It’s getting difficult for marketers to ignore the popularity and influence of TikTok. Brands on TikTok are reaching younger audiences, increasing brand awareness, and going viral — all by leveraging the power of short-form video.
Of course, it also helps that TikTok has over 1 billion active users and a fantastic engagement rate — far exceeding any other social platform today.
In this post, we’ll discuss why you should leverage TikTok marketing in 2022 and how smaller companies can build a scalable, fun, and creative strategy on the platform. We’ll also cover eleven brands that have gone viral on TikTok.
Table of Contents
What is TikTok Marketing?
Although TikTok might feel like a hub of strange posts, its popularity and video-driven content provide a variety of unique marketing opportunities.
Marketers can leverage TikTok in three main areas:
1. Influencer Marketing
A great way to leverage TikTok is by engaging with the influencer community. Because influencers have a solid understanding of the platform, they can transform stiff brand messages into fun and creative videos. This type of marketing is particularly effective at opening your content to a new audience and boosting brand awareness.
2. Original Content
Although fans of TikTok love original content, you don’t need to spend hours coming up with the next viral trend. Often, the best performing TikToks are ones that replicate or recreate a current trend. Start by exploring the app, its trends, and where your brand can join the fun.
3. Paid Ads
TikTok ads are a relatively new addition to the platform. Powered by their own advertising platform, TikTok For Business, brands can run in-feed ads or create branded hashtags and video effects.
Although many of the first brands to join TikTok were large, well-known companies, it can still be helpful for small businesses to look at why brands of all sizes are joining the platform.
Why Brands Should Leverage TikTok Marketing in 2022
Short-form video is dominating the social media landscape — and TikTok is the leading platform for it. It’s no surprise that more than half of marketers (52%) who use TikTok plan to increase their investment in 2022, which is one of the highest jumps of any platform.
While TikTok is relatively new compared to other social giants like YouTube and Instagram, it’s seeing stellar growth year-over-year. In fact, it was the most downloaded app in 2019 and 2020, racking up over three billion downloads so far. It also boasts 1.2 billion monthly users which experts predict will reach 1.5 billion by the end of 2022.
Additionally, TikTok is the most engaging of all social media apps with an average user session of 10.85 minutes. Its viral nature also deserves a shout out. Unlike other social platforms, even accounts with a handful of followers can spark millions of views on a great video.
If you think TikTok is only for the Gen-Z crowd, think again. While over half of Gen-Z consumers are on TikTok, it’s picking up steam with other age groups. In 2021, 36% of TikTok users were between 35 and 54 years old, a 10% increase from the year before.
That said, since TikTok is quirky by nature, brands need to get creative to gain their audience’s attention. In other words, a simple ad or sponsored influencer endorsement might not cut it on this fast-paced app.
Let’s look at eleven brands who nail TikTok marketing with creative content that draws attention.
1. The NBA
Unlike its Instagram channel, which focuses purely on basketball games and highlights, the NBA’s TikTok posts show a lighter side of the organization. For example, they’ll often post videos of players working out to music, dancing on the court, or answering fan questions.
In this video, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors busts a move from the sidelines after his teammate scores:
And check out this funny montage of Chris Bosh photo-bombing his teammates (including LeBron James) throughout his career:
Making your brand feel more personal can have a great effect on TikTok. For example, if your restaurant’s TikTok account posts funny videos of waiters dancing, viewers might think the restaurant has pleasant and happy staff. This might make them want to eat there because they can picture themselves having a fun dining experience.
What we like:
While you might expect the NBA to focus more seriously on stats and games, it uses the app to lighten up the branding and make its athletes look more relatable. While the videos still promote basketball, they also fit with other funny posts on TikTok feeds.
2. Fenty Beauty
One of the most popular types of content on TikTok is tutorials. Some brands lend themselves to this more than others, but a great example is Fenty Beauty, which uses TikTok to show makeup tutorials, wear-tests, and product launches.
What we like:
Tutorial-based videos can fit a variety of brands. For example, a clothing store can show how to style certain pieces of clothing. A hardware store can show how to build, restore, or paint something using its tools. Even a gym can offer a demonstration on how to use different equipment.
