PR Case Study: #essiexrankin

essie is a small, cult nail polish beauty brand loved by those-in-the-know, but with the ambition to become a household name. To increase brand awareness, Golin needed to turn it into a lifestyle brand that would be talked about, celebrated and purchased by the masses – not just a loyal few.

Rankin at the Colour Portraits Studio

Campaign name: #essiexrankin

Client: essie

PR Team: Golin

Timing: 2016

With low awareness in the UK, essie’s nail colour range needed a polish. Golin’s integrated PR and social campaign had a unique approach to talent, working with legendary photographer Rankin to launch the #essiexrankin ‘Colour Portraits Studio’.

Golin put essie back on the media map by celebrating its colours and the confident women who wear them. By putting women at the heart of its campaign, and using renowned influencers from the photography and beauty world, Golin took essie from a cult beauty brand into a mass lifestyle brand.

This was the main marketing campaign for essie in 2016 and came with the following objectives:

  • Increase essie brand awareness among a core consumer base of 20 to 35 year-old UK females
  • Generate a high-reaching campaign
  • Launch essie’s new Gel Couture nail polish range to key beauty media and influencers

Strategy and implementation
Golin’s starting point was to understand why women choose certain nail polish brands, and what the opportunity for essie could be. Golin’s strategy team conducted extensive social listening research of thousands of conversations about nail care, nail polish and beauty, giving it its key campaign insight; that beautifully painted nails have the power to make women feel confident.

Quantitative and qualitative research identified a robust circle of beauty influencers, targeted by relevancy to the essie consumer, and with enough resonance to propel essie’s brand awareness. Knowing this, Golin’s strategy was to buck the beauty trend by putting women and influencers, instead of celebrities, at the heart of the campaign.

Partnering with renowned photographer Rankin, Golin launched the Colour Portraits Studio, enabling influencers and women around the UK to have a once-in-a-lifetime day where they would be treated like a star. Each attendee received a high fashion photo shoot with Rankin – starring their nails – the pictures of which they could take away and share.

A teaser shoot with influencers and publications including Lily Pebbles, Marie Claire and Hello!  launched via social using #essiexrankin, encouraging women to upload a ‘nail selfie’ for the chance to win a place at the Colour Portraits Studio. High-profile interviews with Rankin featured on Popsugar, Evening Standard and Fabulous magazine to encourage entries.

The Colour Portraits Studio invited 50 attendees – a mixture of real women, influencers and beauty journalists – to receive a stunning one-on-one photoshoot with Rankin following manicures, hair and make-up. Images were emailed and printed for all attendees within the hour to ensure quick social sharing via #essiexrankin, and a sneak peek of the new essie Gel Couture range was given to the exclusive crowd.


  • #essiexrankin totalled nearly 7m impressions across the life span of the campaign, with influencer social posts alone generating over 5m impressions
  • Live social reporting and content creation from the Colour Portraits Studio resulted in @essieuk on Instagram gaining over 1k followers
  • There was a total campaign reach of over 24m, consisting of 249 pieces of coverage and influencer social media posts including Lily Pebbles, Rankin, Huffington Post and OK! magazine
  • The new essie Gel Couture range was referenced in over 50 pieces of coverage including Really Ree, The Telegraph and Fleur De Force.

Do you have an exciting campaign with impressive results that you’d like to showcase? If so, please email [email protected]

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