Digital Marketing Redux   //   July 24, 2023  ■  5 min read

‘They love being heard’: How Bubble built an avid fan base via TikTok and brand ambassadors

Bubble, a Gen Z-focused skincare brand, is taking off on TikTok.

Over the last five months, Bubble more than doubled its number of followers from 500,000 to 1.1 million people. Several of its videos, which Bubble typically posts once a day, have millions or hundreds of thousands of views.

Bubble’s business has ballooned across channels since Bubble launched at the end of 2020. Thanks to a recently-expanded partnership with Ulta Beauty, Bubble’s products — which vary from moisturizers to masks — are available in around 9,000 stores in the U.S., including CVS and Walmart locations. Bubble’s online sales have grown 1,000% year-over-year, while its in-store sales have spiked 800%. This number could be higher, though, because Bubble runs out of inventory quickly due to rising demand, CEO Shai Eisenman told Modern Retail.

On TikTok, all of Bubble’s reach is 100% organic, according to Eisenman. “It’s something we’re super proud of,” she said. Some of Bubble’s TikTok videos are educational (why the brand is fragrance free, for example), while others jump on social media trends (like rolling a product down a set of stairs to see if it breaks). One of its newest videos, which advertises Bubble’s new Cloud Surf moisturizer, racked up some 220,000 views in the first two hours. As of July 21, it had 696,000 views.

Bubble is on other platforms, too, although it has fewer followers there than on TikTok. The aforementioned Cloud Surf video, for instance, had 7,300 views on YouTube Shorts and 11,000 likes on Instagram, as of July 21.

Eisenman attributes the brand’s fast growth on TikTok to its relationship with customers. Bubble replies to nearly every comment posted on its TikTok videos, it’s amassed an ambassador program of 7,000 fans and it features user generated content (UGC) in its posts. One of Bubble’s most recent TikTok videos, which thanks fans for helping the company reach 1 million followers on the platform, includes videos of customers explaining what they like about the brand. Many Bubble fans will post videos of their product hauls or give tips or tricks for how to use items under the hashtag #bubble.

Bubble will sometimes use UGC to come up with its products. One recent example is the brand’s new plushie, a new category for Bubble. Eisenman told Modern Retail that she was watching fans’ videos showing their product hauls and noticed that many of the TikTokers had stuffed animals in the background. That observation, combined with the knowledge that one of Bubble’s most popular products is its moisturizers, led Eisenman and her team to develop a plushie version of Bubble’s Slam Dunk moisturizer. A video teasing the plushie has 547,000 views, with comments such as “BUYING WHEN IT COMES” and “OMG IT’S A SQUISHMELLOW OF BUBBLE?!”

Bubble typically enjoys a spike in sales after posting TikTok videos. In January, Bubble saw its sales through Walmart stores double after a video from a TikTok user went viral. But, Eisenman says she doesn’t think of TikTok primarily as a sales channel, although people can buy products via a link in Bubble’s TikTok bio.

“It’s really hard for us to come and say, ‘Oh, this is a sales channel,’ because honestly, most of our sales happen in-store and in retail and Walmart and CVS and Ulta,” she said. “But obviously, TikTok is fueling that growth significantly.”

Instead, Eisenman said she wants to use TikTok to build brand awareness, engage with customers and explain Bubble’s values. “We constantly adapt and post content and speak to our audience as if it’s a conversation,” Eisenman said. “And that’s, I think, something that’s very unique in terms of just our growth and in terms of our community, because they love being heard.”

Bubble’s ambassador program is key to this effort. Bubble has set up chat channels on the app Geneva┬áto collect feedback from Bubble’s biggest fans. “Everything we want to launch, everything we want to do, they’re a part of,” Eisenman said. “We send them pictures of stuff way before they launch, and they help us choose names, and they help us choose packaging. And they’re truly a part of the ideating and the decision-making process in the company.”

Bubble’s ambassador program is so popular that it has a waitlist of more than 41,000 people. Eisenman said. She said the brand is focused on “accepting as many people as possible,” but that because many applicants are under 18 years old, Bubble needs to get consent from their parents. “That’s why it takes a very long time to actually go through the list,” Eisenman said.

Bubble’s brand ambassadors need to be at least 14 years old; have at least one valid and active social media account on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest or YouTube; and provide a valid personal email address (plus a parent or guardian email address if under the age of 18).

Kimberley Ring Allen, founder of Ring Communications and adjunct professor at Suffolk University, applauded Bubble’s community-based strategy, calling it “smart.”

When TikTok first launched, Allen said, brands wanted to churn out as much content as possible. “Everybody was spending all their time making videos, right?” she told Modern Retail. “You had just been pumping out videos, and sometimes they would get views, and sometimes they wouldn’t. And that’s because there was no strategy.”

Now, Allen said, companies are thinking about channels like TikTok more as community-building tools. It’s not enough just to post content, she said — brands have to form a relationship with consumers. This is especially important, Allen added, because today’s consumers are “very ad-aware.” “The second they see an ad, they know to ignore it,” she said.

Brands are constantly trying to formulate new and existing TikTok strategies, but some work better than others. The food-saving app Too Good To Go posts its own content, but largely benefits from viral videos of customers showing off how much food they can get for $3.99. Brands like Pepsi and Pizza Hut have found mixed success in creating their own TikTok sounds in the hopes of going viral.

Ultimately, companies that use TikTok to collect feedback from fans and interact with customers will see the benefits from that, Allen said. “They turn their customers into prosumers,” she said. “Like, you know, your feedback is important, we want you to test these new products. They make them feel super appreciated… [and] they stay engaged.”