Staff Writer
Jan 9, 2020

TikTok: speaking to consumers in an age of distrust

TikTok is one of the world’s fastest growing app in 2019. As the year draws to a close, what lies ahead for the company? What are the challenges for 2020—and what are some key areas the company is investing in? We sat down with Akira Suzuki, head of X Design Center at TikTok Ads Japan, at the company’s annual marketing event, to find out more.

Akira Suzuki (left) talks to Kyonpei, a popular TikTok creator duo
Akira Suzuki (left) talks to Kyonpei, a popular TikTok creator duo

Anyone with a smartphone is likely to have downloaded TikTok or watched a TikTok Video. TikTok videos are everywhere, and yet few would have guessed that the platform is only two years old. Founded in 2017, the video-sharing platform now boast offices in world cities including, London, Berlin, LA and Tokyo. The platform itself is available in 150 different countries and regions in 75 different languages. The number of downloads has hit 1.5 billion across the App Store and Google Play, per Sensor Tower. 

Given this early success, what’s next for TikTok? That question was at the top of everyone’s mind at TikTok Ads Annual Marketing Event in Tokyo’s Trunk Hotel on December 3. 

Snapshots from the TikTok Ads Annual Marketing Event 2019

One reason behind TikTok’s success is its diversity. In 2019, the platform quickly broadened its offerings to include themes such as education, games, sports, travel, art and food. In the past year alone, TikTok videos touching on education increased by a staggering 2781%, with those featuring games (2359%), and sports (1059%) not far behind. 

According to a TikTok research that compares the platform with five other social media platforms, users’ impression of TikTok is usually ‘positive’, scoring 11 points higher than its competitors. Those surveyed also gave favourable reviews of TikTok’s content, with the platform scoring 36 points above the other platforms in this regard. The popularity of TikTok is such that celebs including Will Smith, BTS and Reese Witherspoon all have accounts. The company’s success came to an all-time high during Spikes Asia 2019, when its #BPM100 campaign won a Silver Spike for Entertainment and a Bronze Spike for Music at this year's awards. 

So what differentiates TikTok from its competitors?

At the event on December 3, Akira Suzuki, head of X Design Center at TikTok Ads Japan, announced that ‘authenticity’ is a key word for 2020. 

“We live in a time when people are suspicious of advertising,” Suzuki said. According to a research on the digital native generation (those born in the mid-90s to 2010), 46% of respondents say, “I don’t want to be deceived by the marketing”, 62% say “advertising is hyperbole”, and 38% say “these advertising makes me feel unpleasant”. By contrast, 75% of respondents feel they could “can only trust something real”. 

“The birth of social media has created an ‘equality of chance’. Everybody can send whatever message they want. But still, if you have a high profile, not many people would check out your content even if they are as interesting as those produced by more famous users. This is what differentiates TikTok from these other platforms. The system runs on algorithms so as long your video get many likes, it’ll automatically be recommended to all users, regardless of name recognition or the number of followers. On TikTok, there is a possibility that your very first post could get a million of downloads. We are actualising the ‘equality of consequence’,’ ” he said.

One of the things TikTok is particularly good at is collaborating with brands on dynamic campaigns. A few examples were given at the event. The first was with Johnson & Johnson on their ‘LISTERINE whitening’ campaign. TikTok users were asked to express their ‘teeth whitening experience’ with song and dance. The campaign clocked 32 million views, 8700 shares and contributed to the 30% in sales uptick.   

TikTok also teamed up with Suntory for its ‘Craft BOSS milk tea’ creative contest. “Suntory and TikTok have a same mindset—we wanted to leverage users’ creativity but we also want to promote creativity,” says a Suntory representative. The campaign ultimately produced over 400 videos, which bagged 39 millions, with an average of 2500 ‘likes’ for each video. 

TikTok creators

Most recently, the platform partnered with the Yokohama Municipal Government for a breast cancer awareness campaign. It has already notched more than a hundred million views at the time of writing. 

Suzuki also introduced ‘clickable stamp’, a clickable ad directly placed on an in-feed ad video that links users to a landing page. “Now, users just need to tap their phones to be redirected to a brand’s website.” 

And just like that, TikTok, with its strategic tech-driven mindset, is enlarging their users and clients base—not slowly, but very quickly. 

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