How brands win on TikTok: 8 success stories
In this article, we cover 8 examples of brands who are winning on TikTok with creative content strategies and give tips on how to succeed on the app.
I could start this article by saying that 2021 was the year of TikTok but that would be misleading.
TikTok has been on top of its game at least since 2019. TikTok boasts of having more than a billion active users and consistently remains at the top of the most downloaded apps.
However, what I could definitely say is that 2021 became the year of brands on TikTok. Companies figured out the value of the platform and all the opportunities it provides. Moreover, taking into consideration how saturated with ads and brand collaborations the app has become, many brands came up with creative ways to market their products.
The average user spends 89 minutes per day on the app. The content on the platform is extremely addictive and its algorithm makes sure you stay interested. That’s what makes it a perfect platform for brands – if you know how to create good content and not annoy people by taking up their feed.
Additionally, more and more platforms started incorporating short video content so you can repurpose TikTok videos for Instagram Reels or YouTube shorts. This trend may justify investing time, effort, and money in making this type of video for smaller brands.
So what should a brand do on TikTok to become truly memorable? I went through my TikTok feed and brand accounts and analyzed the tricks social media managers are using to attract customers, from ads, to feed videos and engagement.
In this list, you’ll find 8 creative ideas by successful brands for your own TikTok inspiration.
However, before we start with the ideas, let’s briefly talk about the key to crafting perfect TikToks – knowing your audience.
How to discover who your audience is
I already mentioned that TikTok’s biggest win is its impeccable algorithm. It is set on delivering the right content to the right people. The comment you see a lot on TikTok goes something like “the algorithm is getting too specific” meaning people are surprised and taken aback by how relatable they find the video.
That’s why knowing your target audience is almost the sure way to reach it, granted your content is up to par. We wrote extensively on audience analysis, building a customer persona, and doing market research. If you don’t know where to start examining your audience, social listening is a great tool to point you in the right direction.
Social listening is great because it covers two areas of research. Firstly, it gives you the essential marketing analysis of your audience segments, their demographic and behavioral data. At the same time, it gives you access to individual conversations those people are involved in, so you get a deeper understanding of their interests, opinions, passions, and the trends they follow.
For example, here’s how to research your audience with Awario. If you don’t have an account yet, you can sign up for a free trial.
First, you need to set up a social listening alert. Awario analyzes data based on the keywords people use online, so you need to create an alert that contains keywords used by your audience: your brand or product name, your direct competitors, or the type of product you sell.
You can choose location, language, or channel filters to narrow down your audience research. You are also able to pick the timeframe of your data.
Once you click save, Awariostarts gather conversations mentioning your keywords and analyzing them and their authors. The tool does that in real time, so you don’t have to worry about missing something. You get access to tons of audience insights, including:
The sentiment they express when talking about these keywords
Their age group
Their locations and languages they speak
Their preferred online platform
The phrases they use most often
Influencers in this niche
Moreover, you can look at the social media posts and comments from your audience to figure out what are some trends and hot topics among your audience. You can even check if they are sharing or discussing any TikToks that caught their eye.
This essential information shows you the further steps you can take in building customer personas and understanding what content they want to see.
Once you got that down, it’s time to come up with video ideas. Here are some TikTok trends brands use to make enticing content.
Creative ways to use TikTok for brands
1. Create your TikTok sound
If you’ve spent more than a minute on TikTok, you know that all the trends are based on the backtrack people reinterpret in their videos. TikTok dances, challenges, memes all depend on the use of certain songs, sound snippets from viral videos, or witty commentaries.
So logically, the best way to stand out on TikTok is to create your own sound that people can use.
Take a lesson from the makeup brand e.l.f. They produced a song called “Eyes Lips Face” with Lil Wayno for a TikTok campaign and started a trend where people could show off their makeup. The campaign was supported by major beauty influencers and the sound got more than 1.4 million videos.
@jamescharles eyes lips face... **waist ? #makeup #fyp #transformation ♬ Eyes. Lips. Face. (e.l.f.) - iLL Wayno & Holla FyeSixWun
Of course, you don’t need to produce a song with celebrity rappers to pull off the same trick. Many sounds on the app are created by regular viewers who just had something relatable to say. Take a look at this TikTok by Tinder which has great viral potential – people will be eager to show their crushes or exes accompanied by these statements, as you can see from other videos under the sound.
@tinder it's just something about those tattoos that makes me overlook everything else @kaylafisher1996 ♬ original sound - Tinder
2. Create your own trends
Speaking about viral videos, why not create your own trend that highlights your brand too?
While the sound is the basis of TikToks videos, truly almost anything on TikTok can be picked up as a trend – certain editing style, filters, facial expressions, and dances. The latter for many people represents TikTok in some way since the platform engendered a lot of dance trends in the last few years.
You can also try to create a trend, just make sure it makes sense for your audience.
For instance, at the beginning of the pandemic, TikTok star Charli D’Amelio published a video showing a #DistanceDance challenge. The TikTok was sponsored by P&G and promoted self-isolation during the first COVID-19 outburst. The company also supported the campaign with charity activities, promising to donate money for each video posted in response to the challenge.
Charli’s sponsored video has 6.8M likes and 196.6M views, making it the most viewed sponsored TikTok to date. The #DistanceDance challenge is one of their highest reaching sponsored challenges with 17.8 billion views.
