Should brands use TikTok?

Dance and comedy are the order of the day – that’s why the most innovative brands are steps ahead in exploiting TikTok’s marketing opportunities.

By Tilly Farrands


Brands are becoming highly sophisticated at entering our subconscious, choosing the long game to build relationships with their audience. Pret’s recent TikTok campaign perfectly shows how businesses are able to meet us in ways that entertain us. It’s certainly not a new concept, but social media has enabled brands to become better at ‘being our friend’, meeting us through relatable campaigns that encourage us to share things that make us laugh. Their latest campaign used the tag #joywithpret, cleverly building an association of happiness with their brand.

It’s not the first of its kind, but a business like Pret advertising on TikTok has some points worth unpacking because this particular scenario marked a new milestone for both the platform and the business.

The power of TikTok

The Coronavirus lockdown saw TikTok boom with the site now having around 1billion users and Brits alone spending up to a quarter of their waking hours on the platform. I know I get drawn into what I call the ‘TikTok hole’ accidentally spending hours scrolling through the app, then suddenly realising I’ve ignored everything else I was meant to do that evening. Through lockdown though, the TikTok demographic widened, and the app suddenly had people of all ages doing dancing challenges, comedy videos and creating videos for their friends.

We saw advertising take off on TikTok pre-lockdown when we saw Elf cosmetics creating their own song to go with their #eyeslipsface hashtag which saw people showing off their fresh face of makeup. It wasn’t long before other businesses joined in with the trend, and we saw Chipotle follow with the #boorito campaign that got over 4 billion views.

These videos took the subtle marketing opportunities of social media to the next level, and it’s what I love about them the most. They’re getting people to remember their name, subconsciously associating the brand with having fun, so when they do need that product or stumble across their store they buy from them.

Historically we know that storytelling strongly resonates with audiences and has always been the best way to be memorable, which is why TV advertising was always so effective. But the likes of TikTok could usurp the advertising opportunities previously represented by TV in a more sophisticated way. That’s because Big Data and algorithms allow us to personalise these stories and target segments more intelligently. TV casts a much wider, more expensive net and while one way TV campaigns have captivated audiences for decades, they were always on a one way basis.

So it’s worth considering that this new way means that campaigns feel like social media posts from friends, not advertisements. We’ve known for some time that engagement is key because social media has been the place where brands interact with their audiences, that’s what makes it work.

Joy with Pret

Pret have long used social media to share images of their food underpinned by their organic, healthy eating values. Their target market has always been the passing trade of commuters, who get a quick service and nutritious meal to sustain them on their journey. Its wholesome ethos is worth remembering too, because despite their ‘fast food’ service, having a Pret meal never feels like a naughty indulgence, so that’s something they’ve always done very well.

Now, without physical shops and footfall, their TikTok challenge brought them online to a wider audience that got people dancing, drinking coffee and doing a variety of things which made them happy, all with Pret’s name associated with them. During a time when lots of people are experiencing anxiety and fears, this was an ingenious campaign.

Covid and closed stores challenged them to be innovative, but expanding your audience is never a bad thing. Their move into TikTok might be monumental in pitching to a younger new audience, but this was a calculated risk, because the growing demographic meant they were guaranteed to see some old friends. So it was a win all round.

Big potential

It’s not just TikTok that represents these opportunities, there is potential for this in every aspect of social marketing. Many companies for years have used social media in different ways to create aesthetically pleasing or engaging content that focuses away from their products. This wins them followers, spreads influence and gives them a long term audience to retarget using Big Data. People don’t want to be sold products, they want to engage in positive and joyful experiences, and that’s where social media presence has its strengths. Even TV adverts continue to up their game – think of the yearly excitement around the John Lewis Christmas adverts.

As the online world is giving consumers shorter attention spans, it is becoming more and more important to engage them with something more than simply relying on your product.

The future of marketing

Marketing is no longer a one-way push of products, it’s about connecting with people and being memorable and it continues to get more sophisticated. The best brands have been able to do this for years, only now, it’s interactive.

In the long term, people will remember your name if it’s associated with something fun, creates an emotional connection or educates them. Social media is a cost effective and valuable way of meeting your audience on a meaningful basis – spreading your name with low advert costs that gets you hundreds, thousands or even millions of views.

It is a no brainer way to market your business.

Written by Tilly Farrands, Sales and Events Coordinator at Phlashweb

If you need help setting up your online presence or making the most out of what you already have, get in touch to see how we can help.


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