Maybelline New York is a 100-year-old make-up category leader in more ways than one.

With its innovation in content marketing and social media, the brand is certainly not acting its age.


Beauty care is rich storytelling territory because unlike in many other consumer packaged goods categories, consumers really want to be inspired and they want help using the products.

For Maybelline New York, content is the answer.

One important shift in Code and Theory’s content approach for Maybelline has been a move away from channel thinking towards system thinking. In a system, the focus is on moving the audience from one interaction to the next.

“Our goal is to path users along the journey,” said one of our creative interns. “Where are the obstacles, and how can we create content that helps you take the next action deeper into the brand – whether that’s discovering a product, shopping or learning how to use it?”

This starts with mapping the user decision journey and mapping compelling content across it. The approach is agnostic to channels, and works across the paid-earned-owned media spectrum.

02 Becoming a Publisher – CITY

See the full CITY case study
Code and Theory

In March 2013, CITY, the brand’s monthly beauty blogazine, was born.

Leveraging insights from their deep experience in magazine publishing, Code and Theory created CITY from scratch, from content creation to publishing strategy to social media coordination and beyond.

The creative strategy was based on three key questions: (1) Does it inspire? (2) Does it educate? (3) Does it feature product?

The exercise was as much about new content creation as it was about packaging old, or existing assets in relevant and interesting ways. For example, Maybelline has a library of How To videos on YouTube, and CITY provides a new canvas for playing them back to consumers.

CITY leverages brand spokesmodels such as Erin Wasson and Gabe Almodovar, who help create content and push it out to their own fanbases, as well.

The content that lives on CITY is always created with social top-of-mind, with portable features that live synchronistically within Maybelline’s social and CRM channels 

Today, CITY has become the master brand voice for Maybelline, a brand that traditionally has spoken through product launches instead of umbrella communications.

As for the results, the early learnings are outstanding – conversions, engagement and sharing are all very strong.

03 The Girl With The Big Eyes: An Atomized Product Story

See the full Big Eyes case study
Code and Theory

When it comes to beauty campaign launches, the mascara category is notoriously difficult to weave an engaging narrative around.

But like with CITY, Code and Theory approached it in a storytelling manner. When Maybelline debuted its new Big Eyes mascara, we introduced The Girl With The Big Eyes.

We started with hundreds of pieces of content, and created a spy thriller told from two sides: his and hers. The story was atomized into many pieces so it could excel across all parts of the fragmented digital landscape:

“Bites” – Such as social photos, gifs and visual quotes, were created in volumes form-fitted for the brand’s social channels.

“Snacks” – Such as Vines and a :30 teaser video, lived across social and paid media.

“Meals” – The 1:30 web film and the immersive digital experience that enabled visitors to pick apart the Big Eyes story in a vertical scrolling experience at their own pace.

Hundreds of pieces of content were shot and designed for the site. From video, to animated gifs, to illustrations, to photos – each individual piece was sharable across social channels.

We also brought “The Girl With The Big Eyes” to life by taking over the Maybelline Twitter feed for a entire day. Followers were able to interact with this mystery woman, which added a dimension of audience participation into the experience.

04 Maybelline and The Visual Social Web

Code and Theory

Code and Theory also creates Maybelline’s social content and manages its communities across Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram.

Storytelling, in this case, happens fast.

The agency’s Brand Newsroom model is an engine for creating brand content “at the speed of culture.”

For example, when the DOMA ruling was announced, we concepted, designed and posted a celebration of the ruling within hours. 

When Instagram video was launched, Maybelline was one of the first brands to use the service. In addition to realtime marketing, the social channels act as a primary outlet for inspirational storytelling by the Maybellline brand.