How Jones Road Beauty went viral on TikTok
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Talk about makeup, and one of the first names that pops into your mind is likely Bobbi Brown.
An idol and inspiration for makeup lovers across the world, Brown’s fiery entrepreneurial spirit has driven a wide range of success with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. When Brown’s 25-year non-compete agreement expired with Estée Lauder in 2020, she and her husband Steven Plofker joined forces to launch their own DTC beauty brand, Jones Road.
Since then, Jones Road has developed a massive fan base around its concept of minimalistic and cruelty-free beauty products. And while Brown has been breaking new ground in the beauty world since the 1990s, the release of Jones Road in 2020 and the incredible TikTok success they’ve seen in recent months has opened the doors to a new realm of opportunity.
Jumping into a never-ending stream of dance videos, lip-sync content, and mysterious pasta recipes, the Jones Road team started creating TikTok content to experiment there with videos of Brown discussing makeup tips. What was unique was that they decided to share makeup insights for women over 50 on a platform most only believed to be used by Gen Z.
Against all odds, their videos went viral multiple times, reaching 1M views within 24 hours and attracting over 130,000 followers in less than a week.
But where did it all start, why did they choose TikTok, and how did they strategize for such results?
Jones Road started sharing content on TikTok early in their brand journey but struggled to find organic success. They started running paid ads on TikTok in November 2020, spending between $750-$1,000 per day, but without a clear organic strategy, the videos didn’t generate viral results.
Cody Plofker, Jones Road’s Director of Ecommerce, had a sinking feeling they were missing out on opportunities on TikTok and didn’t want to give up:
“Throughout all this, our only goal was to grow our business organically, enhance brand affinity and awareness through what Bobbi is known for—makeup + body positivity. We also wanted to use TikTok as a platform to make people aware that Bobbi Brown is no longer associated with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and has started Jones Road.”-Cody Plofker, Jones Road’s Director of Ecommerce
Soon after, the team spoke to a popular influencer and marketer that Brown knew who told them to go all-in on TikTok, as he believed anyone could build a $100M DTC business on TikTok content alone.
Acting on this advice, Jones Road connected with the Head of Fashion and Beauty at TikTok and started creating content with Bobbi on her TikTok channel. What happened was something none of them expected or were prepared to happen for their business.
How Jones Road went viral on TikTok
Jones Road wanted to start small on TikTok and scale their involvement with the platform as its audience grew. Their first video was a simple one asking the TikTok audience what they wanted to learn, knowing that the easiest way to create the first set of videos would be to reply to those questions.
“We expected no more than ten comments on the video but got a few hundred. And the first two reply videos went viral beyond our imagination. Our ethos is ‘less is more,’ and we made videos highlighting that, which was different from any makeup videos on TikTok. We were surprised with the positivity and the response we received.”-Cody Plofker, Jones Road’s Director of Ecommerce
Here’s a breakdown of what Jones Road did to go viral and how they strategized the entire process.
1. Discover what your audience likes
In their first TikTok video, Jones Road asked their audience precisely what they wanted to see.
The following two videos, which blew up, directly answered the audience’s questions.
The first video was a how-to video about makeup tips for women over 50:
The second video was Brown’s take on nose contouring as a response to a question that said, “Contouring my nose has always been a struggle. Please help! I love all your products and love that you're here."
Since Brown is anti-contouring, she responded in a very empowering and positive way. In her 29-second video, she said, "Why would you want to contour your nose? I think your natural face is the most beautiful face." She built a personal connection with her audience by narrating how her mother offered her a nose job when she was younger—an offer she promptly declined..
She ended the video on a positive note, exclaiming, “I want everyone to embrace who you are and use makeup to make you feel better about yourself. Just give yourself a glow. Stop contouring your nose. You don't need it."
2. Find a format that works (and stick to it!)
Although Cody acknowledges it was an unfair advantage having an icon like Brown as the founder and face of the company, there was a method behind this too. Brown is known to speak in soundbites, making her a perfect fit for short-form videos.
However, simply promoting the products isn’t the Jones Road "way of things." So the team based their content strategy on what Brown is best at doing: sharing simple and digestible how-to makeup tips and talking about body positivity and embracing yourself.
Cody wrote the copy for the TikTok video on makeup tips for 50+. He says,
“Although it was a how-to/educational video, I weaved in some brand pillars around body positivity and embracing who you are. It’s subtle, but weaving your pillars into every touchpoint with customers is how you create a powerful emotional connection.”-Cody Plofker, Jones Road’s Director of Ecommerce
3. Content amplification
Jones Road initially only created three TikTok videos, but they didn’t just create, publish, and hope they go viral. Instead, they spent time reaching out to other content creators and publications to ensure their videos would be seen by their target audience.
- Several TikTok content creators made videos amplifying Brown’s message in response to nose contouring and makeup, further directing traffic to Jones Road’s TikTok channel.
- The two videos that went viral were picked by high-readership publications like Allure, Prevention.com, Yahoo News, New Beauty, and even the Stylist, contributing to their wide TikTok viewership and reach.
