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  • Sydney Hummel

How TikTok and digital marketing turned E.l.f. into a powerhouse.

By Sydney Hummel

E.l.f. (short for eyes, lips, face) is a cosmetics brand based in Oakland, California that was founded by Joseph Shamah, Scott Vincent Borba, and Joseph’s father Alan in 2004. 

E.l.f. originally started with only 13 makeup products where each product was only $1-$3. E.l.f. found their success primarily through their website when they relaunched it to be an e-commerce site in 2004. 

How did E.l.f. become the top beauty brand for gen z in 2022?

E.l.f. shifted to TikTok (which has primarily Gen Z users) to promote their brand. The brand collaborated with a Brooklyn based agency called Movers + Shakers to promote a catchy song on TikTok with the hashtag EyesLipsFace. According to Adweek, this was “the most influential campaign on TikTok.” 

There are 7 billion views and about 5 million videos promoting the hashtag. It was the fastest TikTok campaign to reach one billion views. News outlets such as Vogue, Rolling Stone, and Forbes talked about the campaign. Celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, Kevin Hart, and even the Chicago Bulls mascot made a video. 

Another aspect of E.l.f. 's successes are their viral, budget-friendly dupes, becoming popular through TikTok. Just to name some of their dupes, they have the Halo Glow Liquid Filter ($14) vs. Charlotte Tilbury’s Flawless Filter ($49), Power Grip Primer ($10) vs. Milk’s Hydro Grip Primer ($38), and Hydrating Camo Concealer ($7) vs. Tarte’s Shape Tape ($31). These products are all under $20 and have an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

E.l.f. also has the “E.l.f. beauty squad”: a reward system that has everything from a free full-size product, to a birthday gift, to money off of E.l.f. products. There is also early access to products, free shipping, and trying out products before their launch. You can earn rewards from shopping at not only but Ulta, Amazon, Target, or Walmart stores. 

Ekta Chopra, E.l.f.’s Chief Digital Officer, said that E.l.f. even has a Facebook group dedicated to their most engaged consumers where they get information from them on what products they love, why they love E.l.f., and what do they want E.l.f. to go build. 

“We are where Gen Z is, and we don’t just show up, we show up bold… We are very good at looking for signals and jumping in — we don’t wait, we don’t dwell, we don’t have a lot of red tape,” said Chopra.

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