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Emma Chamberlain on Bad Habit and the Power of Content

The social media star is the global ambassador and creative director of the skin care brand.

As one of social media’s most well-known personalities, Emma Chamberlain is no stranger to putting out online content.

“It took me a while to figure out what good content is,” she said during Beauty Inc’s Digital Forum in conversation with Alexa Tietjen, beauty and influencers editor at WWD. “And I think, truly what it is, is something that makes other people feel good, period. It’s not that complicated. It doesn’t need to be super crazy and extreme. It doesn’t need to be the most entertaining thing that you’ve ever seen. It just needs to make you feel good.”

Chamberlain, 19, uploaded her first YouTube video in the summer of 2017. Born and raised in California, she now has 9.95 million subscribers on the platform, 12.3 million followers on Instagram and 9.6 million fans on TikTok (and 291.3 million likes). She’s had several brand partnerships since her rise to fame. In fashion, she’s built a relationship with Louis Vuitton and has appeared as the face of PacSun. She also has her own coffee brand, Chamberlain Coffee, and in beauty, she’s the global ambassador and creative director of Bad Habit, a skin care company targeting stressed-out skin put out by brand incubator Forma.

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“My demographic is primarily girls my age, so like, teen girls, early 20s girls, but I randomly have some boys in there that are my age,” Chamberlain said of her audience across the platforms. “Sometimes moms watch my videos with their kids and that always shocks me, because I’m like, ‘Why is a mom interested in what I’m doing?’ But that’s my favorite person to me, the mom that watches my videos with their kids.”

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As her audience has grown, like all influencers, Chamberlain has had to balance authentic and paid content.

“I struggled in the beginning of my career with figuring out how to do paid content in a way that wouldn’t seem sellout-ish or super surface level,” she said. “But over time, I found that the formula for me is just simply working with brands that I believe in. And I find that as long as I’m not working with a brand that I don’t believe in, it always goes over really well. People can feel genuine passion for a brand through the screen. They can read you like a book, and so, if I’m promoting something that I don’t care about, I know people are going to be able to tell.”

Being honest about a product’s performance and transparent when it comes to sponsored content has led her to success as a content creator, she said. And she’s taken that approach when it comes to marketing Chamberlain Coffee as a relatable, fun brand, as well as sharing the messaging behind Bad Habit. She’s both the face of the beauty brand and its go-to Gen Z expert.

“They sent me a bunch of samples of their products with no logo, nothing,” she continued. “And I kind of, in a sense, went on a blind date with their products. I used them for a few weeks. I tried everything out until I ran out of the samples, and I begged them for more, because I fell in love with the products, knowing nothing more about the brand….I saw their branding, and how they were so honest, whereas I feel like most skin care brands are so obsessed with perfection. Bad Habit was embracing the truth of what life is really like, and I love that messaging.”