Popularise your brands through Tik Tok

In-App Advertising
Social Advertising


After a year of development, the app became the fastest growing app in China, which was then introduced externally from China. In 2017, the app was introduced to America. In order to localise the app to the Western cultures, it was renamed to Tik Tok. It soon became popular in the US, is one of the most downloaded apps of 2018. Nowadays, the marketers of Tik Tok are focusing on the European markets, in doing so running out of home campaigns through the London Underground and most other social channels.

Features of Tik Tok

As the app is designed primarily to be used on smartphones, the default format of Tik Tok is vertical, causing the video to take up the whole phone screen for maximum impact and engagement.

The app opens showing the ‘For You’ feed, which are videos curated from the user’s past interests. The videos can be liked, shared and commented on as well as the feature to swip onto the next video. Through these signs of interest, the app is able to determine which videos the user will want to engage with. Accounts can be followed, for instance the top followed account of 2018 had 32.7 million followers. Users can access their favourite, most recent followed account’s videos through the ‘following feed’. Tik Tok also provides users with pre and post effects to apply to their videos, in doing so making the app more interactive. Alongside popular music that can be added to the video, the app allows the users to personalise their own creations. In addition, Tik Tok uses a lot of advanced technologies like AR, tangible interaction and virtual reality. Users are able to apply these technologies into their videos, creating a buzz all around the world.

Is Tik Tok worthwhile for marketers to invest in?

Time and money are both investments that need to be made to quickly build up a following for brands on Tik Tok. These statistics are worthwhile considering: By the end of 2018, there were 500 million monthly active users in China. 90% of users are under the age of 35, 60% of them have an undergraduate degree, and the main users live in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities (Douyin China, 2019). According to Statista (2019), Tik Tok has 120 million users in India, 39.6 million users in the US. Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and Pakistan have over 10 million users now. 41% of Tik Tok users are in the age between 16 to 24 years old, although there are no figures to specify the number of users in other age groups, it is estimated that people from 20 to 30 years old are a big part of the Tik Tok community as well. Currently, Tik Tok plans for expansion to encourage users worldwide. SocialMediaToday believes that Tik Tok could bring a serious threat to other popular social platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat with its rapid growth. Some big brands have already generated followers from Tik Tok due to the increasing popularity as well as the massive expansion. 

Tik Tok in China has relatively mature advertising system, compared to it in other countries and regions. This is offered as six different methods for marketers to leverage their brands with.

1) Pop up adverts: When users open up Tik Tok, the adverts pop up automatically.

2) Sponsored advert: The advert will appear between two users’ videos on the ‘For You’ feed.

3) Embed your ecommerce into the videos.

4) Discovery page adverts.

5) Trending hashtags creation: This allows marketers to create trending hashtags for users to utilise when posting any videos.

6) Tik Tok allows to create effects with brands’ features, users can apply the effects into their videos. 

Tik Tok Marketing Methods

POP UP ADVERTS The image below is an example of a pop up advert on Tik Tok. When users open up Tik Tok, the advert pops up on the screen with a call to action button on the bottom. There is also a ‘skip’ button on the top right side for users. 

SPONSORED ADVERTS The sponsored adverts show up after users swipe up four times or at random times. Users can swipe left to know more about the products’ information or swipe right to know the brand’s information. Also, the sponsored adverts can have an embedded download link on the bottom of the screen alongside a call to action.

EMBED E-COMMERCE IN VIDEOS Users or any brands’ accounts are able to embed a link to their online shops in each video. As can be seen from the screenshot below, the yellow basket is the link to direct users to online shops.

DISCOVER PAGE ADVERTS The picture below shows the banner advert on discovery page, which is a promotion from Walmart to encourage users to do a gesture dance to win a 5,000 Chinese yuan voucher.

TRENDING HASHTAGS CREATION Advertisers are able to create trending hashtags for users. These hashtags normally created with challenges, users need to film themselves while doing the challenges and post on Tik Tok with the required hashtags. The user who receives the most ‘likes’ will be the winner. Users can click the hashtag to find out more details about the brands or products. 

EFFECTS CREATION As mentioned before, effects can be applied in videos is one of the features on Tik Tok. Advertisers can create effects for users, brands’ logos and products’ features can be added into these effects.


Another good way of advertising through Tik Tok is working with influencers. Influencers play a big role on Tik Tok, they are the best way to increase sales for Chinese customers, especially in the beauty industry.

