Populated by chocolate giraffes, songs about corn, and skateboarders drinking cranberry juice to Fleetwood Mac, TikTok is an inherently ridiculous place.
While Gen Z does represent 44.6% of the United States’ total TikTok users, US adults overall spend almost an hour on the platform each day—more than YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram! That screen time is growing even faster than expected, creeping up on the likes of Netflix. And even under threat of a potential (but unlikely) ban, 75% of US brands are planning to increase their spend on the channel in the coming year.
Pleasantly surprised yet? That’s what TikTok is all about!
To reduce any unpleasant surprises as you test and learn on the platform, check out some “do’s” and “don’ts” for TikTok marketing below.
The age of the perfectly filtered Instagram post is over. Experts across the board agree that brands can’t afford inauthenticity. So, what exactly does authenticity look like? Across platforms, consumers want to buy from brands whose internal actions align with their external messaging.
On TikTok specifically, more than half of users say they feel closer to brands that publish unfiltered, human content on the platform. As TikTok itself puts it, “Creative that blends seamlessly into the platform's culture of authenticity and community-driven entertainment consistently outperforms repurposed or adaptive ads.”
This is one of the most important tips for marketing on TikTok, as users love to pounce on messaging that strikes them as fake. Want an example? Check out this TikTok where Fenty Beauty partnered with beauty influencer @golloria to highlight the lack of darker shade options in makeup. The authenticity here comes from the fact that Fenty Beauty doesn’t just talk the talk—the brand offers a truly inclusive range of makeup shades, and partnered with a well-known influencer who was willing to use and promote their products.
On TikTok, you have to blend in to stand out. While the idea might sound complicated, marketers are well-versed in the practice of tailoring content to specific platforms (you wouldn’t run an audio ad on CTV, would you?)
In addition to the basics (video orientation, length, etc.) blending in on TikTok means making your brand’s content similar to the rest of the content users are interacting with on the platform. We’ve already covered one characteristic that’s important to blending in—authenticity—but there are others to be aware of.
Silliness is a big one (did we mention the songs about corn?) TikTok is an entertainment platform, after all! Challenges are also huge: upload a video that shows a specific action or dance accompanied by a hashtag, and if the content is captivating enough, TikTok users will copy your action and upload their own video along with the hashtag.
Granted, goofiness and viral challenges might not be your brand’s bag, and that’s OK! The point here is that marketers should have a solid understanding of what other content looks like on TikTok to inform the creation of their own.
Take, for example, the following video from Starface, a brand that sells star-shaped patches that heal acne. They partnered with influencers @cocoandbreezy to create a video that A) showcases their product, and B) features dancing (classic TikTok!) In addition to posting the video on its own page, Starface had @cocoandbreezy post another video to their page—a savvy move, as posts from influencers typically garner more engagement than those from brands.
Once you’ve spent some time perusing the wild, wild world of TikTok content, it’s time to dig into the platform’s advertising options.
In-feed ads are the standard and what might automatically come to mind when you think about TikTok advertising. These native ads look like organic TikTok videos and are added into a user’s feed as they scroll. However, TikTok also offers brand takeovers, TopView Ads, branded hashtag challenges, and even branded effects, which allow brands to create their own custom TikTok filters.
As with the above “blend in” recommendation, this is all about knowing the playing field. Take some time to read up on the different ad formats available within TikTok, and from there start strategizing about which ones are a good fit for both your audience and your product or service.
Need some #inspo? Check out the following video to see how Netflix used the branded effect feature to create a TikTok game promoting its Florida Man TV series.
Let’s kick off the “don’ts” with a no brainer: as with marketing strategy in general, it’s key to perform competitive audits to see what has and what hasn’t worked for the other players in your space. Since TikTok is more of a wild card than other advertising formats, competitive intelligence is especially important here. Perusing competitor feeds will also help you to identify what other industry influencers and personalities are doing.
The following video is a great example of how competitive analysis can spark ideas. Wendy’s created their own national holiday, #NationalRoastDay, and used it as an opportunity to invite tons of user generated content (UCG) from TikTokers who wanted the brand mascot to roast them.
TikTok is the home of viral challenges, and it can be tempting to participate in all of them (OK, maybe not all of them). TikTok is fickle: viral trends rise and fall, interests come and go, and sometimes it all seems to be happening too fast for a brand to thoughtfully weigh in.
But for all TikTok’s virtues, it’s still a social media platform—and when advertising on social, brand safety must be front-of-mind. With misinformation and disinformation proliferating on social platforms, it’s critical to perform a “brand safety check” on any new trend before joining in.
So, when you spot a trend or challenge you think would be perfect for your brand, take a few moments to get to know the premise, research the users who kicked it off, and spend some time with the content others are creating around it. Checking if the people, groups, or audiences behind the trend pose association-based risks is truly priceless, given the lasting consequences of hopping on the wrong bandwagon.
Because of these brand safety concerns, and because of how swiftly trends rise and fall on TikTok, it’s critical that marketers remain knowledgeable and nimble. Tools and tech can be a big help here—particularly those where marketers can track performance of their TikTok ads alongside the rest of their social, programmatic, site direct, and search spend. By accessing that kind of comprehensive and centralized reporting, marketers can make adjustments at any stage of a campaign—even midflight—to shift spend from one channel (or creative set) to another and ensure ad dollars are generating the highest possible ROAS.
