How Clinique is reaching Gen Z on TikTok

The younger generation’s beauty standards are changing, along with their media habits. Here's how Clinique measured and tied the campaign to sales.

(Photo credit: Getty Images).
(Photo credit: Getty Images).

For beauty brands, the days of promoting airbrushed models with perfect skin are gone. 

Gen Zers want to be empowered by their imperfections and celebrate different types of beauty than what’s been the standard for decades. 

For a well-known brand like Clinique, reaching a younger audience is less about awareness and more speaking their language. 

“One of our biggest challenges is reinventing ourselves to stay relevant,” said Sameer Agarwal, VP at Clinique North America. “How do we reintroduce ourselves to Gen Z consumers in a way that feels authentic and real?”

Naturally, TikTok is the place to start. Clinique debuted a campaign on the platform last week, called #ZitHappens, to promote its three-step acne solution. The campaign, the brand’s first built specifically for TikTok, includes an original song and a hashtag challenge that encourages people to post videos about the products’ three-step process: cleanse, tone, moisturize.

Clinique created the campaign after noticing organic conversations about skin positivity on TikTok, as well as conversations about “maskne,” or acne that develops from wearing a face mask. 

“A few creators were having that conversation,” Agarwal said. “How do we become part of that in a genuine and authentic way, and demonstrate that we support those values?”

The video, which Clinique seeded with a group of creators, has racked up more than 2 billion views on TikTok and is already starting to drive sales, Agarwal said. 

Clinique has been experimenting on TikTok for a little over a year, both working with creators and buying paid advertising. But the brand didn’t realize the power of TikTok as a sales driver until Clinique launched a beaded gel product on the platform last year.  

“It ended up being taken up by a few creators on their own, and we immediately saw that translate into in store sales,” Agarwal said. “TikTok challenges our notion of the marketing funnel. It has this incredible ability to drive relevance and awareness, but it's also driving conversion at the bottom end.”

In addition to TikTok, the #ZitHappens campaign will live on Snapchat in a more native context, but Agarwal declined to share more details. The campaign is also running in partnership with HerCampus, a global network of college women. 

“We don't want to have a cut-and-paste approach to content,” Agarwal said. “TikTok is so much more interactive with brands. Snap is about connecting with your friends and smaller community.”

Clinique is also embracing more diverse models from a ethnic, gender and skin perspective (i.e. dark spots, beauty marks) and reducing the amount of retouching it does on its images. 

“We always wanted to be a brand that empowers women to do what's right for their skin, rather than pushing beauty ideals,” Agarwal said. “But consumers have raised the bar even higher in that regard.”

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