TikTok is having quite a year. And so, by association, is American Eagle Outfitters. According to Mobile Marketer, the clothing and accessories retailer enjoyed a Q1 sales surge online, driven in part by TikTok campaigns that connected with a young target audience eager to spend money online. The headline is this: TikTok is helping businesses benefit from massive shifts in consumer behavior in 2020.
TikTok, which is owned by the Beijing-based ByteDance, give brands a great platform for creating awareness, and more businesses like American Eagle are enjoying increases in online sales because of that platform. Read on to learn more about how TikTok is evolving rapidly in 2020.
What Is TikTok?
A free video-sharing social networking app that launched in the international market in 2017, TikTok was once predominantly dedicated to lip-synching. But now the platform, which features short looping videos of three to 60 seconds, and music and lip-sync videos of three to 15 seconds, has evolved into a short-form video content hub. And it’s becoming something of a powerhouse: according to Adweek, App Annie’s Q1 Global App Market Index identifies TikTok as the most-downloaded app in Q1 2020, as consumers continue to go online to find things to do and to express themselves at a time of social distancing.
Mobile-first 18- to 34-year-olds are the dominant market for TikTok, and one need only take a look at user numbers to recognize the platform’s significance—even beyond that primary market. Datareportal, for example, reports that TikTok enjoys 800 million monthly active users. Those users are engaged, too: Oberlo notes that on average, they spend 52 minutes per day on TikTok.
Brands Getting in on the Action
Brands, particularly those catering to younger consumers, are taking an interest in TikTok. The platform is an ideal place to engage audiences and demonstrate a lighter side through funny videos or challenges. And during the COVID lockdown, TikTok has become a pressure valve for people cooped up inside. Examples of the wildly diverse brands who have already invested in a TikTok presence include:
- NBA: the NBA uses TikTok to show off a lighter side, posting videos of players working out to music, for example, or the adventures of team mascots. The app’s musical features help the organization lighten up its branding; the videos still promote basketball, even as they fit in well with other quirky or musical posts on TikTok. Though the 2019-20 season was disrupted by COVID-19, the NBA has kept fans engaged by posting exciting plays from NBA stars. And players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Los Angeles Lakers megastar LeBron James, are turning to TikTok to keep fans amused with coordinated dances and funny moments.
- elf Cosmetics: the cosmetics brand used TikTok to face COVID head-on, releasing a remix of an original song that had originally appeared in fall 2019. Changing the title of the song from “Eyes. Lips. Face.” to “Eyes. Lips. Face. Safe.,” elf paired the rebranded song with a new TikTok video demonstrating hand washing and social distancing.
- San Diego Zoo: capitalizing on the fact that many people love cute animals, the San Diego Zoo’s TikTok account posts videos of adorable animals with fun music. It’s a simple strategy that has earned the account more than 50,000 fans. Even during the downtime brought about COVID-19, the zoo has kept up interest among its followers by posting amusing and sweet videos of animals going about their day.
- Mucinex: Mucinex might not seem to lend itself to playful TikTok videos, but last fall the sinus relief brand successfully leaned into a popular TikTok theme: that of transformation. In the Mucinex spots, quick video edits showed influencers changing from zombie-level “too sick” to fashion-forward “so sick” after taking their medicine. The campaign generated nearly one billion views.
TikTok and Influencer/Brand Collaborations
As for what’s next, look for TikTok to increasingly help brands find influencers to work with. In the TikTok Creator Marketplace, brands can already search through the app’s top creators, a list of more than 1,000 TikTok stars including Zach King and CJ OperAmericano. The marketplace allows interested brands to gain insights into the audience demographics of a given creator/influencer, and germane details like engagement rate over time.
Ever evolving, TikTok is also looking to live broadcasts and educational content to expand its reach and net more ad dollars. But as c|net reports, the platform won’t be nixing the familiar dance and lip-syncing videos that put TikTok on the map. Bryan Thoensen, who oversees content partnerships at TikTok, perhaps puts it best: “It’s adding more legs to the stool,” Thoensen says.
There is a dark cloud on TikTok’s horizon, as the platform faces security concerns. Last fall, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Tom Cotton asked U.S. intelligence officials to investigate the security risks posed by TikTok. In a letter addressed to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, the senators wrote, “With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore.” The concern that the app could be used for intelligence-gathering and foreign influence campaigns by the Chinese Communist Party was also voiced.
To date, however, the negative coverage has not appeared to deter brands.
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