The theme for this year’s Tinuiti Live—held virtually and in-person in NYC on May 4, 2023—was Questioning Your Way to Clarity. The dozen plus sessions of the day explored the concept of how asking the right questions can lead to the most important answers and solutions across paid social, Streaming, Amazon, and beyond.
In this post, we’ll dive further into one of the most memorable sessions of the day, packed with valuable takeaways for brands of all sizes that are ready to dream big…
Keep the e.l.f. Up: How did Gen Z’s favorite beauty brand take a big idea to the Big Game in 3 e.l.f.ing weeks?
Whether you’re in mile 20 of a marathon, taking the bar exam, or launching your first Prime Time commercial during the Big Game, there were countless hours of hard work that led up to that moment being possible.
In e.l.f. Beauty’s Tinuiti Live session, CMO Kory Marchisotto walked attendees through what some of those moments were for e.l.f. Cosmetics on the ~20-year path from being a startup online beauty brand to holding the #1 SKU in Mass Cosmetics…with some help from the one-and-only Jennifer Coolidge.
A Giant Year for e.l.f. Beauty
e.l.f. Beauty has been enjoying an action-packed journey full of hard work, innovative talent, strategic partnerships, and more to get to where they are today, with some recent accomplishments including:
- e.l.f. Beauty has had 16 consecutive quarters of net sales growth
- e.l.f. Beauty is outpacing their industry by nearly 5X
- e.l.f. Beauty reached the #1 SKU in Mass Cosmetics with their cult favorite (and Jennifer Coolidge-endorsed) e.l.f. Power Grip Primer. This is especially monumental as the top spots are historically held by mascara, with a primer never before reaching the #1 position
- e.l.f. Beauty created and launched an ad for the Big Game in just 3 weeks, going Prime Time for the first time in company history
But how did they do it?
How e.l.f. Beauty Put In the Work
“What I want to do today [is] feed you with the tools that you need on your limitless journey to make the impossible possible, because if you believe you can, you will. This is not an accident by any stretch of the imagination; this is calculated, and it’s calibrated, and it starts with our ethos. Everything you do is a reflection of who you are—your mission, your vision, your values—so it all starts with us making sure we water those roots every single day.”
The roots of e.l.f. Beauty trace back to 2004, when they disrupted the beauty industry by offering premium quality cosmetics online for just $1. At the time, e.l.f. faced three primary obstacles in this business model:
- Others thought it wasn’t possible to sell premium cosmetics at such a low cost
- Buying color cosmetics online was still thought to be something most folks wouldn’t do
- Others thought that even if they overcame the first two concerns, profitability was impossible
Nearly 20 years later, e.l.f. has more than proved doubters wrong by watering the roots of their disruptive nature in everything they do, considering themselves a “19-year-old startup with a bias for action” that is “big enough to do great things, but small enough to be nimble.”
Marchisotto notes that the most important thing of all is to truly believe that anything is possible. As for what powers those possibilities, it’s something she calls The Power of Accretion—what needs to be true for today to be true.
The Power of Accretion: Four Repeatable Steps for Success
“The Power of Accretion is all about things growing over time; this is how planets are formed. It’s the coming together—and most importantly, cohesion of matter—under the influence of gravitation to form larger bodies.”
It’s crucial to stay tuned in to what your target audience is most interested in at any given moment, and to leverage those learnings in creating always-relevant content.
Marchisotto shared a story where e.l.f. had to act quickly after a Christmas campaign was cancelled two weeks before its planned launch. Their team had to move at e.l.f. speed to craft a replacement campaign, and looked to their audience for insights and inspiration on what and how to do that…
- Their newest viral sensation product at the time was their Halo Glow Liquid Filter. There was an 80K long waitlist of folks anxious for the product to be restocked, which would be happening soon
- The Weather Channel shared that 8 in 10 people change their beauty routine based on the weather. e.l.f. wasn’t yet sure how they would utilize this information, but put it on their vision board for consideration
- Popular singer Meghan Trainor posted a viral organic TikTok post featuring one of her favorite products, e.l.f.’s Halo Glow, earning incredible exposure
- e.l.f. learned that Meghan Trainor has always dreamed of being a weather girl
What’s the best way to make all those elements work together for a campaign-level promotion in just three weeks…
“Put your head in the stars, and look for the stars that are shining the brightest. And don’t stop looking until you make a constellation.”
e.l.f. Beauty brought together all their findings from tuning in to dream up a commercial for Halo Glow for a “special radiance report” featuring Meghan Trainor as the weather forecaster.
“Once you have made a constellation, stop looking, start doing!” All the question asking and resultant information gathering and strategizing needs to actually lead to action for it to have any real impact.
