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Expired Insight: Gwyneth’s Goop

There’s a reason we advocate for longitudinal studies, going back into communities to test and retest hypotheses.  Insights have variable shelf lives and we need to keep checking the expiration date to see if they’ve grown stale.  Sadly, I recently discovered the insight in a previous blog post is now the strategic equivalent of a liquefied carrot in the back of my fridge.

In March 2009, I wrote my first blog post on Gwyneth Paltrow’s newsletter, “Goop”.  At that time, I praised Gwyneth for “simply being Gwyneth.”  I loved that the newsletter seemed aspirational, without actually trying to sell a luxury lifestyle.  It was Gwyneth letting us into her world, without apology.  I found this brave, and snickered at critics who faulted her for being out of touch.

Silly critics, that’s exactly why reading “Goop” was so enjoyable.  It was Gwyneth sharing news from the world of Gwyneth.  That was it.  Readers were voyeurs and it was fun.  But something changed.  Gwyneth decided to share and … (gulp) … advise.

“Goop” started advising me on how to be healthy ($350/week vegetable cleanse you can only get in Manhattan!), where to vacation (luxury hotel in Morocco!), how to be green (buy from the Stella McCartney Eco Collection $435-$1535!).  I had joked in my original post that Gwyn thinks, “I might want to be her, and she’s right.”  But what I’ve realized is Gwyn assumes I am her.  It’s made “Goop” painful to read and Gwyneth look like a fool.

A good insight is like the mythical phoenix.  You can kill it with the fires of new evidence, but a new one emerges stronger and more actionable.  In my first blog post, I encouraged luxury brands to take a page from “Goop” and sell aspiration without shame.  The new insight provided by “Goop” is much more useful and powerful:  Don’t overstep.  Don’t confuse author with audience.  It’s a short trip from out-of-touch to completely delusional.

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