The making of a TikTok challenge

UPDATE: October 9 — This campaign just passed ONE BILLION views in the first 6 days.

UPDATE 2: We’re hosting a “TikTok 101” webinar on October 31. Details & registration here.

Late last night, e.l.f. launched its first-ever TikTok challenge, and we woke up to over 10 million views… and counting! 🤩 We’re super proud of the campaign we created, especially with e.l.f. becoming the first brand to ever create original music for a TikTok challenge.

We’ve been getting lots of questions about how brands activate on TikTok, so here we’re breaking down the pieces that went into this campaign.

In this behind-the-scenes look, you’ll learn:

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  1. The origins of a TikTok campaign idea

  2. The anatomy of a TikTok challenge

  3. Key success metrics

The origins of the idea

On the heels of a major brand relaunch in Spring 2019, e.l.f. was looking for ‘first-to-market’ ways to continue to drive rapid growth.

e.l.f. approached Movers+Shakers, attracted by our ‘superpower’ of using original music and dance to bring brands to life. It’s a natural fit for TikTok, which grew up as a platform celebrating music and dance.

Movers+Shakers helped educate e.l.f.’s leadership team about the different ways to utilize TikTok. We developed and presented several campaign concepts, each activating e.l.f.’s brand in a different way.

The team selected the #eyeslipsface hashtag challenge, which stems from a core brand pillar: “e.l.f. is for every eye, lip and face.” The #eyeslipsface challenge is an invitation to everyone to express their best (s)e.l.f.

You can see the challenge on TikTok here.

The anatomy of a TikTok challenge

There are many moving parts to crafting a viral challenge. Here are the big pieces.

1. A clear & INVITING prompt

To launch a viral challenge, you must provide TikTok users a simple, fun prompt — and match it perfectly with music. The prompt has to be easy to execute, and it must invite each person’s creative spin.

The prompt for #eyeslipsface is simple: when you hear the music talk about “eyes,” do something with your eyes. When you hear “lips,” do something with your lips, and the same for “face.”

2. Perfectly-paired music

The music should closely match and tee up the prompt. Although the music will be short (typically 15 sec), we analyze the sequence and structure to provide both clear direction toward the prompt, and to leave space for individual creativity.

Rather than lean on an existing song, e.l.f. preferred to participate in the musical creativity of the TikTok community. Movers+Shakers worked with e.l.f. to craft a sound that TikTok users would love, and that reflects e.l.f.’s positive and inclusive values.

To hone in on the best fit with the brand, we explored several musical directions. The team landed on a hip hop sound created by iLL Wayno, an LA-based songwriter who recently won his first Grammy. For vocals, we engaged a fresh voice from Florida, Holla FyeSixWun. The music draws inspiration from songs that have recently captivated Gen Z, such as 2 Chainz’s Watch Out, Kash Doll’s Ice Me Out, and Iggy Azalea’s Kream.

We carefully crafted each of the the 15 seconds of music. You’ll see it has very directive eyes/lips/face prompts, as well as other moments that provide springboards for individual creativity. The lyrics express e.l.f.’s brand values of self-expression and being your best self.

3. Influencers seed the challenge

The virality of a TikTok challenge comes from people seeing #eyeslipsface videos in their feed, and saying “I want to join that challenge!”

At launch-time, we seeded the challenge with videos made by TikTok influencers. We worked with e.l.f. to select a group of influencers who reach the target audience, and whose styles align with the brand personality. Then, part of our job as the agency is to train the influencers how to execute the challenge.

It was so exciting to see how each influencer interpreted the challenge and the music! The core idea was consistent, and they each added their own fun interpretation. Here’s a few examples:

4. Supporting creative assets

There are a number of TikTok ad units that work together to accelerate challenge participation. To support these, we created additional creative assets.

5. pr & promotion plan

How are you going to drive awareness outside of the platform, from Hour 1?

Not all TikTok campaigns are PR-worthy, although this one certainly was. We had multiple stories published on launch day, as well as a follow-up press plan to continue the momentum later in the campaign.

Key success metrics

Challenges can be designed to drive traffic to sales pages, but e.l.f. chose to focus on a branding play. Their primary goal is to boost brand awareness and increase the “cool” factor among the 18-24 demo.

As the campaign runs, we’ll get lots of metrics. The two that I’m most focused on are:

  1. Total campaign views — this has surpassed 1 billion in some TikTok campaigns

  2. Total UGC video creates (the number of people who make their own #eyeslipsface video) — this has been multiple hundreds of thousands in recent challenges!

Imagine hundreds of thousands of young people spending time creating videos that celebrate your brand!

It was insane to watch the first hours of the challenge, with the views jumping to 10k’s then 100k’s then 1M’s. People started organically jumping in and making their own videos within MINUTES. No other platform creates this kind of groundswell.

Next Steps

If you’re looking for help getting started with TikTok, reach out and let’s schedule a quick call: