Flight and whimsy: TikTok is about to grow up, here’s why you should be using it.


by Jolyon Varley
Social Media TikTok

Although it launched in 2016, most people became aware of TikTok last summer when it served as a means of breaking up the tedium of lockdown. The fast, shareable videos featuring fashion, food, pets, pranks and dance challenges came along just when people needed a diversion from all the dreary headlines about coronavirus. But while TikTok has surpassed its rivals to become the most downloaded non-gaming app, its true potential has yet to be realised. 


Cultural bellwether

When it comes to a distinctly young and Gen Z-focussed social network like TikTok, some brands could be forgiven for being slow to rush in. Recent history shows a burgeoning number of companies that have blundered onto a new social network only to strike a bum note or be ignored altogether. But even if your brand doesn’t have a presence on TikTok, the platform represents a trove of marketable ideas that you can re-adapt. One example we’ve noticed in recent weeks is the rise of posts about Dalgona coffee – a cold frothy drink invented in South Korea that comprises instant coffee, sugar and water whisked and then added to ice cold milk. It’s blown up on TikTok into a fast-moving viral trend. We’re watching for major coffee brands to get on board. Just as brand managers need to plunder the pages of the FT, Wallpaper Magazine and Campaign for ideas, TikTok should be viewed as a major source of inspiration.


New audiences

For brands that traditionally speak to older audiences, TikTok offers a significant opportunity to captivate generation Z. For instance, if there’s one sector that is struggling with this cohort, it’s automotive. For Gen Z, cars don’t represent freedom, prestige or aesthetic beauty. Instead they’re a bane for the environment and a slow way to get around if you happen to be in a city. Luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz sensed that hawking motors on TikTok in the traditional manner (think moody, heavily-stylised driving sequences) was probably the wrong move, and so instigated a campaign that sought to introduce people to the brand in a simple, participatory way. The #MBStarChallenge invited people to recreate the brand’s star emblem in any way they wanted – through digital graphics, dance routines or with Smarties. Mercedes-Benz and TikTok reckon that 73,000 people posted a video and the campaign earned the German car maker 30,000 new followers on the platform.

Want to know how TikTok could be used in a way that would suit your brand? Let’s start a conversation.

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