How E.L.F.’s #eyeslipsface Challenge Got 3 Billion Views on TikTok

Images taken from @elfcosmetics on Instagram

While Popular Chips is preparing to launch a new chapter in AI-Driven Influencer Marketing Analytics with the release of our TikTok Influencer Management & Campaign Tracking this December 2019, it’s also time for our Influencer Marketing readers to start delving into the world of TikTok with a series of notable case studies that I’ll be releasing in the next few weeks.

Click on #TikTokCaseStudies to read the brands’ TikTok Influencer Campaigns that you need to know. 

It hasn’t been long since the release of TikTok that brands have begun to execute influencer marketing campaigns on the platform. Of course, these efforts differ quite greatly from the ones perfected for Instagram, as they should. Marketing efforts on TikTok are expected to be quite different — the most significant distinguishing factors being:

(1) the immense focus on a Gen Z audience, as well as (2) trend-oriented content as opposed to viral hashtags and the ‘right’ connections. 

One beauty brand that has managed to cement its position on TikTok recently is @elfcosmetics with their #eyeslipsface challenge. According to our research, the original video has since garnered over 3 billion views, and 1.5 million organic videos have been created in response to this challenge. Some of these videos were posted by well-known celebrity & beauty influencers like @patrickstarrr, @jamescharles, @reesewitherspoon, and @jessicalba

What was it about this campaign that made E.L.F’s foray into TikTok so successful? 

1 – Incentive to Take Part

Any successful trend is characterised by the number of people who take part, the number of shares, likes, comments, and so on. E.L.F. ensured that TikTok users would be incentivised to submit an entry and jump on the bandwagon by instating a prize element. On their hashtag page where all the entries are reflected, it states that $250 worth of prizes stand to be won, which gives makeup lovers, E.L.F. fans and people who might have been on the fence a reason to jump on board. 

This is clever because they are casting the net for an audience as wide as possible by reaching out to people who might not have joined a TikTok challenge just for the sake of it.  

It is also worthy to note that they did not advertise this challenge on Instagram. 

The lack of cross-platform correspondence was a bold move but in this case simply goes to show how powerful and successful the trend was. 

It managed to rake in 1.5 million entries without the need for double posting. Incentives go a long way. 

2 – Room for Creativity

The second important factor behind the success of this campaign was the immense room for creativity, which gave users a chance to respond to the challenge in any way they liked. Once more, this lowered the bar of entry because it was not restricted to just MUAs or beauty influencers—anything that displayed “(s)e.l.f. confident moves” was worthy of an entry. Take a look at some examples below: 

By not necessarily looking for makeup tutorials or looks, E.L.F. allowed their campaign to trend in a mainstream manner, garnering the maximum traffic on TikTok. 

3 – Catering to Gen Z

Take a look at the entries on #eyeslipsface and you will find that the majority of the videos (save Terry Crews and some others) are created and posted by millennials. I compared this to the #haribochallenge which was one of the more popular challenges this year, requiring creators to arrange as many Haribo gummy bears as possible with Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ playing in the background. A simple scroll through the videos will reveal that majority of the users belong to the Gen Z demographic. 

As I reiterated before, “it is this group of individuals who spend the most amount of time online and are therefore the most likely to consume online marketing content. This means that investing in a platform that appears to solely target one facet of society might have better payoffs than you think.”

The #eyeslipsface challenge was simple and catchy enough to take up the same space as other popular trends of 2019, which is a big feather in E.L.F.’s cap. 

4 – Instant Pull for Reputable MUAs 

Inasmuch as they intended to reach beyond the beauty community, the challenge was also inherently suited to beauty influencers, who could use the trend to engage with their niche and trend instantly. This made for a win-win situation: relevant content production for influencers and free exposure for E.L.F. 

The video with the most likes (3.1 million) is undoubtedly by James Charles:

Patrick Starrr’s Genie transformation for Halloween also ranks somewhere near the top:

Neither of these macro influencers were paid to post on behalf of the brand, which means that they were organic posts. All in all, E.L.F. only had to pay $250 in products for more than 3 Billion TikTok users to talk about their brand. 

@jamescharles also reposted the video on his Instagram account where he received a 10.15% engagement rate, which is more than 3 times the industry average.

5 – Breaking Ground Early

Finally, E.L.F. broke ground on TikTok extremely early which is not something that is necessarily replicable, but is worthy of mention. There is immense value in going where no one else has gone, and so far E.L.F. is the first beauty brand to lead a successful campaign on TikTok.  

A cool thing to note is that they produced their own song for the challenge. It takes inspiration from ‘Ice Me Out’ by Kash Doll and is actually the first song to be commissioned for a TikTok campaign. 

This was such a hit that the videos tagged #elfcosmetics managed to garner more than 3 million views before the brand even had a chance to create an account for themselves. Have a listen, it really is catchy. 

What’s Next for E.L.F.? 

The cosmetics brand can honestly move in any direction they want at this point since TikTok is uncharted ground. What I am looking forward to is more campaigns in various forms — paid, seeding, events etc. — so that we can witness the differences between influencer marketing on Instagram and TikTok respectively. I am also looking to see what E.L.F. does with the noise they have generated on this campaign, and how it contributes to their marketing efforts in general. 

Do you need help tracking content and measuring the Media Value of your Influencer Marketing Campaigns as well as those of your Competitors? Get in touch at and start your trial.

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Written by Deesha Menon

Influencer Marketing at Popular Chips. Interested in social issues, narratives, books, social media, and machine learning.

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