Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Interview With Ted Rubin from e.l.f.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Interview With Ted Rubin from e.l.f.

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Below you will find my interview with Ted Rubin, the Chief Marketing Officer for Eyes Lips Face (better known as e.l.f.) cosmetics I met Ted at the speed networking round at BlogWorld and New Media Expo 2009 and I was impressed by his energy (he talks and acts fast) and I was inspired in his belief in social media and blogging. Please note that you do not have to be interested in cosmetics to gain knowledge from the interview, there are many practices that can be used in many industries.

In Ted’s own words, “Social media is the cornerstone of what we do. This company was found on social media 1.0. We were one of the first companies who blogged four years ago. Recently, I implemented a seven day a week blogging rule, everyone in the company must blog every day.” Here is one of my favorite quotes from my conversation with Ted regarding social media… “This is an engagement world and people want to have some place to go. When a brand puts things out, people respond, and it keeps going.

How did you get involved with e.l.f. (

My career as an online marketer started when I worked with Seth Godin at Yoyodyne (the first online Direct Mail company, it was purchased by Yahoo in October of ‘98). e.l.f. believed because they were a beauty destination site, that an online marketing professional was more suitable for the marketing position rather than a traditional a cosmetics marketing professional. (Ted started with e.l.f. about 18 months ago).

How Does the e.l.f. Marketing Work?
e.l.f. does not have a traditional marketing budget; all of the marketing is done with partnerships, co-promotion & social marketing. (I personally found this to be very interesting).

e.l.f. has “members,” how one becomes a “member” of the e.l.f. site?
If you purchase from the site, you automatically become a member. There is no fee to be a member, anyone can just sign up and become a member without a purchase. You can be a member without making a purchase, but you cannot make a purchase without becoming a member. Members receive emails with specials and advice; there is less than a ½ percentage of drop out of email rate.

I asked Ted for some examples of successes:

The “New Face of e.l.f. for 2010 - Beauty at All Ages” competition is quite popular at the moment. Women can enter to become the face of e.l.f. Four semi-finalists will be selected: a woman in her teens, one in her 20s, 30s and a woman who is 40+. There will be one popular vote winner of all of the women. Ted explained that the “popular vote winner” will not necessarily be the “new face” but potentially could be the “new face” of e.l.f. (There is a clause in the contest rules that allows a judging panel to select the winner, or model, for the advertising or social media campaign).

The popular vote winner will win a Family Vacation for 4 to Beaches Resorts and e.l.f. make up. The winner may potentially receive a contract to be the “face” of e.l.f. e.l.f. is partnering with for the Beauty of All Ages competition, using their platform for the contest. will put together an engine, run it and promote it through Social Media.

What type of response would be expected from this sort of campaign?
On an average month, e.l.f. receives 60 to 80 Public Relations related posts in relevant beauty and fashion magazines.

Why this sort of positive attention?
Ted explained that he believed it was a combination of a timely product that women love, that is able to compete head to head with prestige brands from a quality standpoint. Ted pointed out that e.l.f. has won several Allure awards.

More successes…

Warner’s Bras recently had a promotion with e.l.f. in JCPenny stores. A hang tag was placed on the Warner’s Bras where consumers would receive a free French manicure kit from e.l.f. with a $20 purchase. This was a big win for e.l.f. because their product is not carried in JCPenny stores (e.l.f. is not in JCPenny’s stores because their cosmetics department is operated by Sephora). Warner’s purchased the French manicure sets from e.l.f. and gave the product away as a gift with purchase.

Additionally, e.l.f. is currently partnering with large brands like: Virgin Mobile, Hearst and Conde Nast. Partnerships with various other brands are the main focus of e.l.f. marketing, “I do not spend one dime on ads” said Ted. Ted went on to explain that the brand allows women to spoil themselves without going broke and this is attractive to their various partners.

Does being a discount brand hurt the perception of the brand?
Ted corrected me and said that their customer was the “value” community not the “discount” community. The brand has made a big push during the current economic environment. Answering the question, “How good could it be for $1, $3 or $5?” The answer is: a great product with a smaller budget for packaging, manufacturing, and marketing.

