What FMCG brands need to know about TikTok

This piece by our Managing Partner, Sarah Cantillon, originally appeared in The Grocer.

New social platforms are constantly striving to gain traction with today’s digital consumer, but those that succeed are far more rare and breakthrough platforms always attract the attention of marketers. At the moment, it’s short-form video app TikTok that’s hitting the industry headlines. The Chinese-owned platform allows its users (3.5 million in the UK) to share 15-second clips, often set to music, sometimes with lip-syncing thrown in. But TikTok has faced controversy – most notably over its popularity with children. The platform’s growing up a little, but it still has a bit of a ‘wild west’ vibe. Should brands be using it and if so, how? Here are some considerations. 

Is your audience there? 

Precise demographic breakdowns are hard to come by but by most accounts, the majority of users are under 24, and its age gate starts at 13. This should put up a red flag for brands marketing to older consumers or where age-specific targeting is required, such as alcohol or household goods categories. The brands that best suit TikTok are those that are looking to reach teens, and are prepared to be fun – Coca-Cola, Kit Kat and Calvin Klein have used it. 

The lowdown on ad options 

Like most platforms at a certain level of maturity, TikTok is looking to monetise its growing user base. At the moment, its ad options are only available in the US however, the platform has said they will roll out further afield soon. When this happens, the options will include brand takeovers, in-feed video, sponsored lenses and challenges. For example, Coca Cola’s #ShareaCoke challenge generated 900k videos from their target audience, with 200m views.

Consider influencer partnerships 

Given the restrictions on ad options for UK brands, the best way to feature on TikTok is currently through influencer partnerships – or via the Creator Network, as TikTok refers to it. Compared to the likes of Instagram, partnerships are much more affordable; think costs in the hundreds rather than thousands. Influencers are also important if a brand is looking for a hashtag challenge to gain serious momentum, given the talent’s already-established follower base. A big part of TikTok is a focus on co-creation – once an influencer has done a challenge, then users can ‘react’ or ’duet’ to it, giving brands partnership opportunities that naturally result in user generated content.

Be bold, or don’t bother 

TikTok is dominated by teens, who tend to enjoy content that often doesn’t resonate with the rest of us. People are on TikTok to express themselves without judgment. To have a bit of fun with music, to transform themselves for the entertainment of others. It’s not somewhere where you can sit in the background, or be subtle. If this doesn’t fit with your brand ethos, it’s wise to stay away.