Snapchat’s AR Beauty Marketing Strategy

Driving Hype Through Limited Time Activations

In August 2023, Snap worked with Rimmel on the launch of its Thrill Seeker Pitch Black mascara, which saw the cosmetics company take over London’s Tower Bridge. Thanks to a partnership with creative studio Tommy, Snap users’ cameras transformed the landmark into a melting black liquid structure before morphing into the product. Rimmel-branded pedicab riders were on hand to get pedestrians involved with Snap codes, as well as pass out free samples. London buses were also equipped with lenticular lenses that showcased before and after visuals of the mascara, while digital ribbons and billboards were positioned throughout the city for an online-meets-offline experience.

“This campaign showcases Rimmel tapping into Snap’s young audiences in the most fun and engaging way by harnessing the power of London landmarks—something perfectly on brand for Rimmel. We’re constantly thinking of new ways to push the creative boundaries for our brands, and this partnership with Snap connects us with this key audience in such a cool way that we know Snap’s audience will be excited to get involved,” Susie Thompson, Media and Communications Senior Director at Coty UKI, commented at the time of the launch.

In December 2023, e.l.f. Cosmetics teamed up with the platform to launch the Bitmoji Beauty Drop. Bitmojis are the personal emojis individuals can use on their phone that replace the generic human character with one individualized to recreate their own likeness; Bitmoji Drops are exclusive digital beauty or fashion items that users can then use on said emojis. The format has a far reach—according to Snapchat, 85% of Gen Z users in the US have a Bitmoji avatar, and Bitmojis are used by over 250 million people daily. The campaign, set up in honor of the brand’s O Face Satin Lipstick, allowed them to try on 11 shades of the lipstick, as well as access the O Face Satin Lipstick Bitmoji for free for 24 hours. The intent was to drive hype and interest thanks to a limited-time activation, as well as the interactive nature of trying on the product digitally.

“We love force multiplying with Snap, and together we have achieved many ‘eyes.lips.firsts.’ This Bitmoji drop is another first, and we know the Snap community is going to love expressing their (s)e.l.f., which is at the core of who we are. As a brand that values self-expression, we recognize Bitmojis as a personal extension of style and personalities, and we’re thrilled to be the inaugural beauty brand offering one of our coveted holy grails in their virtual closet,” Patrick O’Keefe, VP of Integrated Marketing Communications at e.l.f. Beauty, commented at the time of the announcement.

“We were proud to work on this campaign that defies norms and shapes culture, which is the e.l.f. way. While many brands are focused on traditional holiday advertising, e.l.f. looked to stand out, knowing that Gen Z is already overwhelmed by the number of ads that are being served to them, with 74% feeling bombarded. By entering Snapchatters’ digital beauty cabinets, we are creating an engaging experience that captures the imagination in a way that meets the e.l.f. community’s needs,” added Louise Temperley, Client Managing Director, Fast Growth Practice (responsible for e.l.f.’s media planning and buying).

Aside from the aforementioned examples, Snapchat has also worked with  Dior, NYX, MAC, L’Oréal, Lancôme , Kiehl’s, cosnova, and Esmi. For the release of the Gucci Flora Gorgeous Gardenia Eau de Parfum, the brand created an AR experience that saw the TV ad protagonist (none other than Miley Cyrus) transform into a cartoon avatar. Meanwhile, for the launch of the limited edition Pride version of its bestselling Micellar Cleansing Water, Garnier created a Lens that lets users virtually remove their makeup, accompanied by the message “Remove your makeup, not your Pride.” A recent project with Estée Lauder providing a shoppable, multiproduct AR lens of the brand’s primer, foundation, and lipstick, reached over three million people, generated an eight point lift in action intent, and resulted in a return on ad spend of £3.47 ($4.42) on the conversion campaign.

Boosting A Creator-Led Infrastructure

To further enhance the experience of brands advertising on the platform, in October 2023, Snap incorporated some new creator collaboration ad tools into its repertoire to maximize brand exposure, including paid partnership tags for sponsored posts, business tagging, and an ads manager feature for brands to approve partnerships and see analytics on the reach and engagement with the ads. All of these aspects will facilitate collaborations and monetizing content within the app.

Furthermore, Snapchat’s Creator Marketplace was recently given an expansion through a Creator Discovery API expansion. It helps brands discover potential creators to collaborate with and offers an accessible overview of data points like fees and audience metrics, with other third-party tools such as influencer and social marketing platforms Captiv8, Whalar, and Sprout Social also developing new integrations.

Experimentation over Perfection

As for the consumer audience witnessing these activations, Snapchatters have their own unique lens (pun intended) when it comes to cosmetics. While social media has certainly come under increasing scrutiny for perpetuating unrealistic and damaging beauty standards, Morrison states that the playful and self-expressive nature of the app helps create a more lighthearted experience. “Our community tells us that they are happy when using Snapchat, and the vast majority of them agree that they can be fully themselves when they are using our app. AR is about having fun rather than beautification or holding yourself to an unrealistic standard. People come to us to connect with friends and family, and playing with lenses is a way that they like to do that,” she notes.

No experience of beauty is devoid of a certain visual awareness, but the spontaneity and immediacy of Snapchat means users are less concerned with perfection and more about having fun in the moment. For our audience, beauty is not just about makeup trends, although that’s part of it. Beauty is about being your authentic self, not posing for the perfect picture but capturing raw unfiltered moments that you share with those closest to you. I think Snapchatters have an inclusive and diverse view of beauty. For example, we see huge support, engagement, and love for Snap Stars who represent different types of beauty,” Morrison explains, listing popular stars on the platform such as Nikkie Tutorials (who has nearly 500K subscribes) and Four Nine Looks (over 5 million subscribers)—as well as original Snap shows like Body+ (hosted by plus-size creator Dani DMC) and No Filter, produced by LADbible. “There’s a large and growing appetite for content that showcases a real spectrum of beauty, and we love to encourage that on our platform and help those conversations to evolve,” she adds.

Whether it’s using beauty products as a visual starting point to transform London landmarks or blurring the boundaries of the digital and physical worlds, Snapchat is tapping into a wealth of opportunities—especially for brands looking to create captivating marketing campaigns for a new audience that is ready to engage with and purchase beauty in a multitude of interactive ways.

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