Insight: Chipotle and e.l.f. Cosmetics's makeup line was strange yet intriguing

'The unexpected combination worked out for the better, giving any hardcore Chipotle fan a reason to spend a little extra on guacamole — this time in eyeshadow form'

On March 10, Chipotle and e.l.f. Cosmetics came together to release a four product beauty line that sold out in just 11 minutes, with the $16 eyeshadow palette now being resold for prices around $50. And needless to say, internet users, including myself, were both confused and intrigued. 

Social media sites, like Twitter and Instagram, were flooded with comments as to why this collaboration was happening in the first place. 

In the past, beauty brands have looked to social media influencers and other celebrities with large followings to promote their products. The cosmetics brand Morphe is no stranger to this, having collaborated with numerous beauty gurus in past, such as James Charles, Jaclyn Hill and Jeffree Star

But non-influencer ventures aren't completely out of the ordinary. ColourPop, a Los Angeles-based makeup company, has cornered the market in theming many of their products after pop culture phenomena with large fanbases, like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Sailor Moon and Disney.

These kinds of brand partnerships are nothing new as companies tend to work together to gain attention, wrote Kate Eaton, a clinical associate professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business, in an email.

"Brands have a long history of partnering with each other in order to benefit from each other's popularity, but not all unexpected collaborations are successful," she wrote. "For a brand partnership to work, the brand personalities and associations need to be compatible. When brands combine, the ideas associated with each individual brand will reflect onto the partner brand."

I am not the biggest makeup wearer but there was something amusing about the thought of my eyeshadow look evoking memories of the countless times I had waited in line and recited my burrito bowl order as if it were second nature. 

Both companies hold an element of nostalgia for me. 

I learned how to do eye makeup with an e.l.f. liquid eyeliner I stole from my mom, and I fondly remember running my hands past the accordion-folded aluminum sheet that separates the seating area from the line at my most-frequented Chipotle location.

In my eyes, these companies have significant popularity on their own, and could only stand to grow from the partnership. But no matter how successful and trendy they may be separately, I didn't associate the two together until now. 

It didn't seem that the line's intent was to appeal to an audience through nostalgia as ColourPop is known to do, or through the strong marketing tactics of successful influencers at Morphe.

"Consumers often use their purchase decisions to show others what's important to them, what they love, and who they are," she wrote. "When marketers showcase brands consumers love in new and interesting ways, it becomes another avenue for consumers to show off their 'fandom,' and it gives the buyers something to talk about and connect with others over."

Chipotle and e.l.f. don't necessarily have a fandom, but they do have a large clientele — large enough to share excitement and a connection over a hot sauce-themed lip plumping gloss.

But the danger with capitalizing on a partnership with two unrelated but beloved brands is that it can either turn out to be incredible or miss the mark completely. Instead, this release was met favorably with approval by consumers for a marketing tactic of restaurant-inspired makeup that was just strange enough to work.

"The partnership works because of the directionality of the partnership — the vivid colors associated with the Chipotle lineup translate nicely to a makeup palette," Eaton wrote. "Conversely, it probably wouldn't work if Chipotle were to try to sell makeup-inspired food." 

For me, this palette was incredibly strange experience. I never expected that my default order could be replicated on my face. 

But the unexpected combination worked out for the better, giving any hardcore Chipotle fan a reason to
 spend a little extra on guacamole — this time in eyeshadow form. 

Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed information to Eaton. The information has since been removed and the story was updated March 26 at 12:45 p.m. to reflect the change.


Reach the reporter at sbalas44@asu.edu and follow @sophiabala1101 on Twitter. 

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