A good example of this in China is the influencer, Jiaqi Li who helps beauty brands sell lip sticks. On the International Women’s Day, he live streamed on Tik Tok to push the sales of his partnered brands. Within 5 hours, 189,300 users had watched his live show, 23,000 lip sticks were sold equalling 3.53 million Chinese yuan (around £400,000) of transactions.

In China, millennials are the main demographic of consumers purchasing products and services (Goldman Sachs, 2018). Also, according to Tencent and Boston Consulting Group (2018), the Chinese millennials are the mainstay of global luxury consumption, as well as being the main users on Tik Tok. Therefore, the most famous international brands have invested in Tik Tok, especially in China to reach this demographic. Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, BMW and Airbnb are all examples of the brands. 

Case Studies of International Brands Using Tik Tok

LOUIS VUITTON Louis Vuitton has created a pop up and a sponsored advert in December 2018. Unfortunately, there is no feature to show the exact success rate of the adverts, however a report conveys the click rate of the advert is 10% higher than any other adverts on Tik Tok. 

AIRBNB Airbnb is a successful example of advertising through Tik Tok in China. They have posted 8 videos which receive over 300 thousands likes, and 29.9 thousands followers. Also, Airbnb works with a celebrity called Yuyan Peng, the video featuring him has received a lot of good feedback from the audience. Comments include ‘it takes ages to realise this is an advert, really amazing.’ ‘When I see Yuyan Peng, I would give 100 scores to the video.’ ‘I never thought an advert can be such awesome like this’.

BMW BMW China has worked twice with Tik Tok on pop up adverts and sponsored adverts. The first campaign of BMW has generated 102 million video views, 6.82% interactivity rate which is much higher than the average rate in automobile industry. On the same day, the search index of BMW on Baidu (the biggest search engine in China) has reached 40.55%. The second campaign is for the BMW X3, it has received 128 million video views, 5.12 million interactivities (comment, like, share). After two campaigns, the number of visitors to BMW website has reached 1.03 million. 

The Collaboration between brands and influencers

Notably, apart from Louis Vuitton and Chanel have not worked with influencers, the other brands all have invited an influencer to do promotions on Tik Tok. To work with influencers is not only the strategy for most brands, but also a big part for Tik Tok to break into other markets. During the expansion of Tik Tok, celebrities endorsements help the Chinese social platform grow up in the US and Japanese markets. Jimmy Fallon, the famous American comedian has worked with Tik Tok to launch a challenge to encourage and attract people in the US to use Tik Tok. In the Japanese market, Tik Tok has worked with celebrities like Kinoshita Yukina, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, and Watanabe Naomi.

Creativity and Tik Tok

No matter how many advert types are offered by Tik Tok, creativity is the key ingredient to make an advert successful. Tik Tok offers a lot of functions and special effects to make videos creative and entertaining. It is worth considering that many popular videos on Tik Tok are not made by professionals, therefore the use of inventiveness of the content will attract the highest engagements. Taking Airbnb as an example, the most impressive result is that users do not think it is an advert, they really enjoy watching the video. This allows Airbnb builds up its brand reputation in users’ mind gently and smoothly. 

Tik Tok worldwide

The advertising system on Tik Tok outside of China is still in a developing process currently. According to a BBC investigation, the fledgling advert of Tik Tok caused an issue of its safety credentials. BBC has found sexual comments posted on videos, and Tik Tok does not have a way to verify users’ age currently. In addition, India government and Phillipian has banned Tik Tok from Apple Store and Android Store due to the reason that Tik Tok has sexual content, and it cannot verify the users’ ages. In response to the issue, Tik Tok says that, Tik Tok is like other social apps, and they have a dedicated and growing team review all the videos and accounts, and are committed to improving the protective measurement. After several months’ improvements, Tok Tik is back to the app stores in India and the Philippines. 

Tik Tok is still expanding to the world, a branch has been set up in London, and it has sponsored MTV European Music Awards in November in 2018 to continuously grow its popularity among European youngsters. Facebook is threatened by the significant growth of Tik Tok, it has launched its own short-video app, Lapsso, but only available in the US market. Comparing to Tik Tok, Lapsso is still far behind. Some people have indicated that it always takes several attempts for Facebook to make a good app (Econsultancy, 2019). While the competition of short-video channels increases, this would encourage all the channels to constantly improve themselves to become the leaders in this market. As Tik Tok is the fastest growing app, it is worthwhile for marketers and brands to pay attention to it, especially for those who want to get into the Chinese market. However, Tik Tok is a new social channel (compared to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter etc.) and still in the early development stage. Therefore marketers should be aware that there may be some potential problems which have not been discovered yet.