TikTok isn’t just for lip-syncing teens anymore. Even before the pandemic shutdowns, TikTok was the fastest growing app in America, and brands are finally realizing the advertising opportunity. In fact, viewers who engage (share, like, or comment) on a brand’s video are 150% more likely to purchase their product or service. Even more convincing, 350% of engagers are more likely to visit the brand’s physical store and 40% are more likely to visit the brand’s website! These are conversion opportunities you do not want to miss out on!
We recently did a deep dive into TikTok advertising strategies and have compiled a list of 11 strategies brands on TikTok can do to get started. Now let’s take a look at some brands utilizing the platform to its fullest potential and how they launch their most viral TikTok campaigns.
18 Top Brands on TikTok
The popular Mexican chain has amassed over 1.7M followers and over 3.8M likes. Chipotle first found success encouraging users to partake in the #ChipotleLidFlip Challenge, which originated by a passionate Chipotle employee, and was later imitated by over 100K trying to replicate the stunt. Upon TikTok launching their Ads platform, this was one of their first Branded Hashtag Challenges where the brand also featured popular Creators which effectively raised awareness for the official Chipotle Business Account.
The brand has shown they weren’t a one-hit-wonder either and followed up with a second Branded Hashtag Challenge. In July, they started the #GuacDance challenge, resulting in over 250K video submissions, and 430M video starts in just six days. The stunt didn’t just live on the internet either, as Chipotle reported over 800K sales of guac on National Guacamole Day.
Now, Chipotle has entered the metaverse. In October 2021, Chipotle brought their Boorito Halloween event to the VR world by allowing users to visit a virtual store on Roblox. By advertising on TikTok with the hashtag #Boorito, the hashtag received over 4.2B views. Most recently, the chain re-opened their Roblox store for National Burrito Day which they promoted with videos on TikTok.
While it takes some brands a bit of time and practice to figure out how to best create content and drive engagement in a new platform, Guess nailed it from the start. Their first post promoted their #InMyDenim campaign, where creators quickly changed from old, ratty clothes into stylish Guess outfits. To further promote the challenge, Guess collaborated with Bebe Rexha and her song “I’m a mess,” which was used as the sound for most of the UGC, generating a deeper level of engagement with the audience. Boosted by influencers such as @ourfire and @jackjerry, videos using the hashtag have been viewed over 53.5 million times.
They later followed up with #LoveGUESS to drive another 24.1 million views. Guess seems to be as good as any brand on TikTok at finding the right influencers for their campaigns. Their #LoveGUESS post on their own channel featured popular influencers @brentrivera and @mylifeaseva. That video alone was viewed over 1 million times, with hundreds of comments about how much their viewers liked the influencers.
The NBA is already a massively popular brand across social media, with over 117 million followers across their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, so it should come as no surprise that they’re among the most popular brand accounts on TikTok as well. They currently have over 15 million followers, which is among the top 5 most followed brand accounts on the platform.
The brilliance of the NBA’s social media strategy is the way they specialize content for each platform. If you want NBA news and updates, follow them on Twitter. If you want game highlights, follow them on Instagram. For TikTok however, they know people are looking for short-form content that engages them quickly, so the NBA mostly uses the platform for comedy and memes.
Newspapers are the most popular content medium amongst the younger generation, which makes the Washington Post a curious case of astounding success. While you might expect they’d use it for short-form news content, the channel is filled with funny, engaging videos, often “behind the scenes” type skits to let viewers get a feel for the personalities behind the articles.
The account is run by a man named Dave who brings a “dorky dad” vibe to trending memes and video formats on the platform.
This strategy has resulted in over 445K followers and has undoubtedly bought WP some goodwill and credibility among TikTok’s younger demographic.
The Washington Post makes its goal to be creative in order to attract its audience while remaining true to its function of providing timely and accurate news coverage. More recently, The Washington Post began launching in-feed ads that promote their latest articles by making funny skits about the news covered with CTAs to read more on their website. This method proves successful as they entertain their audience to keep a positive image while intriguing them to continue reading and click the link.
Gymshark is another example of a brand that fully understood TikTok from the get-go, built a content strategy around it, and is seeing the results to the tune of 3.5 million followers on their account – one of the highest we’ve seen that didn’t previously have the backing of a large media company.
They also understand the value of posting frequency and are sure to post at least once a day. Their content is engaging, but also motivational at the same time. Gymshark does a great job at seeing what’s trending on the platform and adapting it to their brand voice and style, partaking in many of the popular hashtags, challenges, and involving popular creators.
