What started as a dancing app ended up as one of the most widely used social media platforms for advertising. You read that right – ads have found their way to TikTok, making it a key place to additionally showcase your product or service. With millions of users interacting daily, TikTok presented itself as a goldmine for marketers. And it’s evident that making the move works – brands have garnered international attention and found widespread success on the platform.
The trick to harnessing that power? TikTok users have no interest in the polished, perfect content that populates Instagram feeds or the long form content found on YouTube. They value authenticity and entertainment above all, which is what differentiates the platform and thus the content. Understanding the nature of that environment is essential to advertising success and building brand presence. Companies that do well on TikTok also embrace experimentation – it takes trial and error to find who they are and what they sound like so that they almost come across less as a product or service and more as a person representing the company to make the audience feel part of the conversation.
What makes a successful TikTok ad?
Brands that see advertising success on TikTok really take advantage of these components:
1. Knowing your brand’s voice and purpose.
This ensures consistency in your messages, which builds momentum for your content flywheel and helps viewers know what to expect from you. Brands that try to align themselves with every little trend and hot topic on social media self-sabotage – it’s clear from that behavior they aren’t rooted in who they are and what they offer. Audiences seek clarity, and should never be left guessing about a business’ product or service offering.
2. Finding your audience and the niche(s) they consume.
Knowing who you’re talking to and what they want to see helps you generate advertisements customized to their tastes, keeping them engaged and returning for more. It just requires a little extra homework on the brand’s end. Creating consumer profiles will tell you who you’re trying to reach. Demographics like age and gender will prove especially important. It’s also smart to start consuming the media your target audience is fed to get an idea of what they like and look down on – and it’s especially crucial to continue doing that research, as social media is an ever-changing landscape. Continuing to stay on top of the things they follow will help your brand center itself in their lives.
3. Understanding the environment of the platform and playing your strengths to it.
After all, TikTok is not Instagram, Facebook, etc. Authentic storytelling is the name of the game, and making your brand open to taking on trends and humor helps move your content along. Where most brands get stuck is feeling they have to cater to every trend they can get their hands on – which can actually devalue their content exponentially. Entertainment value is highly sought after on this platform, and it’s important your brand can achieve that. It’s just equally important that it’s all done while maintaining brand voice and appealing to the desired, specific audience.
So what do successful advertisements look like on TikTok, and why do they work so well? Let’s get into it.
Brands Killing It at the TikTok Ad Game
Jack in the Box
Everybody wants to go viral nowadays, and an easy way to do so is by hopping on trends. Unfortunately, that blinds a lot of brands to the fact that not every trend is applicable to them. When something does align with your brand though, it’s absolutely smart to take advantage of it – like Jack in the Box did with the Little Miss/Mr. trend that swept social media. Because they’re known for tongue-in-cheek, chaotic content, they were able to spin this trend into content that fit them perfectly and resonated with the unhinged sense of humor younger TikTokers share.
Paris Olympics 2024
@paris2024officiel happens all the time 😤 #paris #paris2024 #olympics #paralympics #mascot ♬ original sound – bull e pack
TikTok users have come to associate mascots with humor, so those characters provide immediate entertainment value and make viewers stop to watch. Taking a page out of Duolingo’s book, the Paris Olympics 2024 team created their own mascots to act as the brand’s voice and poke fun at the planning committee to entertain viewers.
Bon Bon Belle Bridal
@bonbonbellebridal Reply to @bonbonbellebridal Highly anticipated.. PART 3! #wibride #engaged #chicagobride #wedding #2023bride #weddingdress #weddingdressshopping #midwestbride #healthadepopit ♬ original sound – Bon Bon Belle Bridal
Pop culture is a great way to connect with an audience – and the upside is, it can be trending or evergreen media, so long as there’s a distinct following behind it. Bon Bon Belle Bridal finds popular niches and caters to while incorporating their product. They hook viewers in with their favorite shows, characters, and music and keep them watching, regardless of them wedding dress shopping or not.
