Ocean Spray was a company that had been around for some 90 years. It knew its market. It knew its product. Building a viral smash success on a fresh platform seemed like a distant dream. Yet, thanks to TikTok, that’s exactly what happened.
It all began when an Idaho potato farmer named Nathan Apodaca posted a video of himself on a skateboard, zooming along a highway, with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” blaring in the background. As if this wasn’t an unusual enough setting, he was drinking a big bottle of Ocean Spray cranberry juice at the same time.
The video took off like gangbusters. Ocean Spray gained some 15 billion media impressions, enough to make a noticeable improvement in the company’s overall sales for the quarter.
It’s proof that, if you haven’t already engaged with TikTok marketing, you’re missing one of the biggest opportunities since the advent of social media. But a TikTok marketing strategy still requires forethought, learning from the best examples, and a strategic approach. That’s especially true if you want to maximize your chances of achieving viral success.
How is TikTok changing marketing?
For the unfamiliar, TikTok is a social media app built on short-form videos, often with viral soundbites and song selections playing in the background. It’s not only trendy but capable of building its own trends — many of which can look downright strange if you haven’t used the app yourself.
TikTok is changing marketing due to a few factors. First, its reach is nearly unprecedented. It’s reached over 2 billion downloads, according to Forbes. In the U.S. alone, it has over 100 million active users every single month.
But it’s more than raw totals. The short-video format has connected with the smartphone culture in a novel way. Consider all that TikTok has achieved:
- Opening “viral” success to the masses: YouTube, Vine, and the Internet as a whole made viral videos famous. Viral videos, in turn, made mass appeal available to anyone who could put together a remarkable video. TikTok, it seems, has achieved viral engagement at scale. It’s never been easier to create a video that “blows up.” TikTok’s algorithms give even small-following users the ability to hit widespread success if their video earns high engagement rates in the early goings. This means that while mega-influencers are highly successful, TikTok success is just as wide open to micro-influencers.
- Putting trends into hyperdrive: We’re all familiar with social media trends. The ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” in 2014 raised $114 million for ALS services, reaching almost every celebrity with a social media account. TikTok’s unique approach to promoting videos makes it possible to almost engineer smaller trends at will. Don’t worry — below, we’ll tackle some examples of how brands have achieved this.
- Creating a direct conduit to a younger audience: Millennials were the first generation growing into maturity with smartphones. But they’re getting older. TikTok is largely Gen Z-driven. Over half of the population of Gen Z is on the platform, as opposed to 36% of millennials. As Gen Z grows in influence and purchasing power, TikTok is becoming the go-to medium for reaching them.
These are just three points demonstrating how TikTok is changing marketing. But the best way to figure that out is to experience a viral hit yourself. After all, TikTok isn’t just about silly and fun trends and enjoying yourself. If you do it right, you can use TikTok for business marketing, just like the world’s top brands.
Is TikTok good for marketing?
If you’re coming from a traditional marketing mindset, the average TikTok marketing campaign might look strange at first. Guacamole dances? Dressing up in costumes to order burritos? Again, more on that later.
But these trends only reflect the shifting demographics of social media engagement. Average engagement rates with micro-influencers on TikTok, for example, outpace those on YouTube at a rate of 18% to 1.63%.
TikTok’s unpolished, short-form videos tend to create the feeling of connection between influencers and followers. This is particularly true with the prevalence of behind-the-scenes videos. Many top YouTubers put together highly polished, edited videos that skew closer to traditional television. TikTok feels more informal.
For this reason, even YouTube has tried to cash in on the short-form video trend, allowing its own users to post small, bite-sized updates. In other words, marketing on TikTok has become so successful that it’s even starting to influence how the other social media platforms approach their user base.
TikTok marketing examples
Not everyone on TikTok is doing a great job. Some brands may feel a bit like they’re shouting into the wind. Other brands just seem to have a knack for it. So what separates the brands that know how to do it from the brands that don't?
A solid TikTok marketing strategy usually emphasizes two elements: engaging influencers who already have a substantial following and creating an incentive to share and engage. In each of the TikTok advertising examples below, you’ll see how large companies reached out to influencers big and small to create viral hits using these two elements.
1. #Boorito from Chipotle
To capitalize on Halloween, Chipotle initiated a “#Boorito” campaign. The premise was simple: Order your burrito in a Halloween outfit for a discounted price. Chipotle gave away free burrito orders for a year to the TikTok users who could generate the most engagement via TikTok likes. Additionally, the brand reached out to influencers like Brittany Broski to get the word out.
By the time #Boorito hit, Chipotle was already a TikTok marketing veteran. The #Boorito campaign even outdid its previous campaign, #GuacDance, which generated 430 million views in just six days.
2. Dunkin’ and Charli D’Amelio
You don’t have to create a hashtag like Chipotle did to achieve success. Dunkin’ gave D’Amelio an excuse to post on TikTok by creating a “Charli” drink — and then D’Amelio posted about it to her TikTok page, including how the name of the drink looked on her receipt.