If there is a cheat code to making engaging social content, it’s cute animal videos. The San Diego Zoo takes full advantage of this, creating short videos that people can’t help but like and share, resulting in over 2.1 million followers.
The San Diego Zoo has also done a phenomenal job of using its account to build partnerships with other animal-friendly brands and causes. Taking advantage of specific national animal days is easy, low-hanging fruit, but they’ve also done cross-promotions with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
To take things to the next level, the zoo pairs its cute animal content with trending TikTok sounds to stay native to the platform and tap into the cheeky humor of TikTok’s audience.
7. Red Bull
Red Bull has been a pioneer in creating viral digital content for years, so it should come as no surprise that they’re among the most popular and successful brands on TikTok as well. Their account has over 6.6 million followers, putting them among the highest branded accounts on the platform, and videos with the #givesyouwings hashtag have been viewed over 1 billion times.
While they do an excellent job of participating in trending hashtags and challenges, a good amount of their content isn’t explicitly made for TikTok. While this is something that most brands should avoid, Red Bull succeeds by excelling at another critical aspect of TikTok – hooking people quickly with engaging content. Whether it’s an extreme stunt or someone with next-level skills, Red Bull’s videos are undeniably thumb-stopping – something all brands should consider when planning their content.
To those unfamiliar with the game, Spikeball describes itself on TikTok as “if volleyball and foursquare had a baby.” Their channel videos have generated over 24.3M likes, and the #spikeball videos have over 147M views.
The secret to their success starts from the fact that the game’s target audience skews younger, which aligns with the demographics of TikTok. But perhaps more importantly, a large part of TikTok’s appeal comes from people wanting to show off a bit (often ironically). Spikeball leans into this within TikTok by showcasing “highlights” of people (and dogs) playing the game and encouraging others to do the same. Though they don’t have many posted videos, each has gone viral.
Ryanair is an airline that offers ultra-cheap flights in Europe. Their TikTok account is an example of a brand that has taken TikTok’s trends and humor to heart. Ryanair’s TikTok shot to fame by using TikTok’s native greenscreen filter on their planes – a filter many other brands have found success with. Ryanair rode the wave of the greenscreen trend with hardly anyone realizing when they used the filter in ad content. By using this filter to further tap into popular trends, the company has gained massive popularity and now has over 1.6 million followers and more than 9.8 million likes.
10. Taco Bell
Similar to Chipotle, Taco Bell has hooked users on their TikTok with UGC and hashtag challenges. In an effort to achieve more brand awareness and entice the public to visit their restaurants, Taco Bell partnered with Doja Cat to announce the return of their Mexican Pizza. In a video that has more than 1 million views, Doja Cat says she’s “forced to make this video for Taco Bell” but she isn’t allowed to say what it is. By teasing viewers, the comments section blew up with speculation about what the announcement might be. About a month later, Doja Cat posted on her own TikTok a video of her singing about the Mexican Pizza. This follow-up video has 8.3 million views and 160K comments further promoting Taco Bell.
Now how could we forget the angry owl that shot Duolingo to become a household name? Encouraged by her managers to “go viral,” social media manager (and Gen Z extraordinaire) Zaria Parvez brought the Duolingo mascot to life through Gen Z humor, trends, and a distinct personality. The equally relatable and funny character created a new category for brands to tap into: #mascottok. By observing Duolingo’s success, many brands brought their own characters to life including Hootsuite and Sour Patch Kids. Today, Duolingo has 4.1 million followers and 77.2 million likes and is the new brand standard for experimentation, humor, and brand voice on TikTok.
In their first 16 posts, Fortnite amassed 2.6 million followers. The brand now sits at 8 million and may have more to do with the popularity of the game among key TikTok demographics than post quality. But with one of the highest numbers of average likes per post, Fortnite’s TikTok success can’t be ignored.
Fortnite’s content capitalizes on new game releases, tips and tricks, upcoming events, trending hashtags, and even uses its characters to take part in some of TikTok’s trending dances. By using their recognizable characters, followers can enjoy their favorite Fortnite characters taking part in native TikTok trends. It is a smart way to bring the two worlds together and play to their audience’s interests.
Similar to Netflix, Nickelodeon uses content from their beloved shows and brings it to life on TikTok. Nickelodeon has an astounding 12.9 million followers and with the age threshold at 13 years old, their content caters to the 32.5% of TikTok viewers under the age of 19.
