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Why Should Brands Be on TikTok? It’s ‘Where Culture Happens’

Social shopping has been on the rise for several seasons, as mobile-addicted consumers flock to their favorite apps for entertainment, connection, and fashion inspiration.

And as brands look to leverage these tools to their greatest effect, it’s becoming clear that shoppers value authenticity and relatability above glossy glamour shots.

Brands are actually becoming an integral element of the content-producing community on TikTok, according to the tech phenom’s global head of creative lab, Kinney Edwards. “I think brands are a vital part of the TikTok experience” whether they’re starting trends or underscoring existing ones, he said at IAB’s Brand Disruption Summit this week.

“Trends start on TikTok—this is where culture happens,” Edwards added. Over the course of 2020, the platform has become an indispensable outlet for teens and young shoppers starved for interaction with their peers and favorite companies. Viral dance routines, pranks and simple glimpses into the daily lives of others have spurred a content feeding frenzy that brands can, and should, capitalize on, Edwards said.

“Every day I see a brand do something that’s just incredible in terms of making an amazing connection,” he added. Companies have the ability to connect with communities on a deeper level by bringing awareness to public service initiatives like charities, or, more recently, getting out the vote. They can also build their own brand experiences through the platform that Edwards believes resonate more strongly than standard ads.

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The platform’s new TikTok for Business program allows brands to craft creative campaigns with the option to blend in engaging elements like augmented reality (AR), he said. “I think it’s freeing for advertisers as well—you don’t have to be overly produced.”

Edwards pointed to mattress company Simmons as one of the platform’s unlikely rising stars. “You know, this is a brand that’s 150 years old, and there’s been such a disruption in the mattress category with DTC brands” like Casper, Tuft & Needle and Allswell, he said. The company coined a hashtag challenge, “#snoozapalooza,” highlighting the fact that 2020 has been a bit of a snooze for many TikTok users, who likely spent more hours in bed this year than in years past. “It really said, you know, there’s a pivot and a shift [this year], but let’s celebrate that,” Edwards said.

The movement quickly went viral, taking on a life of its own. Over one million videos were created under #snoozapalooza, and the hashtag has been used over 6.2 billion times, he added. And while the heritage mattress brand isn’t often associated with trendsetting, Simmons saw a 104 percent lift in traffic to its e-commerce site.

Brands should not be intimidated out of embracing the platform, Edwards said, seeing Simmons’ results. Simply downloading the app, delving into the content and reading the comments can help marketers gain a better understanding of the community on TikTok, he said. “Looking at discussions that are happening, you’ll see that it’s a wonderful way to understand what’s behind a trend that might be featured or what’s behind the story that’s being told.”

Footwear brand Aldo’s Step Into Love ad campaign also resonated with users, Edwards said, through an ad featuring an inclusive cast of well-heeled dancers partying on a New York City subway car. The vibrant show of diversity was accompanied by a TikTok dance competition sponsored by the brand that garnered 9,298 official entries. Over 1.8 million videos were created under the #stepintolove, and the hashtag was used 5.1 billion times.

The requirement to adhere to the elements that accompany traditional advertising—“the high need for polish, production value and getting everything perfect”—are nonexistent on TikTok, Edwards said, and that lowers the risk for brands looking to explore it as a marketing tool. Brands should follow their organic impulses in “testing and learning and really just trying things to really find [their] footing,” he recommended.

“The community that’s on TikTok really embraces that,” he said. “They don’t fault brands for trying things—they actually might take something and run with it and build on it.”