In a mobile-first world, short vertical videos are increasingly used by brands to engage viewers. Not only does the format fit snugly in our busy lives, 15-second verticals are also easily digestible on small screens, giving users the the full viewing experience
Among the mobile video platforms in the market, Bytedance’s TikTok is perhaps one of the most popular. Set up in 2016, the platform had its beginnings as a platform where users can dance and lip-sync to music but has evolved to encompass more diverse content, including travel videos, bite-sized cooking shows, DIY workshops, music performances and videos where users divulge parenting, make-up and fashion tips.
The reason why digital channels such as TikTok, Twitter and YouTube work so well is because they allow brands to talk directly to the masses. Yet this “democratization of content” also presents a conundrum, says Akira Suzuki, who heads up X Design Centre, TikTok’s in-house planning and creative unit in Japan.
“The democratization of content favours tech-savvy brands that could incorporate unorthodox techniques into their marketing strategies over brands who simply have big ad spend yet are slow to innovate according to shifting market demands.”
One way TikTok is helping brands engage viewers is with user-generated content. Not only does TikTok have a massive audience base, the app is also calibrated to be highly interactive, where users can follow accounts, comment, give hearts and ‘duet’ with their favourite influencer by utilizing the split-screen function. With the app’s unique ‘Challenges’ feature, brands prompt users with a song or hashtag to create their own content around a theme. A recent example was TikTok’s campaign with Japanese fashion company Uniqlo.
The #UTPlayYourWorld campaign invited TikTok users to share video content of them wearing their favourite outfit from UT, Uniqlo’s special collection of graphic t-shirts that blends contemporary styles with pop culture influences. The campaign hit 190K social posts, 43 million likes and 353 million viewers in five markets worldwide.
Not all ‘challenges’ are made equal. There are four factors behind all successful challenges, says Suzuki. The challenge needs to be easily understandable. Second, it needs to be unique yet accessible so that a majority of users would be able to generate their own content. “For instance, if we want to create a group dance challenge, many things need to be considered--how should be the camera positioned? Should we involve friends? How should we transition from one shot to the next? Does the group need to coordinate their fashion?” The third factor is authenticity. Suzuki says that amateur but high-quality content engages users more than highly edited ones. The last thing to take into account is music. 80% of TikTok users enjoy watching videos with the sound on, per a survey conducted by the platform. Within Japan, users also prefer music with higher beats per minute (BPMs), in other words, the content is likely to engage viewers more if it includes a piece of hip-hop or EDM music instead of a ballad.
With the rise in demand for impactful marketing, brands are also putting more emphasis on engagement rate—which gives a better indication of leads—than simply, views.
A successful TikTok campaign is one that breaks away from traditional marketing models.
"Marketing shouldn't be limited to serving the traditional needs and wants of our users. We are now applying a WTF model. WTF stands for 'Wish,' 'Try,' and 'Fun.' Wish hits on that feeling of wanting to make the world a better place--you encourage people to break stereotypes and challenge traditions, " says Suzuki. He gives the examples of an Islamic woman wearing a hijab and "killing it on the basketball court" or the #BPM100 dance challenge, which aimed to raise awareness of CPR with a dance challenge. "These types of videos encourage empathy and gives people a warm feeling."
Meanwhile, ‘Try’ means giving users the opportunity to tackle a new challenge. This could be something as simple as challenging users to dance to the Witch Doctor song, or—slightly more complicated but still achievable—have them create an optical illusion video by playing with angles and perspectives. “When users nail a challenge, they get that sense of achievement and naturally would like to share it with the world.” Another example was Chipotle's #ChipotleLidFlip challenge, where the objective was to flip the lid from Chipotle containers and cover the top of the bowl entirely in style. Not only was it widely reported in the media and became an Internet meme, the campaign also helped drive sales.
The last criteria is ‘Fun’. “We’ve launched challenges that don’t necessarily have any deep meaning other than that we want our audience to have fun. TikTok is a platform that is all about encouraging users to create fun content.” The idea of ‘fun’ could perhaps be illustrated by McDonald's #Tirori-Tune, which encouraged users to either follow choreographed dance to a ‘Tirori tune’ or to come up with their own dance steps. As of April 2019, it’d already clocked up 150 million views and 65K social media posts.
TikTok is of course, not the only digital platform leveraging UGC for B2B marketing, but one thing that sets it apart from other platforms is its willingness to keep evolving with brands’ needs and users’ interests. One of its recent launches include ‘Brand Effects’ an imaging technology that can detect multiple touchpoints.
This feature is particularly appealing to beauty clients as it allows users to virtually ‘apply’ make-up or hair dyes in their comfort of their homes, which can in turn drive them to purchase the products online or in-store.
In a recent campaign for Listerine, TikTok made use of the feature to create a ‘stamp’ that turns your teeth sparkling white when users smile. “It’s a way of communicating the benefits of the products in a straightforward but light-hearted, fun way.” The campaign was very effective--17K users tried their hands at the teeth whitenening effect experience, generating 30M views, ultimately leading to a 30% uplift in product sales.
Yet, Brand Effects isn’t just for beauty or healthcare products. As the technology could detect hand gestures and poses, any brand could create a ‘stamp’ that can potentially help showcase product features and strength by demonstrating its effect. Additionally, companies can add a clickable hotlink directing users to brand or campaign sites.
According to Suzuki, this is a “ground-breaking feature” as there still exists an unresolvable gap between ‘likes’ and ‘clicks’ in the world of digital marketing.
“Generally, the UGC driven campaigns are great for brand recognition but weak on delivering brand experiences and taking them to the landing site or environment. With the development of the clickable ‘Stamp,’ we can help drive the CTR number up and better connect users with brands.”