TikTok, TikTok… How Mainstream Media Are Playing Catchup With the TikTokification of Consumers

By Tom Stone Co-Founder of re:act

The rise of TikTok represents a seismic shift in the way consumers engage with content, challenging traditional media outlets to adapt or risk becoming obsolete. As short-form video content gains traction, mainstream media entities are compelled to integrate TikTok’s dynamic format into their strategies to remain relevant. This “TikTokification” of consumers reflects a preference for bite-sized, easily digestible content that entertains, educates, or resonates on a personal level. In essence, the mainstream media’s race to catch up with TikTok mirrors the broader digital evolution reshaping the media landscape.

Why TikTok is flipping the marketing game on its head

The emergence of TikTok has significantly impacted traditional media outlets, altering consumer behaviour towards short-form video content. This shift has prompted platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to introduce features such as Reels and Shorts to keep pace. Even traditional television advertisements are adapting to resemble TikTok-style content, with shorter, more dynamic formats to match changing attention spans.

Consequently, media outlets are reconsidering their advertising strategies, offering shorter ad placements to appeal to advertisers. Digitalisation has enabled out-of-home advertising to align with this trend, but sectors like public relations (PR) risk falling behind unless they integrate TikTok influencers and content creators into their strategies.

While some outlets, particularly social media platforms and flexible TV networks like ITV and Sky, are embracing this shift, others, especially PR agencies reliant on traditional influencer tactics, may struggle to adapt unless they incorporate content creators with substantial TikTok followings into their campaigns.

Don’t adapt at your own peril

The “TikTokification” trend isn’t just a passing phase; it’s reshaping how we consume content, turning us all into snappy, short-form enthusiasts. For content creators, it’s a bit like finding themselves at the centre of attention, suddenly realizing they’ve got more sway than they thought. But with great influence comes the need for savvy representation, lest they get lost in the crowd of eager brands vying for attention.

Meanwhile, mainstream media are looking on warily. Some are quick to adapt, realising that TikTok isn’t just a fad but a significant player in the content game. Yet, others are hesitant, still trying to figure out if TikTok belongs in their carefully curated lineup.

To complicate matters, changes to Google’s attribution model focuses solely on the last click in the user journey. They’re missing out on the intricate dance of consumer interactions leading up to a purchase. It’s like judging a dish by its last ingredient rather than appreciating the entire recipe.

The mainstream media’s game plan for TikTok

So, mainstream media mustn’t overlook TikTok’s influence, integrating its format into their content strategies seamlessly. It’s about acknowledging TikTok’s presence and understanding its role in the broader consumer journey. Otherwise, they risk losing sight of the bigger picture and missing out on the diverse flavours TikTok brings to the table.

Mainstream media outlets are hopping onto the TikTok bandwagon with gusto, teaming up with the platform’s content creators  to inject virality. It’s all about embracing the authenticity of these TikTok stars, recognising their sway over audiences, and getting them on board for creative collaborations. Influencer partnerships are the name of the game here, with PR folks shaking off their slumber to tap into this new wave of influence.

But it’s not all smooth sailing – adapting TikTok’s zippy style to traditional TV ads is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. As audiences consume media at quicker rates, there’s a growing need for Clearcast, the advertising benchmark setters, to reconsider the pace constraints on advertisements to better align with evolving consumption habits.

To crack the TikTok code, mainstream media moguls are keeping a close eye on trends and consumption habits. It’s about being authentic, embracing the TikTok spirit, and finding those perfect placements that make audiences sit up and take notice. With a combination of creativity and flair, mainstream media can slide seamlessly into the TikTok universe, grabbing attention and winning hearts across platforms.

Authenticity must always prevail

The transition to TikTok-style content is shaking up the storytelling strategies of mainstream media, putting a spotlight on authenticity and the need for rapid engagement. TikTok’s stripped-down, punchy video format has catalysed a shift towards content that feels genuinely real. Traditional storytelling formats are facing a swift evolution as TikTok’s fast pace demands hooks that grab attention within seconds. Brands can’t just slap their logo on anymore; they need to weave into the narrative in an effortless way.

To stay relevant, media professionals must pick up the pace, get creative with their storytelling, and ensure their brand integration feels natural. It’s time to adapt to the TikTok beat and deliver content that resonates deeply with our audience’s desire for realness.

Will The Supreme Court send marketers into meltdown?

I think what you’re going to find is that brands heavily invested in TikTok will likely maintain their commitment despite potential bans, due to the substantial resources poured into optimising their presence and algorithm performance on the platform, possibly at the expense of engagement elsewhere. Conversely, brands with a more diversified approach, especially those whose core demographics aren’t fully aligned with TikTok’s user base, may shift focus back to platforms like Meta.

However, the TikTok ban could spark discussions among brands, particularly those emphasizing sustainability and ethical practices, leading to potential high-profile boycotts based on platform usage conflicting with brand values.

Fundamentally, TikTok’s seismic influence has sent shockwaves through mainstream media, prompting a frantic race to adapt to the TikTokification of consumers. Senior brand marketers must navigate this cultural shift, crafting strategies that resonate authentically in TikTok’s realm, ensuring their brands remain relevant and plugged into the pulse of digital culture.