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E.l.f. on the Growing Role of the Microinfluencer

The marketing strategy is driven by a mantra within the company of “Small Is the New Big.”

Keeping it real has kept the growth engine fueled for cosmetics brand E.l.f. Beauty.

The company’s marketing strategy has long focused on bucking the trend of partnering with mega bloggers and vloggers in favor of the microinfluencers with smaller yet perhaps more engaged followings, and opinions and insights all their own that are funneled back into a constant E.l.f. research-and-development feedback loop.

“Brand building today has really become this series of micro interactions,” said E.l.f. vice president of consumer engagement Ashleigh Young last week at the WWD Digital Forum Los Angeles. “So, as a result, we decided to go small to grow big.”

The company, which originally started out direct-to-consumer online selling products all priced at $1, has since moved into higher price points and the retail space with its own stores and distribution at places such as Target and Ulta. E.l.f. also went public last year and expects to hit $270 million in net sales this year with adjusted net income forecasted to be $28 million.

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The company has a roster of some 1,000 microinfluencers it works with. These are individuals the company may reach out to for events, solicit feedback on products that have not yet been released or just invite over to headquarters for a visit.

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All of those activities are tied up under the banner of E.l.f.’s Beautyscape influencer program, which was born out of the company’s strategy of going around the same small group of mega influencers most brands work with to reach out to influencers with smaller follower counts but more meaningful engagement with those followers.  It’s that latter group that has the more authentic, down-to-earth content that would resonate with the company’s customers, E.l.f. decided.

“There is a whole new generation of beauty consumers out there that are changing the game,” Young said. “While other companies talk to them, we really saw an opportunity to build our world with them in a way that other companies weren’t. It’s as simple as giving them a say. They talk, we listen and then we react quickly.”

What that boils down to is a new product strategy that calls for the launch of items through E.l.f.’s direct channels first where the company carefully tracks online reviews and then adjusts accordingly based on feedback. A constant pipeline of new products helps fuel continued engagement, while keeping the pulse on what people are saying keeps the company on point with what consumers want. This year alone, the company will have launched 90 new items.

A good case study for what results with that strategy was a daily moisturizer with SPF that the company released. The $8 price point was attractive to customers as was the SPF, but reviews online were generating consistent comments critical of the consistency with some users calling it oily. E.l.f. was able to reformulate the product in a week and then sent out the new formulation to much more positive feedback.