The underdog social media app that has earned over 1 billion downloads in its first year presents a huge opportunity for brands to engage younger audiences.

  • TikTok is a platform that allows users to create short, looping videos with musical overlays and special effects that mostly targets young adults.
  • After its launch a year ago, TikTok has already earned more than 500 million monthly active users.
  • A few weeks ago we discussed TikTok’s entrance into the marketing world and the opportunities it can present markets, now we dive into a few of the brands that are successfully making the most of this opportunity and how they have done it.

TikTok in a nutshell:

TikTok presents a huge opportunity for brands to connect more intimately with their audiences. Fashion, publishing, and entertainment companies are currently testing the waters with this social app and now that is has launched an advertising process along with hyperlinking capabilities, brands have a real opportunity to tap into something new and exciting.

With the inevitable growth of the platform, other industries may decide to experiment with this app if they can naturally integrate the creative and visual aspects into their marketing strategy. Despite the promising future of the app, brands may not want to focus all their resources on this strategy just yet, but it is well worth familiarising and experimenting with this new method to connect with consumers.

Brands that have decided to test TikTok have done so successfully by using the app to increase brand awareness, as opposed to generating traffic or leads. This app is also useful to engage a younger audience as two-thirds of its users are under 30, so companies can showcase a lighter side of the brand through the creation of videos, challenges, and other content that is specific to this platform only. Due to the fast-paced and creative nature of this app, brands will not be able to hide behind simple ads or sponsored influencer endorsements that interrupt but do not engage consumers, they will need to be exceptionally creative to gain attention from audiences. The app is still in its early stage but this is a crucial time for brands to begin to gather inspiration from other brands who have decided to think outside the box and use the app in their marketing strategy.

1. Chipotle

The popular Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle has over 55,000 fans on TikTok by publishing various posts using the music and effects to highlight different menu items. They became the first restaurant brand to experiment with the app.

Chipotle’s CMO, Chris Brandt comments, “almost half of our customer base is Gen Z or millennials, so social media is a fact of life. They just expect you to be in the places they are.”



To celebrate #oneyearofTikTok, Chipotle created a concert using their guacamole pot and tortilla chips with Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ as an overlay. While this may appear silly, this video genuinely caters to what the app is about, and integrates a very popular song with an item off their menu - it is a fun way to showcase a mundane item.


The next video was posted on National Avocado Day - a key calendar day for the brand to utilise. They referenced a popular meme by posting The Guacamole Song’s music video accompanied by the caption, “TFW [that feel when] guac is free. Online/in-app only 7/31 #GuacDance terms". The video was very fitting for the meme-friendly app and sparked the viral #GuacDance challenge which in just a week, became the highest performing branded challenge on TikTok to date. It earned 250,000 video submissions and 430 million video starts in just six days. Despite being an obvious plug for free guacamole, the content itself is well-matched to TikTok as it is musical and embraces pop culture, making it extremely relevant for their demographic.

The Gen Z and millennial demographic will soon make up the majority of the workforce and so, Brandt rightly identifies how crucial it is to be in conversation with them, whilst occupying the same platforms they do:

“We wanted to have a conversation with our customers and be part of their culture and be relevant. When Chipotle launched, it was disruptive to the industry - the food, how it was prepared in front of the guests - we wanted to make sure we kept that disruptive nature with what we were doing.”

Getting a challenge to go viral can be difficult, but posting or encouraging one, especially if it involves a brand’s product or service, will help the company spread brand awareness. Chipotle achieved this when one of their employees, Daniel Vasquez from Frederick, Maryland, started the lid flip challenge.

This campaign started in early May, lasting six days, and generated 104 million video starts, and by June 6th, the #ChipotleLidFlip hashtag had more than 230 million views.

“I don’t know how many sales these campaigns got us, but I know with 230 million views, that’s got to help. When you can do something that engages your customers in a way they think is cool, interesting and new, and culturally relevant, people will flock to your brand. At the end of the day, we’re growing sales and transactions and I would say there’s a correlation.” Bandt

People who have not even heard of the brand might follow and even participate in this challenge and indirectly learn more about the brand, it is a very current and creative way to spread brand awareness quickly.

2. NBA

NBA has 5.1 million fans, and their account mixes game highlights with music montages and inspirational quotes. Unlike their Instagram account, which mainly focuses on basketball games and highlights, their TikTok channels show a lighter side of their organisation, for example showing videos of the players working out to music, dancing on the court, or their team mascot’s adventures.

But they also balance out the more fun, light-hearted videos with motivational posts as shown below, where basketball players RJ Barrett talks about being drafted by the New York Kicks.

While it is easy to expect a brand like NBA to focus on stats and games more seriously, they are able to use the app’s musical features to lighten up the branding and make their athletes look more relatable. They are able to create videos that fit in well with the majority of content on TikTok, while still promoting basketball.

3. San Diego Zoo

Videos of animals are a sure way to get views on social media, and San Diego Zoo’s account on TikTok successfully takes advantage of this. Their strategy is very simple, they post videos of their animals with music related to the content, and with over 50,000 fans, this strategy looks like it’s paying off for them.

The Zoo also made the most of the app’s duet feature by creating a duet of a penguin with the Monterey Aquarium:

This demonstrates a great example of how two similar brands can cross-promote use TikTok’s features. By using hashtags and tagging, the video posted by San Diego Zoo can be seen by followers of the aquarium as well.

When a brand recognises that they are an ideal fit for a new social media app, it is crucial to make the most of this and begin experimenting. The San Diego Zoo is a brand that have achieved this, they quickly identified their place in the platform and completely embraced it.

4. NBC’s Stay Tuned

Stay tuned was originally produced by NBC for the Snapchat news show which was mainly target towards Gen Z. After its success on that platform, the network branched out and started creating content for TikTok, and now their account has nearly one million followers and shows a variety of behind-the-scenes videos and quick digestible news bites that discuss events and pop culture.

This example shows them quickly explaining what’s the latest in artificial intelligence news. They are creating much lighter and easier to consume content than the usual NBC News’ journalistic work. When reporting on stories they make sure that their videos are fast-paced and focused on stories that will appeal to the younger viewers populating the app.

Despite their success on Snapchat, they are not simply repurposing that same content onto TikTok, they are tailoring each piece of content specifically to the platform it is posted on so that they are able to engage with each audience on a more personalised level.

Although getting content to go viral presents a big challenge, TikTok offers a great tool and opportunity for brands to get a step closer in achieving this. As the app is still fairly new, there are no strict rules on how to go about this so brands will have a lot of freedom to experiment and see what works for their marketing strategy. Whether or not brands believe TikTok is right for their marketing strategy, it is worth experimenting with the app, as its success will only continue thanks to its ability to tap into a young audience’s conversation, while engaging them and promoting brand awareness.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 2019 Brand In-Housing Report

Download our latest research to read the latest trends and stats you need to know. Including brands that are innovating and tools to help you lead the in-house revolution.

INHousing Banner JPG

You may also like:

A Brand's way or the highway, Part II

Georgina Cockaday | Nov 26, 2019 4:47:09 PM

Social Media update: What you need to know

Georgina Cockaday | Nov 26, 2019 4:46:53 PM

The Video Streaming Battle begins

Georgina Cockaday | Nov 19, 2019 4:31:45 PM