- They launched a combination of Spark campaigns on these videos and some UGC Spark ads, which are a new segment of ads that allow users to boost their organic posts as TopView or In-Feed ads. They started running these ads at $1,000/day and currently spend over $4,500/day.
The TikTok virality brought some great results for Jones Road, but the rapid uptick in audience size also brought new challenges. The brand expected to double its revenue in 2022, but wasn’t ready for the kind of demand these social commerce videos generated. They were selling out too quickly, which led to inventory shortages and order delays.
The Jones Road team was initially confused about whether or not they should keep creating more videos or lay low for a while in the face of these inventory challenges, especially during the pandemic when the lead time is longer than usual. Without a surefire guide for TikTok success that could guarantee virality, deciding the next steps forward and if they should push or pause was one of the biggest challenges they faced.
“We decided to keep posting TikTok videos because we are having fun with it and it's going so well. However, we had to talk about a few other products besides just Miracle Balm, and our operations team is working hard to get us in stock. In recent weeks, our marketing meetings have become inventory meetings.”-Cody Plofker, Jones Road’s Director of Ecommerce
After publishing two viral videos and going from a place of “TikTok is just for Gen Z and dancing videos” to “TikTok can really do a 360 on a DTC business’s growth,” Jones Road saw stunning results.
Within 24 hours, one of their videos hit a million views, which doubled again the following week. They started posting videos on Brown’s account, which was at 3,000 followers then but which grew to 130,000 followers in a week.
Sales grew and grew. The brand did nearly 4x their revenue, and traffic went up by 196%. In the early days, the brand used to derive 2% of their revenue from TikTok, but today, the platform contributes to an incredible 34% of their revenue.
“Most people told us they see a revenue bump after the video goes viral for a while. But we didn’t see it die. In fact, it’s going pretty strong even almost two weeks later.”-Cody Plofker, Jones Road’s Director of Ecommerce
One of the biggest things that surprised Jones Road was the positivity of the platform.
People began sharing their own stories in the comments section, showing their appreciation for the brand and its product and content.
Here are some lessons they learned from their TikTok experience:
- The power of TikTok is huge
When the brand started creating content on the platform their AOV was quite low, so they decided against spending a lot of money on paid or organic. The team now acknowledges that was the wrong decision. They found that even though TikTok audiences aren’t always in a state to buy products right away, it's a great platform to build awareness, capture leads, and even nurture them towards eventually becoming customers.
- TikTok isn’t just for teens and Gen Z; it’s for everyone
Part of why Jones Road was holding back on TikTok was that it’s known to have a younger audience. However, they were surprised to find out how strong the 50+ audience was there and how much they related with the brand’s videos.
- Don’t be afraid to go against the grain
TikTok may be home to trendy and dramatic beauty and makeup content, but what Jones Road brought to the platform with Bobbi’s videos acted as a counter to the existing content, addressing makeup from a different lens—for the older and in a more body positive and empowering way.
So instead of going with the trend and creating polished makeup videos, Jones Road experimented with and launched a completely different genre of makeup content on TikTok—another reason that contributed to their virality.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to stray away from the norm.
- TikTok is highly positive and authentic
Most will tell you that brands don’t need heavily edited content that’s shot to perfection to find success on TikTok. Unpolished and unfiltered content works best on the platform.
This isn’t the case with other visual-centric platforms like Instagram, where the production value is quite high. The raw essence of the content makes TikTok unique and authentic in many ways, which need to be replicated in the content you create.
The Jones Road team found that using an iPhone works to create your videos, and you don’t need to edit them by adding filters or too many effects. The more real and authentic you are with your videos and ideas, the better chances are to receive a positive response.
How to replicate success for your brand on TikTok
Before you start creating content on TikTok, Cody recommends using the platform on your own. There are a lot of predisposed notions around the platform, but, rather than buying into them, it’s better to use the platform and use your observations to lead your TikTok strategy ahead.
Here are some other tips for brands to replicate such results for their TikTok channels:
- Keep up with trends, but don’t follow them blindly. Understand what people engage with on the platform and what relates to your brand best before creating trend-based content.
- Collaborate with content creators, but don’t forget to be authentic with your content. Ideate and script your videos through co-creation, but don’t polish it too much. Share the raw parts of your partnership with the creators and your content creation efforts too by creating behind-the-scenes videos, and uploading unfiltered videos.
- Leverage your founder’s page if you have one. But, keep the content different from your brand page to offer something unique to your audience.
- Optimize your hooks and understand what catches people’s attention quickly.
What’s next for Jones Road?
Jones Road has big plans to hire a couple more content creators to steer their TikTok in the right direction and double down on their efforts.
They want to do “beta” creative testing on organic TikTok, creating three hooks for one top-performing organic post. and They then plan to launch them as “dark posts”—targeted content meant for selective eyes—and test them as Spark ads.
Lastly, they aim at making their TikTok as authentic as ever with no real difference between a good TikTok post and Spark ads by providing tons of value and subtly spotlighting some of their products.
“We’ve seen what TikTok can do without a real strategy and resources. I am making a huge bet, and we’re going to invest six figures into organic content on TikTok this year.”-Cody Plofker, Jones Road’s Director of Ecommerce