by readers’ votes, and Goop was the winner "by a landslide."[95]
  • In 2017, Goop promoted a coffee enema device from Implant O’Rama LLC, despite a lack of scientific evidence to their efficacy and in spite of evidence of coffee enemas' potential dangerous results ranging from infection to death.[96][97]
  • In January 2018, Goop was criticized for posting articles by "medical medium" Anthony William who claims to use paranormal abilities to give advice.[98] Goop has said of Williams, that he:

...is one of the most unconventional and surprisingly insightful healers today: As he explains, the voice of a divine force called Spirit guides him to identify the roots of his patients’ hard-to-diagnose illnesses and find the best solutions to restore their health... Now, William is sharing four of his wonder foods—apples, celery, ginger, and honey—with us. Below, he breaks down what makes them so powerful... which ailments (from anxiety to Lyme disease, adrenal fatigue, and brain fog) to target with each food...[99]

Disclaimers[edit]

Despite routinely posting articles which purport to give health and nutrition advice on a wide range of topics, these articles typically end with this disclaimer:

"The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Goop, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice."[99]

In early 2018 Goop started labeling articles with disclaimers indicating whether their content is "For Your Enjoyment" or "Supported by Science".[100]

In response, on June 29, 2018 the watchdog group Truth in Advertising sent a letter to the California Food Drug and Medical Device Task Force, saying that

[The disclaimers] make clear that the company is aware that it does not have the appropriate scientific evidence to support many of the health claims that it is making in its marketing materials. Further, as a matter of law, these four disclosures cannot be used as cover for unsubstantiated disease-treatment claims. That is to say, Goop is not permitted to make a deceptive health claim and then post a disclaimer saying, 'sorry, there isn’t reliable and competent scientific evidence to actually support that claim but buy our product to treat your [fill in the ailment] anyway.'[101]

Legal settlement[edit]

In 2016 Goop said it would voluntarily, permanently discontinue claims for Moon Juice ‘Brain Dust’ and ‘Action Dust’ following an inquiry from the National Advertising Division (NAD).[102]

On September 4, 2018, Bloomberg News reported that: "Goop Inc., the lifestyle company founded by Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, agreed to pay $145,000 to settle allegations it made unscientific claims about the benefits of three products." Two of the products were 'vaginal eggs' and the third was Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend. To settle this California case, Goop also agreed to refund money to customers and stop making health claims for those products.[103][104] As of the time of the settlement, Goop had sold around 3,000 vaginal eggs.[105]

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