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TikTok’s Benefits for Brands

Brands are buzzing about TikTok, the not-so-new app that experienced tremendous growth in 2019, when US consumers clocked 85 million hours of watch time on its mobile platform—more than Amazon Prime Video. In February of last year, TikTok hit a staggering 1 billion App Store and Google Play installs. Its users skew young. Nearly 60 percent fall into the Generation Z demographic, which in 2021 will comprise the US largest cohort, totaling 74 million individuals. It’s no secret this group will soon lead the charge on consumer spending power. Here are a few ways marketers can use TikTok to snag Gen Z’s attention.

Be There or Be Square
First, get involved. Guess was the first fashion brand to launch on TikTok, and to this day remains one of the few clothing labels active on the site. Its #InMyDenim campaign encouraged shoppers to film themselves in beautiful locales, sporting items from the denim line. The move quickly spread product awareness, resulting in 38 million (and counting) video views, plus thousands of brand followers. The takeaway? Being au courant and active is a valuable first engagement step.

Real Laughs
Next, you can’t go wrong by being funny or getting real. ESPN is scoring points with its use of musical montages and goofy moments depicting various sports guffaws, like toddlers lifting weights or a ref dramatically practicing the art of handing out soccer red cards, all set to catchy music. Recent videos took a more somber tone, paying emotional homage to the late, great Kobe Bryant. For their efforts, ESPN has racked up over 1 million fans and nearly half a billion video views.

The Washington Post approaches engagement in a slightly more restrained fashion, as is appropriate for the well-respected news source. Most videos are filmed inside their offices or at political events, yet with a dash of whimsy, they manage to reveal real faces behind journalism. A clip of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker sprinting through an airport strikes the right balance between humorous and dignified.

Amp Up the Competitive Juices
Do a hashtag challenge. Prompted by a TikTok hashtag, users can get inspired to create their own videos around that theme. This is a more active way to drum up support and popularity, as opposed to simply “liking” something on Instagram or Facebook. Last October, Elf Cosmetics almost broke the internet with its #eyeslipsface challenge. Inspired by Kash Doll’s hit 2018 song, “Ice Me Out,” the makeup brand composed its own similar song called “Eyes Lips Face,” thought to be the first original tune commissioned for TikTok. In just one week it got 1.7 billion views and to date has over 3.8 billion.

That was reminiscent of the 2014 ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which is often cited as a prime example of successful viral marketing. When done right, these campaigns gain grassroots traction, developing a life of their own until they go viral on a national scale, across various forms of advertising and social media. Influencers can help contribute to that buzz. Last October, Chipotle called on Zach King and Brittany Broski, who have 27.2 million and 2 million TikTok followers respectively, to help promote their annual “Boorito” Halloween challenge. That campaign likewise went viral, as both influencers’ followers posted their own videos urging other users to participate in the “free burritos for a year” contest. Aeropostale followed suit with its “Aero Oneness” holiday campaign starring TikTok notable Cameron Campbell.

With brands like Kind, Netflix, Walmart, Red Bull and Radio Disney already riding the TikTok bandwagon, there’s never been a better time to jump onboard.