Inside beauty brand Eos’ long-term TikTok strategy

On April 4, Eos launched its third TikTok campaign, set to run for eight days and tied to the Easter holiday. It is using the marketing exercise as an opportunity to craft an ongoing and long-term TikTok presence.

Eos’ first TikTok campaign ran in September 2019 and was what Soyoung Kang, Eos CMO, called the “Cadillac version.” Eos ads played when users opened the app, plus the company ran an official paid hashtag challenge and paid influencers to promote products. But after testing the platform for more than six months, the company decided to move to a campaign that was comparatively pared down, but sharper in its intent, she said. This month, Eos is working with 15 paid influencers who have a collected reach of over 50 million followers. The company is also attempting to gamify the campaign to gain more followers for its own branded account. This is being done so that the brand can sustain its own organic branded presence moving forward; Eos is looking to double its current follower count to over 200,000 followers.

“If we think of TikTok the way that we think of any other social media platforms, it’s not just about one big, branded tentpole moment,” said Kang. “It’s about continuing to nurture community and nurture direct connection.”

Ahead, Eos’ playbook to building an always-on TikTok strategy.

Gamify content to engage users
For Eos, its 15 influencers were asked to create an Easter egg hunt using Eos products, and encourage their followers to comment on how many “egg”lip balms were hidden. Each video has a variety of lip balms hidden. This campaign was crafted to drive people back to the Eos brand account; every influencer provided a call-to-action to follow the brand. Eos is revealing the answers to the number of eggs hidden over the course of nine days, by using the duet feature on TikTok, in which one video is shown side-by-side with a user’s video. Eos’ videos show its employees reacting to the influencers’ videos, typically by dancing or appearing to catch lip balms from the original video and revealing the number. People who commented with the correct answers are entered to win a gift basket of Eos products. They will be announced on Easter Sunday, April 12.

“We have thought a lot about how we’ll continue our TikTok strategy to have an evergreen or always-on presence,” said Kang. “The more we can drive engagement with the brand and products, the more likely it will be for us to create viral content that will [enable] a cycle of getting more and more eyeballs onto it.”

After the Easter campaign wraps, Eos will maintain a presence by posting one video a day or every other day, said Kang. The beauty brand has posted in this cadence since September, with the idea that the social marketing team of four people (with occasional help from additional Eos employees) crafts their own videos based on popular memes, songs and dances that occur on the platform. While other beauty brands are cutting non-essential expenses, Eos said that it has not laid off or furloughed any employees in the U.S. due to coronavirus.

Think differently about success
In order to establish an ongoing presence, brands also have to think about community management. TikTok requires manual attention by employees to respond and comment in-app; other platforms like Instagram can be managed through tools like Sprout. For Eos, this means creating a dialogue with TikTok users not only on branded videos, but on other videos that tag the brand.

“If we want to continue to use TikTok as part of our marketing toolkit for the future, we want to make sure that we have our own direct connections with consumers,” said Kang.

This approach also means thinking differently about key performance metrics. Whereas on Instagram a brand is aiming for 2-4% engagement (through likes and comments), TikTok can generate engagement (through likes, views, comments and duet responses) of 10% or higher, said Kang. The two previous campaigns, from Sept. 2019 and Dec. 2019, saw a 14.5% and 12% engagement, respectively. Being able to craft a campaign to amplify Eos’ presence, but in a way that also strengthens its brand equity, is another metric for success. The way the brand quantifies this is more fluid and intuitive, she said, as it relates not only to the amount of engagement of a post but also to the quality of content and how much it mirrors the brand’s equity. For example, TikTok users have a habit of tagging brands irrelevant to their videos. Some theories suggest that’s done to boost videos on the platform’s algorithm. Monitoring whether the brand is mentioned in a meaningful way feeds into Eos’ equity metric to determine the success of a campaign and overall brand presence.

In the future, as more brands decide to join TikTok, the cost-per-impression will likely increase just as it has for other social platforms. Eos’ investment for the two prior TikTok campaigns was what Kang characterized as “efficient” in the sense that the brand got more bang for its buck. Though Kang declined to comment on specific figures, she said the cost per impression has increased as more brands have joined the platform. Eos worked with influencer agency Collab to connect with its slate of 15 influencers.

Kang estimates Eos will double its investment in TikTok for 2020. In 2019, the brand spent 7% of its marketing budget on TikTok and other experimental tactics such as native advertising. Kang said 2019 was focused on being digital-first, while in 2020, the brand will focus on being social-first.

Don’t be too branded
In a world where the modern rules around social interaction, brand management and distribution are being upended, being able to adapt is critical.

“I could argue it’s more important on TikTok than on any of the other platforms to be more authentic, less polished and have fewer assets and content that look like ads,” said Kang.

Brands have to be at-ease with relinquishing part of their control, according to both Kang and Pierre-Loïc Assayag, founder and CEO of influencer marketing management platform Traackr. Many TikTok influencers are just entering the sphere of influence and don’t have a polished presence nor the content creation skillset of mega-influencers on Instagram. Giving up control around production and voice to TikTok influencers is more important than following strict brand guidelines around content quality and brand principles that were created for another platform’s environment, said Assayag. This transference of authority to content creators is the way the influencer world is headed, he said, and TikTok is merely a catalyst for that change.

He added that brands should be thinking about how to craft positive videos, as TikTok is a playful platform where music, dance and humor is the focus. Finding ways to overlap a brand’s values through a lens of positivity is important.

“What is unique about the platform is that there’s a positivity and playfulness that other platforms have lost,” said Assayag. “Brand can’t just push products on TikTok. Instead, they have to think about ways to push their brand values and have them feel authentic with the TikTok vibe.”

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