Luxury Brands Entering the World of TikTok
TikTok, the short form video sharing app, has been capturing the attention of marketers for the last year, with its huge audience acquitision and high engagement rates. It’s clear the app is no longer in its’ ‘experimental’ phase as we are seeing more brands utilising the tool as a staple in their marketing campaigns and strategies.
The Rise of TikTok
The concerns above have been reason enough to warrant procrastinating taking the platform seriously. Towards the end of 2021, however, the interest began to snowball seeing the platform increase by 199.4M users in Q4 alone. In 2019 the app reached the status of being the second most downloaded free app, with 738 million~ downloads in total.
Fast forward to 2020, the app has skyrocketed further. The global pandemic is responsible for people’s thirst for a new form of entertainment; be that endless consumption or creation of quirky bite-sized video content. During the week of March 16- 22nd, the app saw 2 million downloads- an increase from the previous week’s 1.7 million.
The opportunity to get ahead of your competitors
Not only has TikTok seen a huge increase in downloads and users, but the platform also boasts the highest engagement rate for a social media platform, with its average engagement rate reported to be 29%; miles higher than that of Instagram and Facebook. This is in part due to the fact that the platform is relatively new, but also due to the fact it’s of the moment. That being said, as we have seen with Instagram; as more and more adopt the platform; content becomes ever competitive. The high engagement and reach should be a draw for global brands to have a presence, but also to build an audience and get ahead of its competitors.
But is TikTok a place for luxury brands?
In short; it can be. But the first question should be; are my audience there? Here are some of the latest audience statistics on TikTok’s userbase.
- 41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24
- Roughly 50% of TikTok’s global audience is under the age of 34
- 56% of TikTok users are male
- 44% of TikTok users are female
- India accounts for 30.3% of the app’s downloads, according to Sensor Tower
The second question really needs to be around your content strategy and purpose. The content needs to be executed authentically and in the style which resonates with the platform. The very nature of TikTok content is a bit fun, human, and self-deprecating. The content in itself should not be overly serious, and that has been where most luxury and premium brands have typically played; with creative control and gravity to the artistic message.
The platform currently, is largely dominated by content creators opposed to brands, and some of the platform’s popularity might lie with it not being an overly commercial space filled with retailers. It is for this reason that content should not be thought of as a conversion platform; it is a brand-building exercise.
We have been discussing TikTok with our clients for some time now, and there are a few ways in which Luxury can approach TikTok; from advertising, infuencer work, to an organic channel strategy. We caught up with Kristina Karassoulis, Luxury Brand Partnerships, and friend of VERB to discuss Luxury and TikTok and her take on some of the successes we have seen from luxury brands so far.
What can marketing with TikTok achieve for luxury brands?
TikTok allows luxury brands to be in the epicentre of trends, making them relevant to new audiences and helping them reach a highly engaged global community. If brands lean into the unique full-screen, sound-on environment on TikTok, it can elevate marketing and advertising campaigns to new levels, helping luxury brands appeal to consumers who may not have considered them before. We have seen countless global brands already do this successfully and set the standard for best-in-class brand campaigns, which deliver real business results. For example, Gucci adapted itself perfectly for its arrival on TikTok. The brand went from gracing the most premium publications with glossy cover wraps, to launching a quirky and extremely successful #AccidentalInfluencer campaign, which saw phenomenal traction, demonstrating that TikTok transcends generations. The campaign saw seemingly identical people congregate in every-day situations, wearing similar outfits and wearing Gucci’s Tennis 1977 sneaker. The campaign launched on Gucci’s social media channels, with specially choreographed videos for TikTok.
What do you think is the biggest threat to luxury brands?
The way people interact with brands is constantly evolving, making it crucial for luxury brands to do the same. Digital channels are the primary channels upon which consumers now engage with brands, particularly as the ever changing CV-19 restrictions limit physical footfall at stores. Luxury brands have historically been slower to adapt to digital, and while in the past year we’ve seen more brands embrace new technology, such as digital live streaming, interactive spaces, AR, and virtual try-ons, the sector can still go further to adapt and appeal to the next generation of fashion lovers. With millions of conversations happening online about brands, the biggest threat is being left out.
How has consumer behaviour on TikTok changed?
