By Jamie Maple, Managing Director, Wilderness
We all know that the last few years have brought about huge changes in the way we live our lives – changes so significant they have forced brands to rethink the way, and where, they connect with potential customers online. If brands want to reach their most important target audiences, they need to find where they spend their time online and – vitally – learn how to fit in while standing out in that space.
This is particularly true for TikTok. The world-famous video streaming platform that started out with 15 second videos of fun, viral dance routines has quickly grown in popularity to support longer form content of 5-minute-long videos. According to NME, in 2021 users spent an average of 89 minutes a day on the app. A number that has no doubt dramatically increased by now as the popularity of the platform has grown.
The TikTok World
TikTok has become part of mainstream culture and is used by every demographic. It works as an incredible platform for brands that want to expand their reach, stay relevant and feel more accessible to consumers. The social giant gives everyone the opportunity to create content and be found by their community. The TikTok algorithm is a fast learner and within a very short time users are being served content that is tailored to their interests – no matter how niche. It’s not just dancing and lip-syncing videos that are most prevalent, there are vibrant communities producing content and joining discussions about gaming, food, sport, film, education, and even medical advice.
It may seem daunting, it’s brand-new territory for many and it might feel like the best approach is to try and quickly establish a presence and start replicating the same strategy that has been tried and tested across other marketing streams, but this would be an error. Users on the platform are savvy and will quickly reject being blandly sold to. The key for brands is that they follow the platform’s advice: don’t make ads, make TikToks. But how?
One way to hone your message on TikTok is to work in collaboration with creators to build a new marketing strategy. The way to do this is simpler than you might imagine.
First up, Find Your Niche
This is the subculture that means something to your brand. Basically, your brand, established or not, needs to make a name for itself on TikTok, it needs to trend and to do that you need to relate to users. Your ‘niche’ could range from product hauls, to trying on new trends as they emerge. Noteworthy examples of brands that have adapted a brand new TikTok-native approach include Duolingo and Ryanair. They capitalise on viral trends, humanise themselves as a brand and in doing so seem more accessible to the public.
Harnessing Tiktok’s Creator Marketplace to Find the Right Fit
Essentially this is an opportunity for brands and content creators to come together, connect and collaborate. Influencer marketing has changed a lot in recent years and while audiences still put a level of trust in users with larger social followings, there is more of a focus on authenticity in brand collaborations. Audiences want to be shown something more interesting than a bland grip-and-grin feed image. Collaborating with creators is also a way for brands to be exposed directly to their target niche communities.
2021 was a big year for British TikTok creators, for example Bartosz Kowalczyk, who started out telling people to have a good day but gained so much traction, he’s now one of the UK’s biggest influencers, and a partner of Jack Wills. Another success story comes from thep00lguy who has found a community so niche, he’s created a business from it. He literally just films himself cleaning pools, but the content is oddly satisfying to watch play out. He recently did a brand collaboration with a shelving and storage brand which is a great example of a brand identifying an audience they want to reach and finding an authentic way to reach them. From watching the content, it doesn’t look as if they gave thep00lguy a very prescriptive brief – simply create a video, like you normally would, and incorporate our product in it at a relevant point.
Understanding What Users Want From Content and Using Tools to Get the Best From Creator Relationships
To make the most of TikTok as a brand, the most important thing you need to understand is what users want from content. Consumers want to feel a connection to the content that they are watching – otherwise they will keep scrolling. This is why brands should focus on humanising themselves and approaching the platform thinking not about ‘sales’ but about awareness and brand affinity.
Emily Zugay has hit the nail on the head with her TikTok account, where she jokingly redesigned incredibly famous brand logos for McDonalds, Windows, GymShark, NFL, Doritos, Tampax, TikTok itself, Tinder, Detroit Lions, Washington Post, and UFC to name a few. The brands then all changed the logos on their socials to her designs, with different brands commenting on her posts to do the same. This sparked a frenzy on TikTok because people felt like they could relate to the brands who didn’t take themselves too seriously, and that in turn, made the brands MORE relevant than ever before.
Relax! Give TikTok a Chance – There’s a Space for Every Brand
For traditional marketeers, TikTok can seem really unnerving. It’s an unexplored space and success means making your brand vulnerable. Even established heritage brands like BMW and Prada have adapted their approach in order to fit in on the platform. The car brand is producing handmade phone-shot content that stars a cuddly toy and the fashion giant has been producing the sort of high-end video and photography content you’d expect but injecting it with a fun playful energy that users on the platform demand. It goes to show that if you’re able to be playful, creative and quick to jump on relevant trends, TikTok is one of the most efficient and effective marketing tools available right now.