There’s something going on at one of the beauty industry’s favorite budget brands and it’s causing fans to consider stocking up on their favorite $10 serums like the skincare apocalypse is coming.
The chatter started two weeks ago with a divisive move by Brandon Truaxe, CEO of Deciem, the parent company to cult-hit affordable beauty brand The Ordinary. On January 24, Truaxe took over Deciem’s Instagram account, posting a heartfelt video declaring that he would be axing all of the company’s marketing strategies because “marketing is simply a way to convince people to buy things that they don’t want or don’t need.” Instead, Truaxe announced he would be taking charge of the platform with more than 337,000 followers. “I will talk to you beautiful people on our social channels from now on.” This initial video was pretty well received, with commenters calling the CEO’s show of authenticity “beautiful” and “heartwarming.”
Over the following two weeks, as Truaxe continued to post candidly to Instagram, public opinion began to shift from supportive to skeptical and concerned over the CEO’s drastic changes and at times wandering and confusing Instagram captions.
Since Truaxe began manning the @Deciem account, he’s used the platform as an alternative to email, issuing instructions about strategic corporate decisions to his staff and suppliers. To wit: Earlier this week, he shared a photo of a trash-littered stream with his thumb partially obstructing and blurring the picture. In the caption, two employees Alessandro and Hajar are instructed (by their first name) to notify suppliers of a plan to move away from plastic packaging. In the same caption, Truaxe also tells “Peter of Mong Packaging,” that the brand will no longer be using his company but that he’s welcome to join the team as an employee at Deciem. “Alan of Idealpak, this direction means more business for you,” he adds, speaking to a manufacturer of liquid filling machinery.
I'll eliminate all plastic including our shopping bags, droppers, foundation bottles (which cost more than glass bottles because they're "sophisticated" plastic). Alessandro and Hajar, please tell our suppliers that this plan will complete by end of 2018. Peter of Mong Packaging, I'm sorry that we won't use plastic any more. You're such a good person. I'll sponsor you and your family to come to Canada if you want and you can work at DECIEM. Alan of Idealpak, this direction means more business for you ❤️???? (@apple please add a donkey emoticon because there's no horse in Morocco as far as I can tell). Sorry everyone that I'll repeat this note several times today with different videos. I love you, Brandon. (It's sunny here. ❤️????)
He posted another photo that day: This time of a casually dressed man who Truaxe introduces as a factory manager employed by Deciem. “His youngest brother Omar is coming to Canada to join DECIEM. Astrid and @diafoley, Riad is not my boyfriend (I’m not gay). He’s my brother and I love him (and his beautiful mother who’s my mother),” the 124-word caption continues.
On February 6, in a now-deleted Instagram post pictured above, Truaxe informed Tijion Esho, MD, who partnered with Deciem to build ESHO, that he would be dumping the brand from Deciem’s portfolio. In the caption, he says that “almost everyone” hated the formulas, blaming himself for being “too busy to love [ESHO].” He continues, begging Esho and his customers for forgiveness. Late last night, Esho took to his own Instagram to tell his followers that he also received the news via Instagram at the same time as everyone else.
Some customers remain enamored with the CEO’s transparency, but others find it unsettling. While investigating the controversy last night, I found myself deep in Reddit threads with titles like “Does anyone know what’s going on with Deciem’s social media?” in which users weighed in on the situation. “This seems more like a personal apology that needs to be done in private,” one Reddit user mused, while others expressed concern for the CEO’s mental health. Others speculate that Estée Lauder, a minority shareholder in Deciem, is planning to intervene, which Deciem soon denied in a statement given to The Cut.
It’s left many customers and followers perplexed. Are we, as Truaxe supporters suggest, simply too used to glossy, filtered portrayals of life on Instagram to feel comfortable with the CEO’s messier representation of running a company? Or is there such a thing as too much transparency?
In a statement given to The Cut, the brand said there’s no reason for concern. Over email, Dakota Kate Isaacs, Deciem’s PR spokesperson reassured customers that “[People shouldn’t be any more concerned about their ability to buy Deciem] than they were last week. It’s no secret that we’ve grown fast and the demand for our brands has been overwhelming. Our team has been working very hard and continues to work tirelessly on producing products.”