Social Media, Thoughts

The Rise of TikTok in a Time of Crisis: A place for Luxury Brands?

By Sarah Keeble, New Business & Communications Director

Described by the New Yorker as “the meme factory that holds our attention hostage” TikTok is no longer a platform we can ignore. Many marketers, in particular in the luxury space, have been reluctant to acknowledge the platform as one to take seriously, and this could be for a number of reasons; 

  • Its similarity to the failed platform Vine
  • Its audience has exclusively been seen to cater to Generation Z
  • “On-brand” and platform and audience-relevant content is proving more challenging to conceptualise and create well; for luxury brands in particular
  • The platform could just be a “trend”; popular to some and short-lived

The Rise of TikTok

The concerns above have been reason enough to warrant procrastinating taking the platform seriously. Towards the end of last year, 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. It is for this reason that content should not be thought of as a conversion platform; it is a brand-building exercise. 

Gamified  TikTok Content 

The TikTok challenge is the content stream which is going viral. These have in essence been dance routines for many to try out and have a go, but some are pranks; tricks, and sound imitations. These content trends are surpassing that on Instagram where this content also features; the #InMyFeelings challenge has seen 5 million videos on TikTok compared to 1.7 million on Instagram. 

Whilst this is definitely content that sits better with influencers, consider building a gamified challenge into a campaign. Gucci did this very well with the launch of its 1977 tennis trainer in Feb 2020. When it comes to thinking about the content direction; consider creating a challenge or engaging in some way with this user activity. 

Gucci, Tennis Sneaker launch.

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 fashion brands 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

Where do I start?

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.

Feel free to get in touch and ask one of our social media specialists as to whether TikTok is a platform your brand should be present.