Of course, there are some TikTok trends that show no signs of slowing—take ASMR, for example. This next video shows how Panda Express tapped into TikTok’s ASMR community thoughtfully and effectively, with a full video shoot and an influencer contract.
Finally, salesiness is a no-no on TikTok. Again: this is an entertainment platform! Plus, its giant user base is mostly made up of millennials, Gen Z, and the succeeding generation, Generation Alpha—users who are too digitally savvy not to scroll past anything that remotely looks like an ad.
On the flip side, TikTok offers a refreshing creative challenge for marketers, asking them to think about audience entertainment (and a nice potential boost in brand awareness) first, and CTAs second.
Here’s a great example from B2B brand Shopify on how to sidestep the sales and prioritize the entertainment:
There’s an awful lot to consider for brands branching out into TikTok, but the platform’s mantra for advertisers says it all: “Don’t make ads, make TikTok videos!” Those brands that approach their TikTok marketing strategies from the perspective of TikTok users—who seek entertaining, authentic, and unique content—will be well on their way to TikTok marketing success.
Want to learn more about how to make the most of TikTok? Get the latest insights straight from TikTok experts in our webinar, Seizing the TikTok Advertising Opportunity.
In recent years, workplaces of all kinds have faced a reckoning. As people across industries call out their experiences of bias and microaggressions at work, and racial diversity reports demonstrate continuing systemic injustice, employers have renewed their commitments to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations.
In the advertising industry, Black professionals have faced countless barriers due to racism. Despite this, Black individuals have made paradigm-shifting contributions to advertising throughout its history. Below, we look at five exceptional advertisers who have disrupted the marketing space in amazing ways:
After earning an M.A. in musicology from Yale, Roy Eaton began his career in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He worked as a concert pianist, performer, and lecturer before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953, where he wrote and produced radio programs. After leaving the military, Eaton was hired at Young and Rubicon as a copywriter and composer. He is now believed to be the one of the first Black professionals to work in advertising.
Eaton made a huge impact on advertising from his post at Young and Rubicon, writing iconic jingles for brands like Chef Boyardee and Texaco. Eventually, he struck out on his own and created Roy Eaton Music Inc., which handled music production for various advertising agencies. There, Eaton went on to collaborate with Michael Jackson and produce even more iconic advertisements for companies like Coca-Cola and the Ad Council. Eaton was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Fame in 2010.
When Vincent T. Cullers returned to the United States after serving as a Marine in World War II, he applied for an art director position at an advertising agency. He spoke on the phone to a hiring manager who told him to come in and start work, but when he arrived, he was told there was no position for him. This experience inspired Cullers to start his own agency in 1956—Vince Cullers Advertising, the first Black-owned advertising agency in the U.S.
Cullers’ agency provided a training ground for Black advertising professionals who faced many racist barriers to entry and success at other agencies. Additionally, marketers have Cullers to thank for the concept of targeted multicultural advertising, having pioneered the practice of serving ads designed to speak specifically to differentiated audiences. Cullers was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Fame in 2007.
Carol H. Williams started her advertising career in 1969, at a time when Black women professionals faced extraordinary prejudice that significantly limited their opportunities in the field. Williams rose in the ranks at Leo Burnett and, in less than 10 years, became the agency’s first female and first Black Creative Director and Vice President.
Like Cullers and Eaton, Williams eventually founded her own Black-owned agency. Started at her own kitchen table, Carol H. Williams Advertising is now the longest-running independent multicultural marketing shop in the U.S., serving brands like Disney, General Motors, and Kraft.
Williams has been called the "most decorated woman in marketing,” and her awards include the AAF’s David Bell Award for Industry Service, Chicago Advertising Federation’s Advertising Person of the Year, and the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Women Entrepreneur of the Year. Williams was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Fame in 2017.
Haitian-born Gary Coichy worked with agencies and brands like WPP Mediacom, Omnicom Resolution Media, BMW, and Dell for 16 years before striking out on his own. In his years in the advertising space and throughout the rise of audio, Coichy recognized a gap in the podcast market when it came to sourcing content from non-white, LGBTQ, and women creators.
Coichy's creation, Pod Digital Media, is the world’s first multicultural podcast network, and allows advertisers to tap into a diverse podcast audience while custom-aligning creators from underrepresented groups with blue chip brands. When COVID struck, Pod Digital Media got even more innovative, meeting podcaster’s needs by creating an in-app virtual recording studio. Coichy was included in Ad Age’s 40 under 40 list in 2019.
Natalie Gullatt may be earlier in her career than some of the other leaders on this list, but she’s accomplished a striking amount in her eight years as a marketing professional. Currently employed as a Customer Marketing Manager at HubSpot, Gullatt worked as a paralegal and planned to go into law before pivoting into marketing with the help of an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.
In 2017, Gullatt founded the Black Marketers Association of America, a group that works to “empower, elevate and educate Black marketers financially, mentally and emotionally through their marketing careers.” Her work to support and connect Black marketers while strengthening and diversifying the marketing industry earned her a B2B Innovator Award in 2021.
The individuals on this list represent the thousands of Black individuals who have shaped the marketing industry with their talent and innovation. This Black History Month, we at Basis Technologies are grateful to these innovators and to all the Black marketing and advertising professionals who continually enrich, transform, and lead this industry into a better future.