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For people to follow and engage with brand content, the brand has to be doing something very right. As such, only a handful of beauty brands have crossed the million-follower threshold on TikTok. Among them are Rare Beauty (1.2 million followers), Too Faced (1.1 million followers) and Kaja Beauty (1.7 million followers).
It’s not shocking that all three brands offer makeup product specifically. After all, TikTok loves a “transition” — specifically, a before-and-after of a messy morning bun and no makeup that cuts to a full-glam, fake-lashes and bright-lip situation.
Still, 1 million is a very high number. So I spoke with executives at each of the three brands mentioned to gain insight into their winning strategies.
Rare Beauty launched in September of 2020. The brand is, of course, bolstered by its very famous founder, Selena Gomez, who herself has over 45 million followers on the app. “I’ll never say Selena doesn’t help us on TikTok. She’s certainly not hurting us,” said Ashley Murphy, the brand’s vp of consumer marketing. “[But] we’re not seeing consumers follow a brand just because [a celebrity] posts about them.”
Given the unique nature of TikTok’s algorithm, in order for brands to be successful, they have to provide value and engage with their communities in culturally relevant ways, Murphy said. “People are not going to the platform to be sold product; they’re there to be entertained. It’s almost like escapism,” she said.
To that end, Murphy and her team live and breathe TikTok, are genuinely passionate about the platform, and take a far less buttoned-up approach to creating content for it than for other social media platforms.
On a similar note, Somer Tejwani, Too Faced’s svp of global marketing, said success on TikTok is about giving the experts “the keys to the castle” and letting them run with it. “There’s not enough time to have a meeting to get ideas approved,” she said. “[If you do that,] you’ve already missed the boat — the trend is over.” The tone and vibe that resonate are unique, too. On Instagram, people still post what they “want the world to see,” she said. TikTok, on the other hand, has maintained a more authentic vibe.
For its part, some of Kaja’s earliest successes on TikTok were ASMR-focused videos. They served as proof that untraditional content, rather than Instagram-esque pretty pictures, are at the heart of TikTok success.
All three of these brands have had products go viral on the app.
Rare Beauty’s Soft Pinch Liquid Blush has essentially taken on a life of its own on the app. The hashtag #rarebeautyblush currently has 655 million views, up from the 417 million it had at the end of December. The $23 product is known for its extreme pigment, which means a little goes a very long way — first-time users, beware. It also sells at an affordable price point. It launched when the brand launched, in 2020.
A couple months later, in January 2021, creator Ferny Zambrana (@fernyzambrana1; 248,000 followers) put the blush to the test in her car in a video that’s earned 1 million likes. All three brands I spoke to attributed much of the virality of their products to organic posts — meaning, to a certain extent, they’ve been lucky.
“We found success through the dramatization of the product. The blush is super-pigmented, [so] in the video, Ferny looks like she has a sunburn,” Murphy said. “Other creators saw the virality of [Ferny’s] video, and then a few others made videos. Within about a two-week timeframe, we had four or five videos at 8 million views.” In the same timeframe, the brand saw its following increase 20%.
Rare Beauty takes a heavy-handed approach to community engagement. You’ll rarely, if ever, come across a video of a TikToker trying on a Rare product without seeing a comment from Rare. If a user’s post shows they’re confused about how to manage Soft Pinch’s heavy pigment, the brand will comment and advise. Some lucky creators receive comments from Selena herself. Katie Welch, the brand’s CMO, also actively engages with user generated content.
The success of the blush on TikTok speaks to the lightheartedness that is not only permitted but also encouraged on the platform. “We always joke that you remember the first time you try Soft Pinch Liquid Blush, because you see that a little goes a long way,” Murphy said. “But that’s intrigued people and made them excited to try the product.” She added, “I can’t name another blush that makes you laugh and want to have fun.”
In January 2022, Rare was at the center of a TikTok-viral hack, in which people demonstrated blending a dot of the brand’s hero blush with a dot of its Positive Light Liquid Luminizer Highlight to achieve a glowy look. Within two weeks, Rare launched a customizable combo of the two viral products on its website.
Too Faced was an early adopter of TikTok. The brand started posting in March 2019 and has participated in many of the app’s alpha and beta programs for brands. In fact, Rare and Too Faced were the first two beauty brands to test TikTok’s Live Shopping feature in alpha, in December 2021.
Having a close-knit relationship with TikTok has helped Too Faced grow, Tejwani said, as it has afforded the brand the opportunity to participate in pilot programs. She also stressed the importance of putting out a high volume of content. The brand puts out 12-15 new TikTok posts a week — a mix of its take on viral trends, makeup applications,
Recently, a new launch, the brand’s Cloud Crush Blurring Blush, sold out as a result of TikTok popularity. The Candy Clouds shade was the most popular, she noted. It became popular for being a true blue-toned blush and has been compared to Dior’s popular Rosy Glow Blush. “When we work with creators in a paid capacity and when we do paid ads, we usually focus on our hero products. But this was a new product, so it wasn’t something we were doing a super big push behind. And it just spread like wildfire on TikTok,” she said. “It was [especially] unusual because we weren’t in the blush game [prior].” She added that Cloud Crush was the brand’s first blush launch in a long time.
For Kaja’s part, according to founder and CEO Dino Ha, part of its social success rests on leaning into the pure aesthetic fun that the brand is known for. Its Cheeky Stamp Blendable Blush, with its heart-shaped applicator, is a perfect example. “That product tells you what Kaja is all about, with the heart, the cuteness, the portability,” he said. “[Videos showing the use] of the heart application on your face and then blending it were a hit.”
The brand unabashedly focuses on its packaging. “Kaja always thinks about the application before the formula: ‘How do we make it interesting?’ ‘How do we make the experience of putting on your makeup fun?'” he said. With its ASMR TikTok videos, Kaja is answering its own question.
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