How e.l.f. Cosmetics Ignited The TikTok-Led Beauty Revolution

How e.l.f. Cosmetics Ignited The TikTok-Led Beauty Revolution

Cathy Carpetta

Cathy Carpetta

October 5, 2023


e.l.f. Cosmetics has been making headlines for the past couple of years, and I am sure you have heard of them. They emerged as a reference in the beauty industry and stayed relevant for over 19 years.

In 2019, they shut down all their physical stores and became a TikTok phenomenon by enhancing their online customer experience.

In this article, we will discover how e.l.f. Cosmetics' became the number one beauty brand for Gen Z.

Statistics about the leading cosmetics brands among Gen Z in the United States

1. e.l.f. Cosmetics overview

1.1 Brand history and founding

e.l.f. (short for eyes, lip, face) Cosmetics was founded in 2004 by Joseph Shamah and Scott Vincent Borba and has been led by CEO Tarang P. Amin since 2014.

In 2019, they made the strategic move to shut all physical stores, focusing on enhancing the online customer experience as part of their digital transformation plan.

Operating in 29 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France, Colombia, and Spain, the company achieved its highest-ever sales of approximately $579 million by March 31, 2023, as reported by Statista.

e.l.f. CEO Tarang Amin shared on Forbes recently, "This is our 20th consecutive quarter of growth, making us one of only five public consumer companies out of 274 that have grown 20 consecutive quarters with at least 20% growth".

1.2 Product range and values

e.l.f's website banner: "we stand with every eye, lip, face, paw and fin"
e.l.f's CARES website banner

Since its creation, the company has worked towards being cruelty-free, vegan, and clean.

Something that also sets apart e.l.f. beauty from its competitors, its combination of quality and affordability. Most items cost £3, £6, £10.

Since 2004, the brand has only raised its price twice.Every time, they publicly announced it through their social media with transparency. For example, in 2022, their community received the announcement well and met a show of support and gratitude in the comments.

e.l.f. putty blush power instant lift brow pencil  grip primer products
Fan's favorite products

2. e.l.f. Cosmetics' rise to popularity: Gen Z's favourite brand

2.1 e.l.f. Cosmetics’ TikTok strategy: UGC and challenges

2.1.1 Unboxing

In 2023, the e.l.f. account has amassed over 1.1M Followers and 21.2M Likes on the platform.

The hashtag #elfcosmetics has 2.1 billion views. The search for package unboxing of elf or unboxing elf products makeup has 86.5 million views and 112.6 million views.

The brand is famous for its cute packaging; you can see “Get ready to get amazing” on its box.

2.1.2 Eyes faces lips original song

e.l.f. Cosmetics was the first beauty brand to do a brand advertising campaign and hashtag challenge on TikTok, generating 7 billion views.

It became one of the most viral campaigns ever on TikTok with nearly 5 million UGC videos including celebrities like Lizzo, Ellen Degeneres, and Reese Witherspoon, who joined organically.

The original track became super popular and was listed #4 song on Spotify’s Global Viral Chart.

Discover 5 TikTok UGC trends to test to increase your CRO!

2.2 Celebrity-driven product launches and campaigns

2.2.1 Jennifer Coolidge

Super Bowl 2023

The e.l.f. Cosmetics Super Bowl 2023 commercial star actress Jennifer Coolidge, marking a bold debut for the brand in the Big Game with its first television advertisement.

Jennifer uses the Power Grip Primer for the first time in funny situations, cleverly capitalising on its adhesive and sticky qualities.

According to Kory Marchisotto, the Chief Marketing Officer: "Our inspiration for this campaign comes directly from our dedicated community, who have embraced the Power Grip Primer with fervour, elevating it to the #1 Primer in the U.S. They've affectionately dubbed it 'Sticky AF' and 'makeup glue."

She continues, "Once we recognized the viral sensation surrounding the Power Grip Primer, the sheer entertainment value of its stickiness, and the joy our community derives from it, we were certain it was time to embrace this opportunity with unprecedented enthusiasm".

PillowTalk release

e.l.f x Jennifer Coolidge Dirty Pillows Lip Kit product sold out
The product was sold out almost immediately!

Building upon the success of the Super Bowl campaign, the brand unveiled a new product on September 27th: the Dirty Pillows Lip Kit.

This kit was inspired by a moment during the ad shoot. The star was asked what name she would give to her lipstick if she could choose.

Her funny response, "Dirty Pillows" or "Swollen," was the creative spark for her collaborative nude-themed lip kit with the cosmetics brand.

