How To Grow Your Brand On TikTok: Deconstructing e.l.f. Cosmetics’ Success

By 08/25/2021
How To Grow Your Brand On TikTok: Deconstructing e.l.f. Cosmetics’ Success

Makeup sales declined 22% during the pandemic.

But despite the industry taking such a massive hit, one brand thrived.

e.l.f. Cosmetics ended 2020 with triple-digit online growth and a 13% YOY increase in sales. In May 2021, net sales increased by 24% to $92.7 million that quarter. It marked their ninth consecutive quarter of growth.


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How did they accomplish this?

e.l.f. Cosmetics tapped into Gen Z with the best TikTok content strategy for brands.

Over the past year, e.l.f. has mastered the platform. They’ve amassed 330K followers, nearly 9 million likes, and created one of the most popular trending songs on the platform. 

For beauty brands targeting Gen Z, not having a TikTok is as bad as not having a website. 

GenZ is spending 23% more on makeup than previous generations. However, there is more competition than ever. If brands want to successfully grab the attention of the under-25 crowd, they have to speak the language of Gen Z’s No. 1 platform.

TikTok has exploded to over 100 million users in the U.S., and Gen Z accounts for more than 60% of those users. It’s the first non-Facebook app to generate more than 3 billion downloads worldwide. 

TikTok's Flicker, Flash, Flare Content Strategy For Brandse.l.f was an early adopter of the platform. To become the most dominant makeup brand, they adopted TikTok’s Flicker, Flash, Flare content strategy. It’s a framework developed by TikTok which they’ve encouraged brands to adopt.

e.l.f implemented the TikTok content strategy flawlessly. Here’s how:

Flicker Content—Reactive

Flicker content is quick-turn and reactive. It’s what TikTok is known best for–hashtag challenges, sounds, or trends that spread quickly throughout the platform.

For example, e.l.f regularly jumps on #getreadywithme videos. The trend is one where people highlight a variety of makeup routines or outfits for a day or night out. e.l.f has participated in this trend by working with content creators to incorporate e.l.f products into their daily routines then feature the content on their channels.

Other examples include using sounds, like this one using a popular Love Island soundbite. Or tapping into macro trends like Y2K looks (which has become wildly popular on the platform). Duet/reaction videos is another use case.

Flash Content—Proactive

Flash content is planned and/or episodic content. These can be more produced than a typical TikTok. According to TikTok, these should bring the brand’s story to life in an original, entertaining way or highlight product attributes. They can incorporate elements such as recurring storylines or formats.

e.l.f. creates a great deal of flash content. They regularly post skincare routine and makeup tutorials, and product hauls. They consistently feature the same talent and maintain a consistent aesthetic and format.

Flare Content–Large-Scale Campaign Initiatives

Flare content is meant to be created a handful of times a year. It’s for major brand moments such as product launches or campaigns and should drive participation. TikTok recommends branded hashtag challenges, lenses, and influencer collaborations as go-to flare tactics.

e.l.f. took it one step further and commissioned their own song “Eyes. Lips. Face. (e.l.f.).

After calling on influencers to get the trend started, they challenged TikTokers to use it as a sound in their makeup routine videos– 1.4 million users have. “Eyes. Lips. Face. (e.l.f.)” has over 23 million streams on Spotify. For context, that’s more than many Taylor Swift songs.

Brands NOT on TikTok, you are missing a huge opportunity. TikTok provides 118% organic reach and an average 8% engagement. Compare this with Facebook or Instagram, where you’re lucky if you get 2% organic reach.

In short, it’s worth the investment.

TikTok is known for casual, effortless content, but there is a clear formula that brands who find success on the platform employ. Implementing a flash, flicker, flare model for content strategy can offer a clear roadmap for building and growing your audience.

If a smart TikTok strategy helped e.l.f. drive triple-digit sales growth while the rest of the industry suffered, just think what could it do for your brand.

Brendan Gahan is Partner & Chief Social Officer at independent creative agency Mekanism. Gahan blogs regularly about social media advertising and influencer/screators at

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