Nickelodeon’s TikTok is another way their viewers can connect with some of their favorite characters and humanize the actors that bring them to life. Their content is native to the platform with trending sounds, participating in hashtag challenges, and they do a great job at fostering community by responding to comments directly and with video responses.
14. e.l.f. Cosmetics
Beauty and fashion are some of the largest categories on TikTok due to their visual nature and attention-grabbing transformations. E.l.f. knew they had to go big in order to stand out. Most famously, they commissioned a song called “Eyes Lips Face” (the brand name’s acronym). e.l.f. then enlisted a team of creators to launch #EyesLipsFace, a viral dance challenge where creators would show their eyes, lips, and faces to the tune of the song. The song was catchy enough to get stuck in your head and the lyrics of it ensure that you know (and never forget) what the e.l.f. in their brand name stands for. The challenge itself was also fun because it didn’t require the use of cosmetics. This led to the brand going TikTok viral. The result – 9.2 billion views and counting.
The e.l.f. TikTok page @elfyeah sits at 502K followers and they leverage their successful in-store partnerships with other brands on the platform. e.l.f. teamed up with Dunkin’ to produce a new line of coffee and donut-inspired products which have lent themselves to iconic UGC in which both platforms can share. The partnership kicked off with beauty influencer Mikayla Nogueira in a TikTok that racked up 6 million views.
Netflix sits at an incredible 22.5 million followers with many of their video views in the millions. Many of Netflix’s TikTok videos are expertly cut from their own streaming content in ways that come off native to the platform. They also use the platform to promote upcoming releases, behind-the-scenes content, and exclusive interviews with the actors.
Netflix also has fun series including #whoworeitbest while they were promoting the hit show Selling Sunset and quick games like “Guess the Netflix show.” These types of series get users involved in the comments, increasing engagement and shareability.
With an impressive following of 4.1 million users, WNRS has both incredibly engaged followers and some standout viral posts that hit the ‘For You’ page and got tons of likes. Koreen, the creator of the WNRS card game, created WNRS to empower meaningful connections with others. Their TikTok account is different from others; they not only repost their question cards but also encourage their viewers to answer them in the comments. The TikTok algorithm uses engagement (likes, comments, shares) as a signal of quality so for brands looking to grow and reach a greater audience this tactic can be quite effective. The nature of the game, and therefore their TikTok content, is a nice break from the humorous skits and sometimes self-serving videos and almost feels like a breath of fresh air when it comes across your scroll. The brand encourages community by calling users to tag their friends and interacting with words of encouragement.
As an up-and-coming skincare brand, Starface definitely knows how to utilize social media as they are often cross-promoting on their TikTok and Instagram. Starface makes unique “acne stickers” in the shape of stars that fit perfectly within the beauty and skincare TikTok category – specifically for Gen Z in the age of “Euphoria.” Their TikTok videos primarily consist of fun-loving UGC, trending sounds, and effects native to the TikTok platform including duets, stitches, and green screens. Their videos are colorful and trendy which greatly assist in stopping the scroll.
While a brand doesn’t necessarily strive to be the subject of low-hanging jokes, Crocs deserves a lot of credit for using this to their advantage. Their TikTok account itself is mostly used to showcase products and announce new releases, but they’ve been smart about strategic partnerships.
The biggest of which by far was the #ThousandDollarCrocs challenge, where users were encouraged to “class up” their crocs as fancy as possible. In partnership with singer Post Malone, YouTuber Adam W, and others, the campaign generated over 3 billion video views. Being a brand that doesn’t take itself so seriously can be a tremendous advantage on a creative content platform such as TikTok.
Honorable Mention: nogood.io
So maybe there’s a little bias on this one, but we’ve been inspired by the brands above and want to join the conversation. We hopped on the platform early as one of ByteDance’s first growth partners in the U.S. Since then we have used TikTok as a platform to build our marketing community by providing marketing tips, tool suggestions, and occasional fun, give us a follow!
As you can see from the vast array of brands, TikTok is a playground for creativity and community. While some brands rely heavily on humor and sketches, others work to encourage and motivate viewers. Given how much TikTok encourages quality content and co-creation, it’s up to the brands to create a unique point of view while staying true to themselves. Users are looking to learn, be inspired, and connect with content, so brands on TikTok must give consumers a valid reason to engage with them amongst the noise.