@elfyeah Replying to @🩶Elsie🩶 Dreams do come true…even the dirty ones. Introducing DIRTY PILLOWS: the new pout-plumping 4-piece lip kit with custom shades, created by THE @Jennifer Coolidge! DROPPING TOMORROW on! Get all the dirty details at the link in bio. #eyeslipsface #comingsoon ♬ original sound - e.l.f. Cosmetics

2.2.2 Meghan Trainor

Weather Channel

For their 2022 holiday campaign, e.l.f. Cosmetics collaborated with The Weather Channel, the popular TikTok sensation, and popstar Meghan Trainor.

Patrick O'Keefe, the Vice President of Integrated Marketing Communications, explained their strategy: “We aimed to emphasize our Halo Glow product, a primer/highlighter hybrid that had been consistently selling out, prompting a restock. We aimed to craft a memorable holiday moment by showcasing some of our glitter and glow products."

The concept revolved around the statistics, as reported by The Weather Channel, that 8 out of 10 women alter their personal care and beauty routines during the holiday season.

The campaign focused on a captivating theme known as the "Glow Storm," with Meghan Trainor taking on the role of a meteorologist in this unique beauty-meets-weather collaboration.

"100% chance of glow, it's an e.l.f.ING glow storm", Trainor says in one of the TikToks.

@elfyeah @meghantrainor with the glowcast: no matter how the weather influences your beauty routine (thanks @weatherchannel), it’s looking like 100% chance of GLOW ✨ When’s the last time you had a glow day? e.l.f. around and find out….and find us in NYC on December 13 and 14! #itsanelfingglowstorm ♬ original sound - e.l.f. Cosmetics

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2.2.3 Judge Judy, Suits actors, Heidi N Closet and more

Super Bowl 2024 

e.l.f strikes again with the release of a new Super Bowl ad titled "Judge Beauty".

Judge Judy oversees a case where a company executive, played by Gina Torres, is accused of wasting company funds on expensive makeup. Rick Hoffman, the plaintiff, calls pricey makeup a "scam."

In the end, Torres is sentenced to use e.l.f.'s £15 Halo Glow Liquid Filter for glowy skin. The ad emphasises e.l.f.'s core values that good makeup doesn't have to be expensive; it can be cheap and cruelty-free.

The cast also includes Suits member Sarah Rafferty, along with Ronald Gladden from Jury Duty, Heidi N Closet from RuPaul's Drag Race, Benito Skinner as Kooper the Gen Z intern, and others. Meghan Trainor is the courtroom correspondent, and Emmanuel Acho serves as the bailiff.

2.3 Brand Collaboration

2.3.1 Chipotle

e.l.f. x Chipotle makeup collection: eyeshadow palette, beauty sponde blender, lipgloss
Each palette purchase came with an offer for free chips and guac at Chipotle!

An unexpected collaboration with Chipotle was created and targeted the Gen Z crowd on TikTok.

This partnership, which builds upon a previous successful collaboration, combines beauty and fast food, creating limited-edition products that celebrate Chipotle's real ingredients in innovative ways.

The collaboration capitalises on the shared spirit of both brands and their commitment to offering quality products to consumers at exceptional prices.

@maddiegoetzzzzz Food + makeup = dream collab 🥰 @elfyeah @chipotle #elfxchipotle #ad ♬ original sound - Maddie Goetz

2.3.2 American Eagle

e.l.f. Cosmetics and American Eagle Outfitters have teamed up for a limited edition collection, marking e.l.f.'s first collaboration with a fashion brand and American Eagle's first venture into the beauty industry.

This partnership is a natural fit as both brands have a strong presence among millennials and Gen Z, offering affordable and trendy products.

The collection draws inspiration from e.l.f.'s expertise in enhancing eyes, lips, and face, similar to how American Eagle enhances the "booty" with its jeans.

The campaign features a model in stylish denim and bold eyeshadow, and it includes a "From Selfie to Belfie" element where makeup artists showcase their makeup and derrieres using a custom TikTok filter and song, led by ambassador Carlacia Grant of Netflix's Outer Banks fame.

Final thoughts

e.l.f. Cosmetics has orchestrated a remarkable beauty revolution fueled by a strategic approach that combines TikTok virality, celebrity endorsements, and brand collaborations.

The brand, known for its Gen Z appeal, has harnessed the power of social media, particularly TikTok, to create engaging user-generated content (UGC) and viral challenges, exemplified by the "Eyes faces lips" song and hashtag challenge.

This strategy has catapulted e.l.f. into the spotlight, making it a favourite among Gen Z consumers.

Do you want to learn more about TikTok and UGC? Check out how Tabs Chocolate skyrocketed to success!

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