Bye Deciem! How Instagram stopped me from buying this cult beauty brand

You may never know the investigative lengths Erica Salvalaggio went to to better understand Deciem’s unhinged brand personality, but luckily you will know why marketing matters for your brand loyalty.

Around this time last year I was stressed, and my skin truly bore the signs of the emotional unease that comes with graduating, searching for a job, and moving all at once. The added stress of trying to deal with my irritated skin consumed my life until I wandered into Deciem.

Deciem, the cosmetics brand better known as “The Abnormal Beauty Company,” has been touted as revolutionary for its highly affordable and ridiculously effective skincare line, “The Ordinary” even Kim Kardashian uses the products. I stocked up on The Ordinary and within days my skin changed. Within months my skin was better than it had been in years. The stuff works.

For months, I swore by Deciem. I recommended it to everyone, including my mom (and you know you’re not supposed to recommend stuff to your mom unless you’re 100% certain it’s worth it). I exclusively used the company’s products, and soon my morning and bedtime rituals revolved around cleansers and serums. Everytime I found myself near a Deciem store I couldn’t help but walk in and buy something new.

The brand’s ethos was also extremely attractive to me. The idea behind The Ordinary is that people shouldn’t be paying an arm and a leg for good skin just because giant corporations want to make a buck. The fact of the matter is that skincare products aren’t expensive to produce, but the average markup on them is nearly 80%. That’s right, you’re paying 80% more for your moisturiser than it costs to produce. The Ordinary was made to combat that. Affordable skincare for all!

The brand sucked me in. I was hooked. That is until earlier this year when Deciem’s Instagram got really weird.

In late January, Deciem’s CEO, Brandon Truaxe, announced that he had fired the company’s social media team and would personally be taking over the accounts. What followed was a video of himself (these videos have become a regular occurrence over the past few months) saying that he was cancelling all marketing plans because “marketing is simply a way to try to convince people to buy what they don’t want or don’t need.”

Then came a roller coaster ride of weird posts and hateful comments to customers.

In February, Brandon announced that he would be changing his title from ‘CEO’ to ‘worker’ because “responsible people don’t need CEOs.” Soon after, he fired his co-CEO, Nicola Kilner (she told a bit of her story in an interview with Elle) and started almost exclusively posting pictures and videos of his travels on the brand’s Instagram. The majority of these posts are closeup videos of his face as he rants about incomprehensible things. Customers were annoyed and confused by the change in content and they made that known in the comments. Brandon didn’t like that. You can see some of his replies to customers below.

In conjunction with these hateful comments, Brandon has posted several videos imploring his followers to call 911 on his behalf. Calling 911 for no reason is a crime, which explains why all of these posts were quickly deleted.

Being weird is one thing Deciem is “The ABNORMAL Beauty Company” after all — but for a company that prides itself on peacefulness, (their Instagram bio reads, “We are a peaceful team”) hate and crime are more than a little off-brand.

Brand personality is important. Customers find brands with standout personalities more likeable and relatable because they feel human as opposed to corporate. But brands can have personality without being rude. Brands can have personality while still providing customers with relevant product information. And brands can have personality while still being professional.

Deciem has recently been missing the mark on all of these things.  

There’s no doubt that running a high-growth startup is difficult and stressful. Deciem reportedly sells $300 million worth of product each year, and that’s increasing. But perhaps then Brandon shouldn’t be the public face of his company he has more important things to worry about. And there’s a cautionary tale to be told about valuing your personal brand over your company’s brand when you’re trying to grow. NastyGal (a company that was also doing $300 million in annual revenue) and its founder, Sophia Amoruso, are a great example.

Stress induced or not, I think Deciem has gone too far. So after almost a year of swearing by the brand, which truly did change my skin for the better, I’ve vowed to no longer buy or recommend its products because (contrary to what the company’s CEO seems to believe) marketing really does matter.