TikTok: a world of possibilities for ambitious brands

Chances are you might not have heard of TikTok at the start of this year. However, in front of the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, TikTok has risen to dominance in the UK and globally, becoming the most downloaded app of the year, with over 600 million downloads and 800 million monthly active users worldwide. The Chinese-owned video-sharing platform, once exclusively popular with youngsters, has now entered the mainstream.

For those less familiar with the platform, it’s described by its makers as “the leading destination for short-form mobile video” and has become synonymous with short clips of comedy skits, voice overs of well-known cultural references and upbeat viral dance challenges.

As the world adapts to life during a pandemic, the platform is witnessing a shift in the demographic of its users. Previously consisting mainly of teens, you can now find Mum, Dad and even Granny creating and sharing content across the platform. What’s more, internal data shows that the young adult crowd is now the largest age demographic as the platform retains its audience as they age. This broadening demographic is undoubtedly contributing to TikTok’s growing success, with users drawn to the platform by its joyful, optimistic content that offers an antidote to traditional criticisms of social media, often centring around negative impacts on mental health.

The novelty, creativity and accessibility of content is what, TikTok claims, differentiates it from its competitors. The announcement that TikTok achieved the highest new entry status in this year’s Kantar BrandZ top 100 most valuable global brands – placing it ahead of the likes of Uber, Adidas and Pepsi – reveals that brands are beginning to wake up to the power of TikTok and are increasingly keen to be associated with it.

In a recent move to compete with the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, TikTok launched TikTok For Business. Being the new kid on the block, TikTok’s reach is still relatively cheap and brand saturation is low (in comparison to its competitors like Facebook). It also offers endless combinations of content possibilities which brands can make the most of through a test and learn approach. The unique set of tools available to marketers for creating hyper-creative content is what sets TikTok apart from its competitors and can help both B2C and B2B brands alike reach new and younger audiences. Considered together, this all adds up to a very attractive prospect to ambitious brands who are prepared to experiment with a platform still in its infancy.

Although TikTok might not seem like the obvious choice for B2B marketers it is certainly worth exploring for those brands with:

  • the flexibility to adjust and tailor their brand voice to fit with that of the platform
  • a human voice through which to communicate with users
  • the budget for some degree of trial and error
  • related UGC already on the platform
  • the creative desire to make humorous, bold and potentially bizarre content

However, TikTok is still primarily a B2C platform and this is where most opportunities currently lie. So before embarking on a TikTok campaign, B2B brands must be mindful of the limited information and benchmarking around B2B audiences and campaign measurements.

Admittedly, TikTok won’t be the right platform for every brand. Despite its broadening audience, TikTok is still very much dominated by Gen Z culture – but that doesn’t mean that its impact can’t extend its reach wider. Therefore, it is essential to fully understand this mindset and look to the popular influencers on the platform to maintain authenticity. Furthermore, brands must remain mindful that TikTok isn’t without its issues.

The mounting controversial headlines are hard to miss. To date, TikTok has been banned in India, Hong Kong and narrowly missed being banned in the US following a recent court ruling. What’s more, concerns around brand safety, data protection, user privacy and child safety continue to trouble TikTok. Only time will tell if the app has the ability and determination to make demonstrable efforts to address these. If it doesn’t, it will unwittingly be pushing business into the arms of its competitors, namely Instagram Reels which launched in August.

Nevertheless, for those wanting to connect with younger audiences, even in a B2B capacity, TikTok cannot be ignored. Through the co-creation of clever and creative content, brands can connect with users in new and innovative ways that will maximise ROI to the fullest. And for those who it’s not quite right for, it’s still well worth checking out simply for inspiration, the latest trends or a jolly good time.

Of course, we’ve been busy practicing the “Blinding Lights” Challenge during lockdown! If you’d like to learn more about TikTok and how it can work for your brand, please contact us here.

Written by Kinda Jackson, MD, Digital & Influencer