@selfiewrldaz Day in the life #selfiewrld #selfiemuseum #worklife #dayinmylife ♬ AmongUs J0hN mAdDeN – Prisma On Rec Room
Around 60% of TikTok users are within the Gen Z age range (10-25 years old), which means adapting brand voice to speak to them makes content go crazy viral. This age group loves brands that embrace the unconventional and bizarre – like this ad from Selfie World that covers a day in the life of its employees while poking fun at both worker and consumer in a fun, meme-y way.
@beetlejuicebway Tell myyyy stooooryyyyyy! 👻 #BeetlejuiceBway ♬ original sound – BeetlejuiceBway
If your brand was a person, what would they sound like? Do they have a sense of humor? How would they treat their friends? Because viewers tend to gravitate towards brand voices that feel like real people, this should be established and maintained when presenting a brand on TikTok. Broadway’s Beetlejuice has fleshed out a solid brand voice built on humor drier than a sandworm that speaks to its target audience in a very casual manner. Even when delivering bad news (like their closing statement below), they stick to that voice to ensure consistency – so much so that their audience could probably recognize their strange and unusual content without even seeing the show’s name.
@fandango Darling, we are loving these voice filters #voiceeffects #greenscreenvideo #harrystyles #dontworrydarling #movietok ♬ original sound – Fandango
It’s one thing to hop on a trend, but it’s another to poke fun at oneself. And that’s a trait young TikTok users find admirable – when brands don’t take themselves too seriously, they generate posts that feel organic. Like this post from Fandango putting the TikTok “Trickster” voice filter over the hit sensation, Don’t Worry Darling. It almost feels like user generated content – which is what makes it relatable.
@bratz Already thinking about Euphoria season 3 and Halloween 2023, tbh!! 👄👀 #bratz #euphoria #halloween #cassie #countrymusicstar #sydneysweeney ♬ original sound – bratz
One of the best ways to get consumers invested in a product or service is to sell the personality of the brand instead of the product or service itself. When the bathroom scene from HBO’s Euphoria went viral, Bratz recreated the entire moment with their own dolls and tied it back to their brand. It racked up incredible engagement because it didn’t try to push their product on viewers – it instead focused on storytelling and brand voice to pique interest in the video first and then redirect people to their page/website/etc.
@keeganevansphoto Hello, @Lenovo 👀🧢 #lenovopartner #lenovo #filmtok #videography #videographer #thriller ♬ original sound – Keegan Evans
TikTok brands itself as an entertainment platform – differentiating the way content must be produced as opposed to other social media apps. Because users there expect to scroll for their amusement, advertising tactics must change to accommodate that need. Lenovo sponsored an ad with a filmmaker with components like posing a challenge, showing behind the scenes, and keeping them waiting for the big reveal – all elements that hooked viewers and kept them engaged because it felt less like an advertisement and more like a short film.
People often turn to the internet to help them solve problems – and TikTok is no exception. In fact, more and more young TikTok users are turning to the platform for help instead of Google. A great advertising move for brands is to offer solutions using their product or service – like this video Essence Cosmetics made for the holiday season about how to wrap difficult-to-package gifts (like round items) using their products (round blush and lip balm) as the demo in the tutorial. Providing value while showcasing a product/service helps get your content looked at and shared.
@baskinrobbins At least it doesn’t have to defrost 🤷🏽♀️ #baskinrobbins #friendsgiving ♬ original sound – vxrtzs
If trendsetting is more your style, why not take advantage of how much TikTok users love being surprised? Baskin Robbins went viral over Thanksgiving week for promoting a hyper-realistic, turkey-shaped ice cream cakeHowever, it wasn’t just the product that performed well – it was the miniseries they made out of it that made viewers curious for the next video and the pre-planning of the concept ahead of the holiday season to ensure orders could be placed for their cakes in time.
With millions of monthly users to engage with, companies should seriously consider adding TikTok to their social media advertising strategy – without taking themselves too seriously. The platform’s environment is unique, and content expectations are very different from “traditional” platforms (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) – and the trends seen on TikTok inevitably bleed over to those platforms eventually. Maintaining brand voice and consistency across channels is important, but the key to advertising on TikTok is to adapt those elements in a way that reads honestly to viewers.