Brands using TikTok and how not to miss the bandwagon in 2020.

Lip syncing, dance routines and fast-paced editing. TikTok’s growth isn’t slowing down. Here’s how your brand can capitalise on the social media platform this year.

21st March 2020

Who, What and Why is TikTok?

In 2017 a new mobile application, TikTok, was launched following a merge with The app is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company considered to be one of the most valuable startups specialising in technology and apps.

Remember ‘Vine’?

Well, imagine Vine if it had a smarter, weirder, slightly more vain, Gen Z cousin. The idea is that you make videos of yourself, edit them with your own personal touch, load them with hashtags and send them out to your followers - pretty simple?

Yes, however, being a platform that thrives off it’s audience consuming endless micro-video content, it’s a bit of a gold mine for procrastination. You’ll still find some of the questionable lip sync videos from its fan base but don't let that turn you away. There's still some golden content on TikTok, and they’ve created a pretty unique community with it.

As with all social media platforms trends on the app are prominent. Plenty of users attempt popular challenges, putting their spin on trending jokes along with stunt videos - all of which brands are successfully leveraging. But, if there’s one unique thing that’s come from the app, it would be the level of creativity involved in creating the content.

Can I advertise on TikTok?

On the popular streaming app, you have 4 options to advertise and need a minimum of $500 budget.

• Brand Takeover: A slightly intrusive image, GIF or video ad that plays upon opening the app, whereby a user can choose to click off the ad, yet has no choice but to view at least a second of it.

• In-Feed Native Video: Vertical 9-15 second video ads that appear in between the content you’re browsing.

• Hashtag Challenge: Brands use this to create sponsored hashtags to engage users and attract influencers while developing user-generated content surrounding their brand or event.

• Branded Lenses: Brands can create their own augmented reality filter! Create lenses that users can use in their content. The more engaging it is, the more people will use it and share with their network.

The options for brands to be a part of the wave are not widely explored by all, as the ad functions only rolled out in April last year and your control is limited. Early adopters are benefitting from competing in an organic setting, and potentially a better response due to being less intrusive and more community-driven, which is why smaller brands alike can gain success from the app.

How are brands being a part of TikTok?

Influencer marketing is an obvious one. If you didn’t already consider this as a medium, you should know that it’s the fastest-growing method of customer acquisition, and 70% of teens trust influencers more than celebrities. Word of mouth marketing is the most effective form of promotion as it derives from a combination of customer recommendation while hinting at the positive stigma behind UGC (user-generated content). So try and get your brand in the hands of influencers - whether it’s a freebie for a product feature or maybe an account takeover campaign.

However, keep in mind that TikTok is not for your standard content. If you forget about the actual audience that consumes it and opt for an average shoutout then you’ll be disappointed. You’re reaching an internet-aged audience who are accustomed to recognising and rejecting intrusive, unrelated, unamusing marketing efforts. Plan your approach with this in mind.

Ideally, you want to build more of a collaborative relationship with influencers on TikTok. This means you need to make the content appealing to the influencer's followers, and the content should reflect a more transparent promotion. Like “we admit we’re piggybacking off your favourite influencers account, but at least we’ve made something you’ll enjoy watching”. Whereas your standard haul video or product review is more likely going to turn viewers away.

Having a brand account on this platform allows you to have more behind-the-scenes style content. Show a sense of humour and your creative personality differently to other platforms.

Consider brands like Red Bull. Maybe you can find them on Instagram with GoPro videos and super high-quality slow-mo footage - which is cool, but it’s not what TikTok is about. Red Bull have tweaked their approach for this platform. They use vertical phone camera footage to deliver more on-the-fly talent videos, rather than the polished sponsored content. Plus, it’s not so much about highlighting the talent (because there’s already loads on TikTok and the rest of the internet for that matter), but more about the unique moments that occur.

NFL is another popular channel, but again it's not your average content. They have changed their content to fit the platform better, and focus on funny video edits, song overlays and heartwarming times.

One way to know whether your content is TikTok worthy - you have to have a focus on what’s out of the ordinary. Unique content that documents a situation through a more creative lens, and looks at things differently is much more likely to be accepted by its users.

Social commerce is still trying to become a thing

TikTok tested commerce functions last year, with Hollister and Ralph Lauren trying the same thing. The best results gained were still down to the sponsored and organic efforts because they had made a sponsored native ad that featured an influencer, included a challenge and a contest with prizes.

Brands On TikTok: Ralph Lauren - U.S Open Campaign

The campaign received 750 million views! This kind of brand awareness and community participation is most likely valued much more in the long term over sales volume. But that’s not to say brands can’t achieve high sales volume and ROI using TikTok.

It is to note that social media transactions are more likely to be impulse purchases, due to the nature of the ad placement and the fact that users are not actively shopping at the time. Which means TikTok commerce ads may be more suitable for low involvement products that are cheap to buy. For example, not many teens will be able to afford Ralph Lauren.

Nevertheless, let’s say you have some sort of product that’s trending like an Elephant Toothpaste kit, then the element of hype and timing will work well in your favour, and not forgetting it makes for pretty unique and fun video content. Let’s say you have some sort of life-hack product instead - they can be small, and affordable, plus they often do well for viral video content.

Elephant Toothpaste Hype


In a few final words, the TikTok bandwagon has not yet departed, we’re all still considering whether to invest time and money into it. Still, it should be a question of whether your content is fit for the platform. The community is welcoming, slightly wacky and 99% animated but if you thought it was just another platform to archive your Instagram posts on, think again. Brands must have explicitly TikTok based content ideas and know where to find their audience, or they’ll probably start making memes about your failed attempt.

Start a project