What other types of marketing or grass roots efforts do you take part in?
e.l.f. will donate product for giveaways either as a favor, for a charitable event, or a quid pro quo. At times, e.l.f. will participate in an event where people are personally giving away their product. “For example, mommy bloggers are huge (we don’t pay them), they write about our products and we do giveaways for them. The reason they (the mommy bloggers) worked with us in the past is because they love our product and they love our price and we support their efforts.”

Make Up at Home (a program run by e.l.f.)
Make Up at Home is an offline promotion that was launched at BlogHer. e.l.f. brought together top mommy bloggers and beauty bloggers to have make-up parties in their homes. Ted explained that “By the end of 2009, we will have hosted a total of 50 parties.” Allure magazine provides the content for the parties that the bloggers organize (make up kits, magazines, guides, information, printed up all collateral materials). The ladies take photos of the events, share them with their friends and blog about the parties. e.l.f. works with SheSpeaks – WOMM agency for women to assist with the operation of this campaign.

Due to the popularity of Make Up at Home parties, some bloggers have decided to host events on a larger scale. In Los Angeles, bloggers are hosting a house party for 75 to 100 women. The party will appear on MomTV and have media present at the event. In 2010, e.l.f. is hoping to roll out the Make Up at Home campaign and host 1000 parties. They are currently looking for a sponsor for the 2010 parties who is interested in piggybacking on the engagement the makeup home parties create .

Some e.l.f. stats

Currently, the e.l.f. site has in excess of two million members. The site receives a few hundred thousand “uniques” (unique page views) and 10 – 12mm page views each month.

65% of all sales take place on website. As of March, Target is carrying e.l.f.'s $1 line and their studio line in 75% of their stores nationwide.

Billed as 18 to 34 originally and now their mean customer is 36
Broadest part of demo is 27 to 45
11% sales are women 50+

Ted seemed both excited and a bit surprised that his consumer base was “everywhere” – all over the US. “Mid America mostly but we’re going east coast, we are going everywhere.”

Social Media stats (as of November ‘09)
33,000+ Facebook fans (US & UK)
32,000+ Twitter followers between all presences
1000+ videos on YouTube with 100,’s of thousands of hits

I asked Ted how they manage their FB page and blog, what do they do to keep people interested?
“We provide a lot of content on our FB page. Most of it is NOT about e.l.f., it is about our partners and cool stuff we found on the street. Our creative director may be out and about and find something that was cool and we write about it. We talk about our virtual make-over, we post your own pics or celebrity pics. We promote Facebook only promotions on the page and we have certain content that can only be found on Facebook.

“Twitter is our strongest presence, we give beauty tips, make-up tips, we give promos, coupons, etc. Answer questions about the product or we send them in the right direction if we can. We also launch new initiatives via twitter. We try to send people to Target. We promote people posting pics and videos on YouTube through our twitter pages.”

On YouTube, e.l.f. has a well organized presence, currently they have their incentive video “Our Definition of Beauty” and the tag line is: “We’d love to see your definition of Beauty.” Consumers then submit their personal videos of their definition of beauty and add to e.l.f.’s YouTube presence.

Affiliate Marketing
“Our Affiliate Program is run through Commission Junction ‘they blow LinkShare away’. We’ve more than doubled our business since we left LinkShare. We have an agency BlueCherryGroup who manages the whole process for us. They give us reports. 80% of our business comes from 20% of our publishers. We try to build the programs up with our middle guys. We find everyone is looking for aggressive promotions these days – Coupon sites work well for our affiliates.”

Because this post is on e.l.f. cosmetics, I thought I would include some links for you anyone who may be interested in some current promotions that e.l.f. is running...


jeff cloud said...

Thanks for the article. Keep up the great partnership marketing efforts!

Sehel Akgul said...

Hi Leyla, like the interview good work on that. I also took a look at the e.l.f site and found it a very nice and easy site to use. Keep up the good work and stay as you are "be honest to yourself and to your products you blog " :-) Wel that is my feeling also.

Mofoo said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Sharp tools make good work.