Start by brainstorming all the ways someone could use your products or services. If you can break a task into steps that last no more than 60 seconds, it may make for a great TikTok video tutorial.
Dunkin’ was one of the first brands to employ influencer marketing on the platform by partnering with TikTok megastar Charli D’Amelio.
Together, they launched new menu items at Dunkin and collaborated on several videos.
After posting content about the partnership, Dunkin saw a 57% spike in app downloads and a 20% sales boost for all cold brew coffees.
However, if you believe you need to partner with a famous TikToker for it to work, think again.
When it comes to influencer marketing, relevance is more important than reach. Rather than partnering with an influencer based solely on vanity metrics (such as follower count), look for micro-influencers who have a niche audience that aligns with your own. Research shows that influencers with less than 1,000 followers receive more engagement than their more popular counterparts.
What we like:
This example highlights the power of influencer marketing on TikTok. By partnering with influencers, Dunkin’ benefits from word-of-mouth marketing while building social proof.
4. Milk Bar
TikTok videos thrive with music, and Milk Bar knows this too well. The bakery chain does an exceptional job at capitalizing on popular TikTok memes, formats, and audio.
Here’s Milk Bar putting a spin on the “Have you ever been in love?” video trend:
TikTok makes it easy to add music to video clips, which could result from having made legal arrangements with major music companies. Maybe this is why it’s nearly impossible to scroll through TikTok without seeing users dancing or lip-syncing to music.
What we like:
Viewers like to see brands joining in on current trends or putting a unique spin on an existing one. When brands take the time to understand TikTok and keep a finger on the pulse of the platform, it becomes easier to join trending topics, challenges, and memes. And if you’re not sure where to start, check out TikTok’s Discovery Page for inspiration.
Since joining TikTok in 2018, Chipotle has set the standard for how brands can grow their brand presence while engaging the TikTok community in a fun and authentic way.
Chipotle opts for a more casual vibe, often posting dance challenges and fan-made content, such as videos of people sharing their favorite Chipotle recipes and hacks.
Chipotle also showcases behind-the-scenes footage from real crew members in real Chipotle kitchens. Check out this “vlog style” video of a former Chipotle employee revisiting her job and interviewing her coworkers:
What we like:
If you need a creative way to spread brand awareness quickly, taking a note from Chipotle and sharing personable behind-the-scenes footage might be a great experiment. Also, lean into your brand advocates who may be willing to share their experiences on social media.
Gymshark is one of the leading fitness brands on TikTok, reaching 2 million followers in only six months. Gymshark caters to fitness fanatics by posting workout challenges, inspirational health journeys, and relatable fitness humor that makes the gym feel less intimidating.
Here’s one of those relatable fitness videos:
One of the brand’s most notable TikTok campaigns was the 66 Days: Change Your Life challenge, which highlights the fact that it takes 66 days to form a habit. TikTokers submitted videos of their own workout journey in hopes of winning a Gymshark membership.
The campaign was an overwhelming success, with the hashtag #gymshark66 generating 193 million views.
What we like:
Gymshark leverages the power of challenges. Challenges are one of the biggest trends on TikTok, and innovative brands are using them to fast-track their growth and connect with millions of users on the app. Consider creating your own challenge or putting a unique spin on an already existing one.
7. The Washington Post
The Washington Post was one of TikTok’s earliest brand adopters. Those who haven’t seen their videos might be anticipating investigative or serious content. Surprisingly, the newspaper actually uses its account to post comedic skits about the latest breaking news.
These videos fit in perfectly with the platform because they’re funny, timely, and embrace some of TikTok’s weirdest special effects. Check out this skit about Delta Airlines’ PR department struggling to write a press release about the COVID-19 delta variant:
The Washington Post displays how brands can succeed on TikTok by talking directly to its specific audience — young viewers who want to laugh.
Because The Post has a long history of groundbreaking, award-winning, and intellectual journalism, this comedic approach might also attract young readers who want to follow the news but used to worry that content from a newspaper would be too advanced or out of touch for them.
What we like:
Despite its reputation for “serious journalism,” the Washington Post did not shy away from TikTok. If your brand is in publishing, academia, or similar industries, testing out a video strategy that shows off your lighter side could be an interesting experiment. It might make your content and brand feel less intimidating and help you gain attention from newer audiences.
