Breakups are the impetus for some of the world’s most engaging and powerful art, media, and entertainment. Any Taylor Swift fan will back us up on that.

When famed TikTok creators and couple Chris Olsen and Ian Paget announced their breakup last year, fans from all over the internet were quick to express their grief. Forrester’s research shows that today’s creators have reached a new level of salience in pop culture, and Chris and Ian are no exception: They boast a combined 12.7 million followers on TikTok, and #IanandChris has received over 2.1 million TikTok views, and their (pre-breakup) co-managed YouTube channel has 372K subscribers. Together, the couple partnered with brands such as Head & Shoulders, What Do You Meme, and innisfree — all incorporated into their lifestyle content.

But good news for #IanandChris fans: The end of their relationship didn’t mean the end of their collabs. Cosmetic brand e.l.f. recently brought the two TikTok stars back together for a new piece of content: Make up over Makeup. During the 9-minute YouTube video, the former couple tearily rehash their breakup while applying each other’s makeup. In less than two weeks, the branded video (chock-full of product placement) has been viewed nearly 350K times.

Content Is The Real Star Of The Creator Economy

The e.l.f. #IanandChris collab is a great example of a successful brand+creator partnership because:

  • The product line thoughtfully integrates into the content. Although any conversation with an ex might be a little awkward, nothing about the interaction feels forced. Doing one another’s makeup is inherently the kind of activity that naturally facilitates conversation. The brand and product is seamlessly woven into Chris and Ian’s relationship talk — generating product awareness for the audience without taking away from the bigger narrative.
  • The brand embeds itself with new cosmetic audiences. To maximize the impact of brands’ media placements, investments in diverse creators and content have become a business imperative. Brands should look beyond traditional gender representations — inclusive of all identities and sexual orientations. The target audience (along with the creators) for beauty and cosmetics has historically been women. Partnering with gay male creators expands e.l.f.’s reach to high-spending audiences who aren’t always well represented in the beauty industry.
  • The video captures a cultural moment. Just 28% of US online adults say they read or watch sponsored posts from social media influencers they follow. But that doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t lean into creators. It means that brands need to be strategic about their creator content to capture consumers’ limited attention. A public breakup that made internet headlines was just the right moment at the right time to rope in gossip-hungry consumers.
  • The creative asset fits into a larger creator strategy. Chris and Ian’s YouTube video wasn’t a stand-alone piece of creative: It’s been repurposed into several different pieces of short-form content for TikTok and Instagram. On those channels, e.l.f. regularly leverages creators for branded media assets, including makeup tutorials, product reviews, and special promotions. The brand’s TikTok page has over 880K followers, and e.l.f.’s website features a “faves from your FYP” page dedicated to its TikTok-famous products — each of which can easily be purchased.

In the end, the best creator strategies are multidimensional, deploying different types of partnerships that range from “always-on ambassadors” to big, tentpole moments. Stay tuned for more upcoming research from Forrester on the creator economy, including a report on consumer attitudes toward creators and guidance for brands on developing successful creator partnerships. In the meantime, feel free to set up an inquiry or guidance session with us to talk more!