Our TikTok community has always been about creativity and authenticity, sharing real-life experiences and putting a fresh twist on emerging cultural trends. TikTok became famous for dance challenges, but in the past year, we’ve seen a diverse ecosystem of content emerge – from creators using TikTok to campaign on issues that matter to them, through to creators sharing their expertise and knowledge to help people learn something new. Our community is redefining what luxury means to them and responds well to brands who can put their money where their mouth is in terms of circularity, diversity, and transparency
We are also seeing a change in the way consumers are interacting with brands, with a move away from a one-way conversation to more of a dialogue, or where they’re riffing on trends to make them their own. One of my absolute all-time favourite examples is the famous JW Anderson’s cardigan – TikTok users started recreating the rainbow-coloured knitted garment from JW Anderson’s Spring 2020 men’s collection after it was worn by singer Harry Styles during a rehearsal for his performance on The Today Show back in February. The hashtag #HarryStylesCardigan on TikTok has since accumulated more than 33M views. It was one of the first instances when a brand, especially an emerging one, has not just enjoyed this level of organic virality, but also inspired millions of people to brush off their knitting skills and take action.
Can you give an example of a great campaign a luxury brand ran on TikTok and why it was successful?
We often have brands coming to us after spotting a viral moment and wanting to make the most of it. For this to work effectively, brands need to take a look at what our community is already saying about them on the platform and what’s featured in people’s For You Pages. That way, they can leverage these trends early on in the ‘viral moment’ hypercycle. Jacquemus recreating an Adele concert with its handbags is a great example of this. We also have brands coming to us wanting to start new trends and viral moments. Balmain brought its 75th-anniversary fashion show to life on a boat on the Seine and was the first brand to broadcast a fashion show live on TikTok. The engagement level showed just how well TikTok’s fashion community responds to this kind of content, with the #BalmainsurSeine hashtag reaching 15.6m views.
What would be your key advice to luxury brands nervous about joining TikTok?
My biggest piece of advice is to push the creative boundaries, throw out the rulebook and don’t be afraid to fail. TikTok isn’t like other platforms. It requires a fresh approach to creating content that is uniquely TikTok. Always remember to be authentic. TikTok is not about the glossiest, perfect-life image – it’s about expressing yourself and showcasing your passions. Brands need to remember they can be natural, they don’t need to be perfect, they can easily engage. Also, they don’t have to change their whole brand to succeed on TikTok, it’s about the way they deliver certain messages.
TikTok is known for being a platform for younger consumers; is this perspective correct and if so, do you see this shifting now or in the future?
We have a big Gen Z audience but this has been evolving as our community has grown. 67% of our audience is aged 25 and over (Kantar, The Power of TikTok research). In the past year, we’ve seen lots of families getting involved and grandparents emerging as unexpected style icons on TikTok, proving that anyone can create and succeed on our platform.
What advice would you give when engaging with influencers on TikTok?
The first thing to understand about TikTok is that it’s a content graph, not a social graph. What that means is that videos are recommended to users on what, rather than who, they like. That unique way of recommending content is how creators on TikTok can go viral without having a single follower. That means it isn’t about chasing followers – our user experience is optimised for discovery and good content over all else, leading to long session times and high engagement. For brands, there is a huge opportunity to collaborate with fresh, up-and-coming creators to tell their story, who understand what content works for their users and can give brands the best opportunity to go viral. The TikTok Creator Marketplace also helps brands to identify the best creators to collaborate with.
A great example of a brand that successfully engaged creators is Moncler, who recently launched the #monclerbubbleup challenge with the help of TikTok stars like Charli d’Amelio, Bella Poarch, Michael Le and Abby Roberts. The challenge brings Moncler’s warmth and vibrancy to a new audience, encouraging users to rise to the top as they embrace the Brand’s XXL spirit in a uniquely Moncler way. Creators were challenged to wrap themselves in a conceptual bubble – a sleeping bag, a mattress, forest leaves, whatever you fancy – inspired by the architectural shapes of Moncler jackets. They then used TikTok’s creative editing suite to transition into a Moncler jacket to finish the look. The challenge has already reached over 4.7billion views on TikTok – one of the biggest end-of-year viral hashtags.
How does TikTok differ from Reels?
