e.l.f. Cosmetics has garnered attention for its skillful content creation. The brand showcases the ability to develop engaging moments that connect with audiences, challenge conventions, and emphasize core messages.
We spoke with Patrick O’Keefe, VP, integrated marketing communications, e.l.f. Beauty, and Liza Suloti, co-founder and Chief Communications Officer from the integrated marketing communications agency, SHADOW, to uncover the strategies that have aided in e.l.f.'s success.
PRNEWS: The brand has seen success in creating engaging content moments that not only boost public relations efforts but also drive sales and brand loyalty. Can you share some key strategies that have contributed to this success?
Patrick O’ Keefe: e.l.f. is an entertainment company that also sells makeup and skin care. Our vision is to create a different kind of beauty company by building brands that disrupt norms, shape culture and connect communities.
We keep our attention focused on three things: our core value proposition (making the best of beauty accessible to every eye, lip, and face); innovation (having a constant drumbeat of Holy Grail innovation that delights our community); and a disruptive marketing engine (bringing it all to life in [an] unexpected way).
O’ Keefe: Every action we take is fueled by our community’s needs, wants and desires. Our campaigns are built on community insights, like our Big Game spot, created based on the obsession our community has with Power Grip Primer. They were entertained by, and enamored with, the sticky quotient. They coined it “Sticky AF,” along with a number of other fun nicknames.
Once we realized the viral power of the product, the entertainment value of the stickiness, and how much fun our community was having with it, we leaned in, and it ended up paying off. Our community propelled Power Grip Primer to the #1 primer at mass and prestige and the #1 SKU in mass color cosmetics.
PRNEWS: Entertainment seems to be a significant aspect of your recent content strategy. How do you strike a balance between entertainment and delivering brand messages effectively?
O’ Keefe: We listen to what our community is saying and doing, and then we look for the signals. e.l.f. was one of the first brands, not just in beauty but in any consumer category, to join TikTok back in October 2019. It all started with a spark and discovery that the hashtag, #elfcosmetics, had 3.5 million posts. Our community was calling for us to be on the platform and we answered that call. We immersed ourselves in the TikTok community, looking for innovative and authentic ways to engage and entertain our community.
Our channel has become a destination for entertaining content made for the community, with the community, to delight the community. Original music tracks, made for TikTok movies and reality shows, crowd-sourced pop groups and original episodic content series are just some of the ways the team has created an orbit more and more people want to be a part of.
Liza Suloti: The Big Game commercial was one component of a broader campaign; we made strategic choices to amplify our 30 seconds into a cultural moment where key messages and products were covered just as much as the entertainment content.
We pulsed out assets and information for a steady stream of news and ensured every aspect of the campaign (talent, hero product, platform) had its own PR hook. We sent tailored pitches across verticals to ensure everyone received the message: the e.l.f Power Grip Primer is sticky as f*ck.
PRNEWS: How do you ensure that the ideas resonate with your target audience?
O’Keefe: e.l.f. is for EVERY eye, lip, and face. We are a brand of the people, by the people, for the people, and we create with the people. Our community tells us what they want from us, and this guides everything that we do. Additionally, all of our campaigns are built on insights—for example, with e.l.f.’s Glow Storm campaign, we leaned into the statistic that ‘8 out of 10 women will change their beauty behaviors based on the weather.’ The formulation of leaning into our community as well as insights allows us to successfully resonate with our target audience.
PRNEWS: The Vanity Table Talk Series has garnered a lot of attention. Could you elaborate on how you approached casting for the series and why you believe it has been successful in engaging your audience?
Suloti: The series was inspired by our sticky partnership with Jennifer Coolidge, who originally pulled up a seat at the vanity during our mega-viral Big Game commercial. Our approach to casting is always deliberate. Series stars, Jen, Ashley, Ziwe, and Taylor, all align with the spirit of the show, and each represents the very best of beauty—they’re confident, authentic, and unique.
In addition to thinking of who resonates with the e.l.f. Community and values, we also look for inspiration in pop culture. For example, with e.l.f.’s most recent Vanity Table Talk, we [cast] Taylor Lautner and his wife, Taylor, before attending The Eras Tour. Taylor takes viewers along with her as she gets ready, challenging her husband to a game of "guess the e.l.f. product" and displaying her favorite, must-have e.l.f. products.
PRNEWS: How do you approach product integration to ensure it feels natural and enhances the overall content experience rather than coming across as an advertisement?
O’Keefe: When you have 14 million people showing up on your doorstep every day, you can’t just sell them a product; you have to entertain them. We focus on our superpowers creating high-quality products at an incredible value that are clean, cruelty-free, vegan, and fair trade certified. We tell a compelling and engaging story that incorporates products into the narrative naturally, so it doesn’t feel like an ad but more like an integral element of the content.
PRNEWS: How have you measured the impact of your engaging content moments?
Suloti: We look to media impressions, inclusive of print, digital, broadcast, and social
media when considering the impact of our content moments. One of e.l.f.’s most successful campaigns to date, the brand’s first-ever Big Game spot, garnered 10 billion earned media impressions in 24 hours and 57 billion globally to date, as well as 65 million paid and organic media impressions across TV, TikTok and Instagram over 5 days.
A key indicator of our success can be measured by the sentiment, authentic feedback and engagement of our community. Their candid responses help measure reach and impact which then influences and informs our future content.
PRNEWS: Creating surround sound moments involves a multi-channel approach. How do you coordinate your communication efforts across various platforms to amplify the impact of your content moments?
Suloti: Creating “surround sound” moments is a large part of our philosophy and approach at SHADOW. Especially for The Big Game, we parceled out bite-sized pieces of content, building buzz and anticipation across Instagram and TikTok and creating a hunger and a sense of mystery around our star talent and the creative content.
We also compliment e.l.f.'s paid media strategy with an earned media strategy to roll out both at and following launch to sustain the buzz started on social media. Further, we ensure that every aspect of the content (talent, hero product, platform) have their own PR hook—creating an e.l.f.-ing loud story.
PRNEWS: How do you adapt your content strategies to remain relevant and capture your audience's attention?
O’Keefe: It goes back to putting the E in every eye, lip and face, and that informs our strategy and approach. If you think about our commercial at the Big Game, it was designed to speak directly to e.l.f.'s social-fluent audiences, while relying on the pop culture prowess of Jennifer Coolidge, to carry the comedy and resonate more broadly across generations and audiences.
PRNEWS: Collaboration between various teams, such as marketing, PR, and creative is crucial for successful content moments. How do you foster a collaborative environment within your organization to bring these ideas to life?
Patrick: Collaborating across multiple teams is essential for fostering creativity, productivity, and a positive working environment. We thrive on a culture of high performance teamwork, which relies on passionate relationships, healthy conflict and mutual accountability, and together we know that anything is e.l.f.-ing possible.
Suloti: For SHADOW, we thrive when we have a seat at the table. We are so grateful to have the e.l.f. team be a true partner. Together we collaborate not just on the execution of ideas but on conception as well. Our relationship has allowed us to create true magic that can be seen in Glow Storm, the Big Game spot and Vanity Table Talk as well as the day-to-day success.
Tai Nichols is event content manager for PRNEWS. Follow her: @SathiyyahN