8. San Diego Zoo
Everyone loves a cute animal video. The San Diego Zoo’s TikTok account pleasantly takes advantage of this well-known fact.
The zoo’s strategy is simple: Post videos of cute animals with fun music. And with over 2 million fans, it seems to be working. How could anyone not want to follow them after seeing this video of an adorable red panda?
If that cuteness wasn’t enough, the zoo has also dueted with other animal-friendly accounts, like the Monterey Aquarium:
What we like:
This is a great example of how two similar brands can cross-promote using TikTok features. Because of the zoo’s tagging strategy, this video might be seen by fans of the aquarium and the zoo. This way, zoo followers might gain more interest in the aquarium and vice versa.
TikTok is known for its quirky “unhinged” content, and Duolingo has effectively carved out a space in this landscape.
The brand continues to go viral for its funny, trendy, and often chaotic videos featuring its mascot, Duo the owl. Duo can be seen dancing to popular audio, adding sassy commentary to pop culture news, and jumping on the latest trends.
Duo’s antics have successfully humanized the brand and epitomizes their witty brand voice — which also comes in handy when responding to TikTok comments.
What we like:
Your brand voice shapes every interaction you have online — from the videos you create to how you respond to comments. Duolingo has molded a strong brand voice which it uses to tell memorable and entertaining stories.
While the love-hate relationship with crocs is very real, it’s all love for the brand on TikTok. Its winning strategy includes original music, brand-specific hashtags (like #CrocTok), and colorful, entertaining content.
That said, Crocs really shines at poking fun of itself and the perceived “ugliness” of their shoes. They lean into this by posting outfit of the day (OOTD) videos and tutorials on how to style their shoes with accessories and a great sense of humor.
What we like:
No one likes a brand that takes itself too seriously. At the end of the day, your buyers are people — not robots with credit cards. Humility and humor are two ingredients that can humanize your brand, cut through the noise, and build a connection with your audience.
11. Planet Money
Planet Money is a podcast by the National Public Radio (NPR) with the tagline — “The economy explained.”
It’s hard to imagine a brand covering such a serious (and complex) topic on a platform that’s synonymous with silly, snackable content. But Planet Money manages to infuse educational videos with an entertaining spin.
From inflation to rent control, no topic is too challenging for Planet Money to chip away at in an innovative and humorous way. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at this skit explaining how banks make billions from overdraft fees, which starts with a man trying to buy a burrito:
What we like:
If you feel your brand is too “serious” for TikTok, take a note from Planet Money and approach your brand — or your content — from a different angle. You may find that adding a dash of humor is just what you need to skyrocket on the platform.
TikTok Marketing Tips
While it might be challenging to get your content to go viral like the bigger brands, TikTok could be a great tool for getting in sync with younger audiences.
If you think TikTok might be part of your marketing strategy soon or in the future, now would be a great time to get ahead of your competitors by downloading the app and investigating what similar brands or potential audiences are doing there.
If you’re raring to go on a TikTok strategy, here are a few tips and takeaways that we’ve gained from looking at the brands that have already done well on the app.
Show a different side of your company. The app is a hub for creativity and humor. Embracing a more personal tone or a behind-the-scenes approach could make your company appear more relatable or trustworthy to potential customers.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Unlike platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, there aren’t as many norms, best practices, or rules about what works and what doesn’t. If you think something might be interesting or funny, try it and see if it gets any likes, comments, or shares.
Engage with your audience. Between challenges, duets, likes, comments, and shares, there are plenty of ways to engage with other TikTok users — even if you don’t know them. Try to come up with videos, challenges, or duets that aim to interact with others. As with other platforms, the more you engage with people, the more your fan base could grow.
Don’t shy away from marketing your products, but make sure you do it in a creative way. Try your hand at tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to content that showcase the best parts of your products or services.
Tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing with influencers. But remember that relevance is more important than reach, so partner with niche micro-influencers who share a similar audience.
For brands, joining TikTok offers an opportunity to reach younger audiences and increase brand awareness in a highly playful environment. But succeeding on the platform relies on creating exciting content — so prepare to put your creative hat on and experiment with new formats.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.