Move at the Speed of Culture (aka e.l.f. Speed)
Marchisotto stressed the importance of acting quickly, moving at e.l.f. Speed, or the “speed of culture.”
“Three weeks—start to finish—we contracted Meghan Trainor, we got her on the table with the e.l.f., Weather Channel and Meghan Trainor trifecta, and we had the most successful holiday campaign in e.l.f. history…5.7 billion impressions.”
e.l.f. Wins Big at the Big Game
As Marchisotto explained, the Meghan Trainor special radiance report had to happen for the Jennifer Coolidge Prime Time commercial to happen. And Meghan Trainor had to truly like their products for an organic Halo Glow TikTok to happen. And e.l.f. had to be tuning in to see that TikTok. And their team had to think innovatively about how to bring all these elements together quickly to save Christmas (an important job for an elf!)
“If you are going to make the impossible possible, you need a lot of energy, and you need to be able to keep the e.l.f. up.”
Fast-forward just a few short weeks, and with holiday behind them, e.l.f. continued tuning in to see which of their products customers were most excited about, and what language they were using to describe them. e.l.f.’s Power Grip Primer quickly proved to be the hottest topic among beauty lovers, and they were describing it using phrases including “makeup glue,” “sticky slime,” and “magic sticky face potion.”
Now, e.l.f. knew not only what product to lean into for their next big promotion, but also the language to use when marketing that product in terms that would resonate with their audience. They also knew they needed an equally ‘sticky’ celebrity for a campaign that would stick in everyone’s mind long after their first Prime Time commercial aired during the Big Game.
And just like Meghan Trainor—who already loved e.l.f. products and always dreamed of being a weathercaster—the amazing Jennifer Coolidge is not only one of the most adored cultural icons of our time, but was also already an authentic fan of the brand who loves the products and e.l.f.’s cruelty-free promise.
Notably, Coolidge is a fan who had shared in a recent interview that she’d always wanted to play a dolphin. (Not with a dolphin—as a dolphin!) Following their formula for The Power of Accretion, e.l.f. made their own dreams and Coolidge’s come true in one of the most memorable commercials (and hashtags) beauty has ever seen—after all, who doesn’t want #dolphinskin?
e.l.f. went back to their philosophy that anything is possible when they set out to work with Jennifer Coolidge for a not-yet secured halftime ad spot during the Big Game, which was just three weeks away. And, with some help from a talented team—including Tinuiti, who helped secure the halftime ad spot—they did it!
“We worked closely with the e.l.f. marketing team to secure this opportunity and make it come to fruition. Campaigns such as this speak to the incredible relationships we develop with our clients and the vast capabilities of Tinuiti’s Streaming+ division, specifically, our ability to marry brand and performance marketing tactics to drive full-funnel growth. We wouldn’t be able to do it without the cross-channel collaboration we pride ourselves on as a full stack marketing agency or the phenomenal clients we have the pleasure of working with on a daily basis.”
— Jonathan Lerner, Director, Client Strategy and Analytics, Bliss Point Media, a part of Tinuiti
“e.l.f. has always been a first mover in the digital space, so it was exciting but not surprising that they wanted to launch a campaign for the Big Game. We worked in lockstep with their team to secure an impactful Linear buy, and are supporting this milestone moment with a 360-approach against e.l.f.’s tried-and-true platforms, like TikTok, to captivate new audiences and continue to delight their existing customer base.”
— Megan Caputo, Group Director at Tinuiti
Not content to accomplish only the task at hand, e.l.f.’s team kept asking themselves questions, and came up with some brilliant ideas to leverage every second of hilarious footage from their shoot with Coolidge. Leaving nothing on the cutting room floor, e.l.f. kept their “constant drumbeat” going with hilarious outtakes from their commercial shoot shared via social media through a new series, Vanity Table Talk.
As for the e.l.f.ing stats to show the marketing performance score?
- e.l.f.’s halftime campaign earned 57B global impressions, with e.l.f. taking the top spot for brand sentiment amongst all Big Game commercials with 18K mentions and 89% positive sentiment
- A TikTok trend for #dolphinskin was born, earning 21M views and +429% growth MoM
- Purchase consideration rose +64% WoW post-game
- Before the Big Game, e.l.f. Cosmetics was selling one Power Grip Primer every 8 seconds. After their Prime Time commercial, that already-impressive metric reached one Power Grip Primer being sold every 3.5 seconds, with a halo effect on their entire business
Be sure to check out Marchisotto’s Tinuiti Live 2023 on-demand session to be further inspired by her energy for yourself, as well as our other amazing sessions from the day!