More than halfway through 2021, TikTok is no longer the exclusive domain of trendy teens: it’s a powerful influencer marketing tool that more and more brands are using to drive conversation and connect with consumers. Known for propelling users to instant stardom, TikTok has also proven it can create hit products practically overnight. In the past year, retailers have sold out of offerings ranging from sculpting leggings to feta cheese after these items went viral on the platform. While TikTok
may be able to market just about anything, its robust community of makeup and skincare aficionados has rendered the platform a particularly valuable channel for beauty brands, with some of the industry’s buzziest names owing much of their success to TikTok hype. In this article, we’ll explore the influencer marketing strategies that three of TikTok’s top beauty brands — e.l.f., Good Molecules and CeraVe — have leveraged to attract content creators and consumers on 2021’s hottest social media platform. Innovative campaigns and quality products propel e.l.f. to TikTok stardom When it comes to influencer marketing on TikTok, it’s impossible notto mention e.l.f. The cosmetics brand became one of the first companies to make a splash on the platform when it released its viral #EyesLipsFace song in October 2019, and has only continued to galvanise TikTok creators with one-of-a-kind campaigns ever since. In August 2020, e.l.f. tapped TikTok heavyweights Avani Gregg (@avani), Madi Monroe (@madi), and Seth O’Brien (@sethobrien) to co-host Eyes. Lips. Famous, the first TikTok reality show. Like #EyesLipsFace, the initiative proved an instant hit: to date, TikTok content tagged #EyesLipsFamous has inspired 41.5 million views, while posts tagged #EyesLipsFace have accrued 7.8 billion —yes, billion— views. Campaigns aren’t the only ingredient in e.l.f.’s recipe for success: the brand has also seen a boost from influencer-favourite products. After beauty guru Barb (@barbbeautyyy) shared a viral “first impressions” TikTok of e.l.f.’s Camo CC Cream following its December 2020 debut, other content creators rushed to try out the new release, resulting in conversation across social platforms. Beauty guru Rachel Cooper (RachhLoves on YouTube), for example, featured the CC cream in a “Testing Viral TikTok Makeup” video, while Nikki Patel (@nikkissecretx) shouted it out in an Instagram post captioned, “I tested VIRAL makeup products so you don’t have to.” Activity surrounding the Camo CC Cream accounted for $8 million EMV of e.l.f.’s $294.5 million EMV from June 2020 to May 2021, contributing to the brand’s six per cent uptick versus the previous 12 months. Good Molecules generates buzz by activating loyal fans Launched in February 2019, retailer Beautylish’s in-house skincare brand was a prime candidate for TikTok buzz from the beginning. With a science-backed, ingredient-driven ethos and an accessible price point for gen Z wallets (the brand’s Niacinamide and Hyaluronic Acid Serums retail for just $6 each), Good Molecules speaks directly to TikTok’s community of highly knowledgeable, budget-conscious skincare enthusiasts. It’s no surprise that the brand has built a passionate following on the platform, with TikToks tagged #GoodMolecules garnering 13.1 million views to date. While Good Molecules’ chemistry-forward philosophy and affordability are primed for success on TikTok, the brand also owes its popularity to highly intentional relationship-building. Good Molecules has consistently identified influencers with an organic affinity for its products in the past year and re-engaged its supporters to foster impactful, long-term relationships. For example, after beauty TikToker Britany (@britanyonthebeat) featured a range of offerings in an “unboxing” video in July 2020, followed by a glowing review of the Instant Cleansing Balm, Good Molecules made sure to keep the influencer’s fridge stocked with product sends, a gesture that will also prompt continued content creation. Notably, Good Molecules also activated Britany for promotional campaigns, including an initiative hyping the brand’s Black Friday sale. Good Molecule’s ongoing outreach to a committed fan paid off: five of the brand’s 50 most-liked TikTok posts to date have come from Britany. The excitement around Good Molecules on TikTok has also spilt over to YouTube and Instagram, with mentions of #TikTok generating $708,000 EMV across other platforms from June 2020 to May 2021. Altogether, Good Molecules accrued $30.1 million EMV via 4400 influencers during this 12-month period, enjoying a 39 per cent year-over-year increase in community size. CeraVe builds relationships with skincare royalty Unlike Good Molecules, CeraVe is hardly a new brand — but thanks in large part to TikTok buzz, the 2005-founded drugstore skincare staple has inspired renewed enthusiasm among influencers in the past 12 months. To date, TikToks tagged #cerave have earned 875 million views, hundreds of millions more than the brand’s competitors. CeraVe’s momentum on TikTok stems mainly from its partnership with skincare guru Hyram Yarbro (@skincarebyhyram), who religiously recommends the brand’s cleansing and moisturising products to his followers. Top-performing TikTok content about CeraVe often references Hyram’s ride-or-die loyalty to the brand: Rebecca Keara (@rebeccakeara), for example, thanked Hyram for helping her get rid of fungal acne with CeraVe’s Foaming Cleanser in a TikTok that scored 139,100 likes. Hyram isn’t the only TikTok powerhouse who champions CeraVe. Throughout 2021, the brand has enjoyed repeated endorsements from dermatologist-influencer Dr Muneeb Shah (@dermdoctor), while also partnering with gen Z sensation Charli D’Amelio (@charlidamelio) and her mother, Heidi D’Amelio (@heididamelio). CeraVe’s high standing among some of the most trusted and influential voices in TikTok’s skincare community has helped fuel a sizable expansion of the brand’s overall footprint on social media. From June 2020 to May 2021, CeraVe accrued $28.9 million EMV from 3600 content creators, boasting respective 45 per cent and 99 per cent year-over-year growths in these two metrics. After establishing itself as a cultural force in 2020, TikTok has defended its throne as a go-to social media platform for people of all ages seeking both education and entertainment. As TikTok’s diverse user base continues to grow, the brands that leverage the platform’s unique format to connect with influencers and consumers will continue to surge ahead. To take full advantage of one of the most powerful tools available to marketers right now, brands can keep the following strategies in mind: Make campaigns creative and adaptable Even more so than other social media platforms, TikTok rewards creativity and individual expression. While polished, carefully planned campaigns might perform well on Instagram, the most successful TikTok activations let each participating influencer put their own unique spin on an initiative’s message. When developing ideas for campaigns, brands should make sure their concepts are broad enough that content creators can take them in any direction they feel inspired to. Additionally, brands shouldn’t shy away from funny or unconventional ideas — comedy and novelty both tend to result in attention-grabbing, high-engagement TikTok content. Prioritise product quality Beauty influencers on any platform gravitate towards high-quality products. However, TikTok’s short-form video format allows users to view different makeup and skincare offerings in action — one reason that “first impressions” and “testing” TikTok content is so popular. As a result, brands eager to win over TikTok audiences should take extra care to ensure that their products come with clear, eye-catching results that influencers can share with their friends and followers. Consistently re-engage fans The internet has a notoriously short attention span, and TikTok is no exception. Rather than celebrating one-off promotions from influencers, brands should continually reach out to their supporters with product sends and other gestures that facilitate ongoing posting activity. Because influencer relationships tend to appreciate over time as content creators expand their followings, long-term relationships yield the greatest lifetime value for brands.