Take note of the smart use of influencers in these two campaigns – the accounts with large followings are often used to launch the campaign which ensures its initial reach. And while these campaigns turned to industry leaders, micro-influencers can be just as, if not even more effective, depending on your niche.
3. Master all the TikTok features
Not only does TikTok’s algorithm gives you the potential to reach your audience even if you don’t have many followers yet, but it also provides a lot of sharing features that are perfect for raising brand awareness.
How did a company that doesn’t have a substantial TikTok presence end up on the list of best brands on TikTok? Marc Jacobs has mastered the art of TikTok duets. The company advertises on TikTok by launching Branded Hashtag Challenges, each time utilizing the TikTok duet feature. Their #PerfectAsIAm campaign in summer 2020 ended with 10 billion views and included duets with Rickey Thompson and three other influencers.
@rickeythompson Show the world your PERFECT self!! Join me in the #PerfectAsIAm challenge from Marc Jacobs Fragrances by duetting this video! #mjpartner ♬ #PerfectAsIAm - PERFECT MARC JACOBS x Lizzo x Rickey Thompson
Marc Jacobs followed up with a second #PerfectAsWeAre campaign in June 2021, celebrating Pride and encouraging self-love and individuality. They featured three massive TikTok influencers, Rickey Thompson, Jojo Siwa, and Bretman Rock. Their campaign has now accumulated 13 billion views and more than 2,000K videos.
4. Create your own AR effect
Netflix is the leading advertiser on TikTok, on average producing one large-scale campaign every month. User-generated content has worked well for them thus far; over 112,000 people used their #WhatsYourPower AR branded effect, which is likely the largest amount of UGC for any brand on TikTok so far.
The AR filter randomly shows your superpower like telekinesis, controlling the weather, and so on when you use it. The filter was created to promote the Project Power movie and it was the perfect match both with the target audience and the product.
As you see, the best AR filters are not just pretty masks, they are able to provoke some interaction and comments from the users. Creating them is quite easy and truly any brand can try this fun way to reach a bigger audience.
5. Embrace the memes
The humor and jokes get you far on TikTok as long as you’re really good at it. Memes are a big part of the Internet culture and the app in particular and they gather a lot of attention.
There are two ways to go about it: utilize the hot memes at the moment, or make your whole TikTok account one big meme.
A good example of the first path is Ryanair’s account. The low-cost airline actively posts on TikTok, and at the moment of writing this article has 1,4 million followers and almost 40 million likes. They mostly post funny videos based on the latest memes on the platform. For example, this take on the famous Fast&Furious meme gathered 23,4 million views.
@ryanair The Ryanair family’s got your back? #ryanair #foryou #fyp #ryanaircrew #fyp #domtoretto ♬ family is more powerful than the TVA - Alex Dodd
Even TikTok itself acknowledged how good they are at following the hottest jokes.
Another path in front of you is making your account a long-running joke. Take a look at Duolingo’s account. The company has a recognizable mascot and many jokes surrounding its persistence to teach you languages. So they doubled down on Duo’s (that’s the name of the green owl) almost stalker behavior and regularly make jokes about it.
@duolingo direct your concerns to Legal Steve @stephenchen623 cuz my list of wrongs is as long as a CVS receipt #Duolingo #hillbillytypebeat #trend ♬ Hillbilly type beet - Dadood
The use of mascot is a strong marketing tactic in itself but combined with the knowledge of the Internet culture and sense of humor it skyrocketed Duolingo to more than 2 million followers.
6. Show behind the scenes
What makes the company’s content really stand out is frequent, in-depth behind-the-scenes videos that add a further layer to the brand and allow employees to become advocates. Scrolling through Glossier’s TikTok account, its followers have been treated to a multi-part tour of the brand’s headquarters, an inside look at the development of a new store, and even a sneak peek into the process of product design.
@glossier He's baaaack! Tour Glossier HQ with Senior Designer Sam ? #glossier #fyp @sonntagsam ♬ Sunny Day - Ted Fresco
7. Make your ads look organic
There’s a certain style associated with TikTok’s videos – text on the screen, specific cuts, voiceover by a text-to-speech voice. A lot of videos from the users that talk about relatable topics or share the stories from their lives use these features.
Brands seem to have caught up on that and started creating similar videos. What’s more unusual is that oftentimes these videos are actually paid ads, but they look so similar to the other content in your feed, that you may not even notice that at first glance.
It might come as a surprise but TikTok ads that look like they were filmed in someone’s bedroom might bring you more clicks than overly produced high-quality videos. Perhaps it all comes to the need for authenticity Gen Z feels from brands.
Anyway, it’s good news for brands that just don’t have a large budget to produce lavish video ads. On TikTok, the more homely you go, the better.
8. Engage with other users (no invitation needed)
Another trend I noticed on TikTok is how active brands are in the comments of seemingly irrelevant videos. For example, you’ll see a man discussing his funny date experience and Tinder will show up to post a funny comment. What surprises me is that Tinder was nowhere mentioned in the video or caption or anywhere really.
TikTok perhaps is the most interactive platform for brands that are on there. Don’t lag behind and remember that not only you should post videos, but also watch and engage with the TikToks of others. Luckily, the content on TikTok is really good so it’s more like a reward than a tedious task.
Perhaps this article is a bit of a love letter to TikTok as well as an inspirational guide for brands on the app.
I truly believe that there are tons of possibilities on the platform for brands big and small, and as long as you use your creative muscles, you will be able to get value from your TikTok presence.