The TikTok Trend: What’s Working and Where Is It Going?

Dec 18, 2019

Jordan Upmalis, Director of Social Media @KPItarget

To put it bluntly, if you haven’t heard of TikTok, you must be living under a rock. The relatively new platform skyrocketed to success on the social scene since its debut last August, and within the last year has raked in a whopping 1.5 billion downloads—more than both Facebook and Instagram.

Bought by Shanghai-based Bytedance in 2017 (for a cool $800 million), the app once known as (essentially a karaoke/lip-synching app) merged with their already created Douyin and TikTok was born. The closest thing to what Vine was, TikTok allows user to upload short form videos.

There’s no denying the impact TikTok has had in the past year—especially on GenZ, but also beyond. Leaving the impressive download numbers aside, many of TikTok’s terms and trends topped Google’s ‘Year In Search’ for 2019.

Despite being relatively new to the social platforms, given its explosive success TikTok is a platform brands should be paying attention to. Especially since they’ve been recently testing and launching several advertising options like in-feed video ads, brand takeovers, sponsored hashtags and challenges, and even in-app commerce.

There are a number of brands who have been taking advantage of TikTok’s virality and weaving it into their own marketing strategies across many different industries. Chipotle, Fenty Beauty, Calvin Klein, even the Washington Post have utilized the platform and seen success. But one brand example that stood out to me in particular was Nike’s ‘Nulla Puo Fermaci’ (Stop At Nothing) campaign.

In Milan, 55% of women between 14 and 24 don’t participate in sport; partly because female athletes there instead of being celebrated are sexualized and their abilities go unrecognized. AnalogFolk, the digital agency for the campaign, worked with Nike Italy to dive a little deeper into this challenge and see how teaming up with TikTok could help encourage the younger female demographic to see athletics in a more positive light. 

In their research they discovered that despite not participating in sports in school and generally being put-off by the stereotypes of young female athletes, Milanese females in this demographic were still actively participating in another form of movement: dance. And specifically dance on TikTok.

The campaign paired a team of superstar female athletes with four Milanese female TikTok influencers and started the Nulla Puo Fermaci Dance Challenge, inspired by genuine sport moves. A fully branded takeover including a campaign page and in-platform ads had never been done before on TikTok and the results were staggering. The campaign included 100 million views and 540,000 likes for the three challenges, with 20 million #basketbeat views within only 36 hours. In response, there were more than 46k user-generated routines posted that had an engagement rate doubling TikTok’s typical benchmark.  

And it’s not just Nike (among other brands) who are taking a chance on TikTok. There are other entities, some of which you might scratch your head at, also looking to cash in on the success of the platform. Celine, a very high-end luxury brand, announced last week that they were partnering with TikTok royalty Noen Eubanks for a new campaign. 

My first instinct was to say “HUH?!” to this collaboration. Desiring to stay relevant to younger audiences is indeed important, but with a price-point that seems extremely unrealistic to GenZ, I wonder if Celine’s investment is worth it. But according to Business Insider, there does seem to be an interest, especially in expensive fashion brands. Louis Vuitton and Gucci have yet to advertise on the platform, yet lead in search results: LV with almost 137 million hashtag views and Gucci? An insane 304 million.

For brands with massive budgets and a sky’s-the-limit mentality creativity-wise, TikTok seems like a great platform to roll the dice on. For others, though, not so much. I’m sure there will be some Cinderella stories that will surprise us all (looking forward to seeing what happens with Celine), but if you don’t have a clear vision, goal and especially desire to get right in front of GenZ right now, I wonder how much it makes sense. 

As with any social platform, features and functions can change on a dime, and that includes advertising options. I would also be remiss to mention that, as with any other social platform that came before it and will come after it, no one knows what TikTok’s staying power will be. 

Mark Zuckerberg has already been trying to win teens over with a competing platform called Lasso (which hasn’t yet made too many waves). They’re also now testing a new feature on Instagram Stories called Reels to try to rival TikTok again.

The point is: even if TikTok doesn’t fit your brand, there’s no doubt that other social platforms that DO fit your brand and demographic will at least attempt to add the popularity of the short, playful video feature to their own rotation for you to take advantage of. It’s obviously something that’s making an enormous cultural impact and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

It’s also important to note that if this format doesn’t fit your brand, don’t try to force it. One of the major appeals of TikTok is that overall the content is creative, fun and genuine. If for any reason you feel like you’re compromising your brand’s visions and values to accommodate the platform, it probably isn’t for you. (At least not for now.)

I’m excited to see what the future holds for TikTok and to see how brands will use it as a marketing tool in 2020. What are your predictions for the platform? Do you have any plans to incorporate it into your marketing plan in the new year? Let me know by reaching me at