TikTok is a next generation app – the experience we have created for our community is unique and different to other platforms. Our mission is to inspire creativity and to bring joy, and we do that by creating a safe space where people can feel comfortable expressing themselves to the full and share this creative expression with a truly global community. We offer our users: A low barrier for creation and self-expression, thanks to an easy-to-use suite of editing tools, music and effects. An approach that recommends videos based on what (rather than who) you like: to go viral on TikTok, you don’t need a single follower. A place that brings people and communities together through content that transcends culture, location and age.
Are there lessons big luxury brands can learn from smaller luxury brands with TikTok?
Brands, established or emerging, are a hugely important part of the TikTok experience. They are welcome on our platform as creators and the way people interact with brands is unlike anywhere else. However, this means that brands need to behave differently. They can’t just count on having a huge following by default – the brands that are successful on TikTok are the ones that are authentic and put the time and effort into engaging with the TikTok community and trends. TikTok provides an opportunity for luxury fashion brands to show an unfiltered side of themselves, which appeals to consumers from all walks of life. This opens an entirely new window of opportunity for brands – especially those in the luxury space – to engage new audiences in ways they never have before. A great example of this is Selfridges, historically associated with high-end luxury products and a refined shopping experience. However, its TikTok account is full of witty, fun, and creative content that appeals to a wide range of users. For example, this video of an Estee Lauder lipstick being created racked up a huge 1.1 million likes.
Thank you for all your answers and examples you provided Kristina! However, we aren’t finished there. Here are some of our favourite luxury brands using TikTok successfully.
Luxury brands on TikTok
There are a few luxury and premium brands that have taken the bull by the horns and engaged with TikTok in a brand-appropriate and engaging way. Namely, this has largely been the bigger, more established brands within the fashion industry, such as Burberry, Calvin Klein, and Gucci. Some beauty brands have also got involved; Fenty Beauty being a key player in activating the channel appropriately. A presence on the platform can be varied and play in a more low key way than having a channel and churning out content for it. For example;
- Working with reputable TikTok influencers that fit your brand; you don’t need a brand presence in order to do this. This could be a good way to test brand engagement on the platform
- If you are a big established brand, consider creating a profile in order to “own” the conversation about your brand. For example, Tommy Hilfiger does not have an official account on the platform, but four users have created fan accounts. Here the brand is not mediated or controlled by the brand
Historically luxury brands have been slower to adopt new trends but they are increasingly ready to bet on TikTok, and how well they are performing too. TikTok marketing and TikTok campaign strategy is something all luxury brands need to be thinking about as part of their digital marketing strategy.
TikTok may not seem like the opportunity for a luxury brand given it’s perception of Gen Z users, yet our audience analysis and 3rd party data tool shows high net worths more than ever are taking to the platform, and using it as a core place to research brands and products (20% – GWI Q4 2020). Amber Coleman, Senior Account Executive working on client strategy, looks at which luxury brands are getting their TikTok marketing right, as well as some of the key brand TikTok campaigns that have worked in driving results for the luxury sector.
Gucci is one of the first brands to use TikTok for marketing purposes, and is an example of perfect adaption to the space, launching a quirky and extremely successful #AccidentalInfluencer campaign. This campaign was their first foray which uprooted their vintage-inspired Gucci Tennis 1977 sneaker with videos including bespoke choreography for TikTok (Dance routines being a core content pillar adopted by the TikTok community). This saw phenomenal traction, demonstrating that TikTok transcends generations. The campaign saw the TikTok community mimic the dance routine, as well as take on the art direction of the campaign, with identically dressed people wearing the Gucci 1977 Tennis sneakers. The TikTok community mimic the dance routine, as well as take on the art direction of the campaign. This campaign proved TikTok transcends generations and acts as an outlet for luxury brands to showcase a creative and fun side.
Additionally when the ‘Gucci model’ meme started flying around TikTok, Gucci tapped into this early on, creating their own versions of the funny challenge. The audio for this trend was created by Chilling Adventures of Sabrina star Lachlan Watson, which acted as the backbone of the Gucci model campaign.
The audio speaks on each essential element to becoming a Gucci model and pokes fun at the mis-match aesthetic of these runway models (apparently all you need is a colourful turtleneck, a shirt that doesn’t match, a bright coloured jacket, a miniskirt, a headscarf, sunglasses, clear heels and socks). This TikTok marketing campaign garnered thousands of user-generated content and the #guccimodelchallenge drove an astounding 230.7 million views.