That was all – a simple, direct interaction with a social media influencer. The results? Dunkin saw its app downloads spike by 57%, and cold brew coffees experienced a sales boost of 20%.
3. Warner Music’s promotions in Argentina and Mexico
A company doesn’t have to enlist an A-list TikTok influencer like Charlie D’Amelio to see results. Some companies have good experiences with micro-influencers who have small, engaged followings. Other companies strike a balance somewhere in between.
For Warner Music, promoting Justin Quiles’ #DjNoPareRemix meant finding influencers who would be more relevant in Argentina and Mexico. Rather than opt for one major celebrity, they chose six distinct TikTok influencers to spread the word. Across the six videos the influencers produced, the promotion gathered 1.5 million likes with an average engagement rate of 17%.
How to plan a TikTok marketing strategy
Ask yourself this: How do you start any new marketing strategy? Do you feel like you’re slapping it together last-minute, or do you have the systems in place to carry out your plan with stunning precision?
If it feels more like the former than the latter, let’s get back to basics. Here’s how you can create a TikTok marketing strategy, even if you’re working from scratch.
- Bring your project under one dashboard: Before you do anything, get organized. A TikTok marketing campaign will include several different elements, from reaching out to influencers to planning strategy. Use a solution like Wrike to get an entire team on the same page. This will also distribute easily-digestible timesheets you can assign to team members.
- Centralize your communication: One TikTok campaign isn’t going to be enough. Sure, you might have the success of an “Ocean Spray” on the first try. But chances are, you’re going to have learning experiences along the way. To better adapt for future campaigns, centralize your communication with marketing project management and avoid siloing your teams. This will help everyone digest the appropriate feedback for future improvement.
- Start with a template: Even if TikTok is new to you, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Work from a marketing campaign template to automate much of the process of getting started.
- Create a schedule: Posting to TikTok should include a schedule, just as you’d approach any content or social media marketing campaign. Use an editorial calendar template, so you don’t have to start from scratch here, either.
- Use what’s worked in the past: Have you had success on YouTube? Instagram? Take lessons from those. You can start with social media calendar templates from our digital marketing offerings to easily replicate what’s worked for you in the past.
- Research your hashtags: It’s poor form to create your own hashtags on a whim. You have to know what’s already trending. What are people already searching for? Because TikTok’s algorithms sufficiently randomize a video feed, feel free to use high-engagement hashtags that would otherwise seem to have high competition. In fact, adding hashtags with over 1 million mentions is common and often effective.
- Research the appropriate influencers: If you’re going the TikTok influencer route, your budget will have a lot to say here. But even micro-influencers can be well worth the investment. Platforms like Grin and Upfluence will introduce you to the influencers who are relevant to your target demographics.
- Creative incentives: In each of the TikTok advertising examples above, experienced brands used a two-pronged approach to their campaigns: influencers and incentives. Influencers help get eyes on your campaign, while incentives drive home the need for engagement.
Put it all together, and you have a recipe for consistency. Keep in mind that not every campaign will hit. Some will generate a little light engagement, while others may take off and develop lives of their own. And it’s not always easy to predict which will be which.
TikTok boasts some of the highest engagement rates around. But you won’t find out the full potential of your brand until you take the time to consistently create content that sets you up for success.
Why use Wrike to create a TikTok marketing campaign?
TikTok and Wrike. Never thought the two words would go together? You’d be surprised. Any campaign benefits from proper planning, after all. And once you’ve read our Ultimate Guide to Marketing, you’ll better understand how our project management tools can make every stage of your campaign easier.
Think in terms of building a system, not a goal. As bestselling author James Clear advocates, putting the proper systems into place is far more effective for long-term success than chasing goals. As Clear says, “Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win.”
Even if you’re new to TikTok marketing, having a system in place immediately puts you at an advantage over those without clear direction. Consider all you can accomplish even before you start engaging with influencers and creating engagement incentives:
- Creating a plan: As the old axiom goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. We’ve previously written about creating global marketing strategies that incorporate the four Ps of marketing: product, pricing, promotion, and place. With TikTok, the emphasis is on promotion (engaging influencers), and place (getting more eyes on your videos via the TikTok algorithm and early, high-engagement performance). You can double down on your TikTok campaigns by never posting anything haphazardly.
- Engaging with TikTok trends: How do you know what kind of video will get engagement? By observing for yourself. Follow the same accounts as your target audience — this will get TikTok’s algorithms sending you similar content as your audience enjoys. Observe the hashtags and the principles behind the most successful viral videos. What do they have in common? Which fits your brand the best? How can your brand come to replicate and expand on these ideas?
Put it all together with an omnichannel marketing plan and you’ll find ways to drive more engagement than ever before. But remember the unique quirks of TikTok, its algorithm for sending users videos to their feed, and how you need to have a plan for driving engagement on every video for the platform to send it to more user feeds.
Apply those lessons consistently and you’ll have a recipe for an eventual viral video. And even if it’s not the one you thought would take off, remember: It’s all part of the overarching strategy for TikTok marketing success.