Essence Makeup teams with Movers + Shakers for its first TikTok campaign

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Beauty brands are still learning to navigate TikTok, but if there’s one “playbook” that’s proven successful, it’s the music-driven campaign, embraced by the likes of E.l.f. For Essence Makeup’s first TikTok campaign, it enlisted creative agency Movers + Shakers to help build a music-driven campaign, dubbed #unoriginalsongs.

Launching a TikTok campaign was just a matter of time for the brand, which prides itself on “fun,” said Jill Krakowski, the brand’s CMO.

“All of 2020, especially during the lockdown, we were watching and noticing what was going on with TikTok,” she said, noting that right before lockdown, the brand’s Kiss The Black Sheep Lipstick had organically gone viral. “We saw this huge spike in sales immediately. And that’s when we really woke up and said, ‘TikTok is here to stay. It drives business.’”

At that point, the brand began partnering with TikTok influencers to create content, add TikTokers to its PR lists, and make sure TikTokers had access to Essence products. In 2021, Essence started to run ads on the platform by boosting creator-made content. 

On December 15, the brand introduced its first TikTok campaign created in partnership with Movers + Shakers, which ran through December 29. In the U.S., Essence is best known for its Lash Princess mascara, so the company decided to focus on other products. The corresponding hashtag, #unoriginalsongs, earned 56.2 million views. According to Movers + Shakers creative director John McGill, “We had 511 organic sound uses on TikTok, which means that consumers saw the ads, went and found the music tracks and actually created TikToks on their own, which is really unique.” This is somewhat expected when a brand campaign is centered around a “challenge” and has a call to action. And it was a marker of success for Essence, which used the initiative as more of a classic influencer campaign and didn’t ask for fans to get involved — it was a happy surprise that they did. The campaign was meant to increase brand awareness in the States, as the brand is bigger and better known in Europe. 

For the campaign, Essence and Movers + Shakers took inspiration from existing Essence products with pun-based names, including the Baby Got Brow! Eyebrow Pencil ($4.99) and the I Like To Mauve It, Mauve It! Eyeshadow Palette ($3.99). Instead of creating original music, Essence licensed the songs its product names play off of and created original, playful lyrics. For example, “Oh my God, Becky, look at her brows / They’re so…big / You get…ugh! / Want to pull out a brush / ‘Cause you’re jealous them brows is stuffed / Deep in her pocket she’s carrying / An Essence pencil and I’m staring.”

Essence’s TikTok account has over 551,000 followers. In addition, it enlisted the help of eight influencers to post content using the songs — four influencers per song. Paid partners included @scarlet.may1 (5.7 million followers), who creates content with American Sign Language. “It’s important for us to include creators from diverse backgrounds, because representation matters so much to both Movers + Shakers and Essence,” McGill said. Other influencers included @ryan.vita (1.1 million followers), @madiprew (2.1 million followers) and @pengpengclee (4.1 million followers). 


Get your “baby got brow” eyebrow pencil to rock your own essence look! @essence.cosmetics #babygotbrow #Ad #unoriginalsongs

♬ Baby Got Brow – essence cosmetics

Though the paid element of the campaign is over, the songs continue to live in TikTok’s music library. According to Movers + Shakers co-founder Evan Horowitz, the beauty industry has been one of the earliest adopters of TikTok marketing. And music, which the agency specializes in, is pretty much essential for TikTok success. Still, it’s not in the same way that a jingle heard on television was once meant to function. “Back in the day, there was the jingle. It was meant to get stuck in your head, and it was designed to jump out at you,” Horowitz said. “But the way that we use music at Movers + Shakers is to build cultural relevance for brands. It’s still really catchy, but we don’t want it to stand out. We actually want it to blend in. Because we want our clients’ [songs] to feel like they would be in your Spotify playlist, anyway.”

Ultimately, Krakowski deemed the campaign a big success. “After about two days of running the initial advertising, 53% of the website traffic was coming from TikTok. Before, it was not even close to that. And one of the top-three-viewed products on our website was the brow product. In terms of the traffic that came to the site, it increased two-and-a-half times in the first week of the campaign. That tells me that, even though we were [just] trying to build awareness, people were interested, they were engaged, and they actually left the platform to come to my website and explore the brand.”

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