Moncler closed out 2020 with the viral #MonclerBubbleUp challenge. TikTok’s most followed influencer Charli D’Amelio, amongst others, was hired to take part. These challenge videos leveraged Moncler’s signature puffy winter coat look, encouraging users to recreate the look with a sleeping bag, fluffy robe, garbage bags, whatever you fancy. This was set to the catchy song ‘Bubble’ by 24hrs, feat. Ty Dolla $ign. The challenge reached over 4.7billion views on TikTok – one of the biggest end-of-year viral hashtags.
JW Anderson #HarryStylesCardigan
One of the best TikTok marketing campaigns to date is JW Anderson’s cardigan of which TikTok users started recreating the rainbow-coloured knitted garment from JW Anderson’s Spring 2020 men’s collection. The cardigan was worn by singer Harry Styles during a rehearsal for his performance on The Today Show back in February 2020. The hashtag #HarryStylesCardigan on TikTok has since accumulated more than 33M views. It was one of the first instances when a brand, especially an emerging one, has not just enjoyed this level of organic virality, but also inspired millions of people to brush off their knitting skills and take action, especially at a time when the world was going through various lockdowns due to Covid-19.
Fenty takes a unique approach to TikTok: they started the first branded TikTok house in early 2020. Fenty’s TikTok marketing strategy has been producing unique, often viral content focusing on highlighting diversity, and the brand’s unique personality. This edgy beauty brand is fronted by Rihanna, who often makes an appearance on the brand’s page. With 10.6 million likes and counting, they’re ticking all the boxes for TikTok growth. Brands can learn from Fenty: they’ve leveraged ‘marketing with a purpose’, focusing on messages of embracing diversity and inner beauty. Their videos are produced by ‘in-the-know’ Gen Z influencers, who use trending audio, pop culture trends and ‘insider hacks’. Fenty Beauty comes across as genuine, likable and trustworthy on TikTok.
Balmain brought its 75th anniversary fashion show to life on a boat on the Seine and was the first brand to broadcast a fashion show live on TikTok. The engagement level showed just how well TikTok’s fashion community responds to this kind of content, with the #BalmainsurSeine hashtag reaching 15.6m views. This might be an unusual approach, but makes strong business sense. For one, luxury fashion houses like Dior are heavily reliant on world markets like China, and TikTok has 400 million active Chinese users. Secondly, McKinsey and The Business of Fashion report that digital shows have become essential to brand survival, as COVID makes it increasingly impossible to hold live fashion weeks in the traditional sense.
A good example of TikTok influencer marketing is Prada. Prada has a TikTok account set up, with close to 300k followers, and although their organic content is not yet groundbreaking, yet they came onto the TikTok scene in a totally different way. Before Prada had even started posting their own content, the company relied on TikTok influencer, Charli D’Amelio to create buzz for them. This is a smart strategy on Prada’s part by putting the onus on creators before jumping fully into TikTok content creation. During Milan Fashion Week, 15-year-old influencer Charli D’Amelio showed up at Prada’s show (AW21) to capture content for her followers. She posted seven videos wearing Prada and tagged the brand in five of those posts. One video showcased D’Amelio with three models on the runway, while dancing to Avril Lavigne. Her best performing post for Prada totaled 5.7 million likes, 64,300 shares and 36.8 million views.
Jacquemus – Mini Adele Concert
There are many brands taking to TikTok after spotting a viral moment and wanting to make the most of it. For this to work effectively, brands need to take a look at what the TikTok community is already saying about them on the platform and what’s featured in people’s For You Pages. That way, they can leverage these trends early on in the ‘viral moment’ hypecycle. One of the best examples of this was Jacquemus recreating an Adele concert with its handbags. This video is so incredibly pure. One small chiquito bag singing “Some Like You” by Adele to a choir of other small Chiquito bags.
Where do I start with TikTok?
1. Understand what you are trying to achieve with the content
2. Assess if your target audiences are present on the platform
3. Look to TikTok creators who have amassed a popular following to work with
4. Be authentic in the content creation
5. Quality over quantity; this is the essence of luxury and should be for luxury communications.
Should you wish to hear more about TikTok and entering the space for your own brand or business please get in touch. Should you want to hear more about our services you can also drop us an email here.