To TikTok or Not to TikTok?

The short-form video platform became a global phenomenon in 2020. With its demand for timely, high-quality content and an engaged, sought-after audience, is TikTok the key to reeling in Gen Z and Millennial consumers?

That has been the question for many brands throughout the past year. As the world we knew shut down, the popularity of the app exploded. Looking for a virtual escape from the same four walls they stared at throughout quarantine, users spent hours scrolling through the app’s viral videos, engaging with content, joining in challenges and following the trends set by the most-downloaded social media app of 2020. Was the app just an entertaining way for people to distract themselves throughout the pandemic, or has it come to represent opportunities for brands to engage with their current and future customers?

So what’s all the hype about?

A destination for short-term videos, TikTok was launched by parent company ByteDance in China in 2017 and became available for download in the U.S. in 2018. Since then, TikTok has grown exponentially to become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.

Need-to-Know Stats

  • With 1.5 billion downloads in 2020 alone and 850 million active users monthly around the globe, TikTok is now available in 154 countries worldwide
  • Most videos are between 15 and 60 seconds long, just right for the limited attention span of today’s youth
  • The average TikTok user opens the app eight times a day and spends 52 minutes watching and/or engaging with content
  • The majority of TikTok users are members of Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012; in fact, 18-24-year-olds alone account for more than 40% of the TikTok users in the U.S.
  • But younger and older millennials alike have also embraced the app, with 16% of TikTok users falling between the ages of 30 and 39
  • It’s also used by two million more females than males in the U.S. (and as we all know, women represent a larger proportion of purchasing power)

TikTok varies from other platforms in that it can reach a high number of users solely through the amplification of content. Even without advertising, influencers or a large following, content has the potential to “go viral,” or spread rapidly with multiple shares between users. This differs from other platforms, where the algorithms tend to favor accounts with particular criteria. Additionally, TikTok’s content is shareable across other platforms like Facebook and Instagram, further adding to the probability of viral success.

Since its inception, TikTok has launched several ordinary users into superstardom, with top influencer Charli D’Amelio boasting more than 100 million followers. The rise of D’Amelio and other influencers demonstrates the power of compelling content in creating self-made TikTok celebrities. Once an ordinary teenager, D’Amelio rose to fame posting short clips of herself dancing to popular songs. She has since appeared in a Super Bowl commercial; landed a podcast deal; partnered with Dunkin’ Donuts to create her own signature beverage; and amassed a net worth of over $8 million—all within the past 24 months.

What does it mean for your brand?

TikTok is more than self-obsessed Gen Zers dancing for “likes” in their living rooms. The breakthrough opportunity for companies on TikTok lies in the ability to introduce their brand or product with authenticity, vs. the overt advertising we are accustomed to seeing on other social media platforms. While partnerships and paid advertisements are available, they are pricey, and can miss the mark when it comes to creative execution. According to Social Media Today, “In a world where consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical of ads, the raw, unedited videos on TikTok can be a great way to showcase people using your brand in their everyday lives.”

Click on over to the Red Bull page, and you see skydivers soaring out of airplanes; Red Bull racing drivers speeding through a desert course; and clips from the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, which feature an athletic woman jumping from the top of a bridge into the water below. The feeling evoked by the channel is aspirational; it’s fast-paced, thrilling and a little bit dangerous. It embodies the old advertising slogan, “Red Bull gives you wiiiings!” without even one image of an energy drink.

TikTok is a place where brands can develop their own voices and connect with consumers in a genuine way. They can also enter the ever-increasing competition to create the funniest, most relevant or most engaging content. Brands like Chipotle, Taco Bell and even Nutter Butter have created and used hashtag challenges, duets and UGC to promote their products while simultaneously gaining both views and followers. These brands are helping to break the mold of ordinary advertising, using authentic (and even slightly obscure content) to share their brand story. Take Nutter Butter for example, who has personified their famous cookie, having it participate in the latest TikTok trends and challenges. It’s quirky content like this that keeps users interested and encourages them to become further engaged with the brand and on the app at large.

Brands can also harness the platform’s popularity to reach an engaged young audience by tapping into trends and offering exclusive content. One of the top TikTok brand accounts, the NBA, has over 12 million followers and content that includes game schedules, player interviews, game highlights, behind-the-scenes footage and more, all showcased in one easy stop on the brand’s channel. Of course, a multi-billion-dollar brand like the NBA can garner attention, but what about smaller brands and startups? They too have the opportunity to reach potential customers through unique and engaging content. Nuggs, the plant-based nuggets company, has gained more than 70 thousand followers with only a little over 80 videos (in comparison to hundreds of NBA videos) since its start on the platform in December 2019.

While it presents a unique opportunity for brands to further develop their content base and online persona, TikTok marketing is not for everyone. The demands of content creation and user engagement are time-consuming and could be cost-prohibitive. The majority of users are younger, so certain brands might not be able to use TikTok reach their target demographic. And there are fewer opportunities for B2B clients to reach users with buying power.


TikTok holds the greatest potential for consumer-based clients to reach those coveted Gen Z consumers. With higher average engagement than Instagram or Twitter, the platform offers brands the chance to be on the cutting edge of trends, or even to create new ones. While more traditional advertising streams, such as influencer marketing, product placement and partnerships, are offered on TikTok, the magic of the app lies in the opportunity to market an entire lifestyle to aspirational young users. It’s crucial to remember that content is ultimately the key to success on TikTok. With a little inspiration, YOU could be the next viral sensation.

True collaboration happens when you have a partner who shares your enthusiasm. Get in touch with David Melnick, VP of Strategic Partnerships, at 410.336.1000 or to discuss opportunities to work together.



Doyle, Brandon. These Brands Will Inspire Your TikTok Strategy, Wallaroo, September 2020.
Prestrich, Jana. Marketing With TikTok: Does It Work for B2B as Well?, February 2020.
Previte, Jeff. 6 Examples of Brands Crushing the TikTok Marketing Game (+ Tips), Business 2 Community, January 2020.
Rendler-Kaplan, Lucy. 8 Ways That Brands Can Utilize TikTok in Their Marketing, Social Media Today, October 2019.
TikTok for Business, TikTok, 2021.
TikTok Marketing for Beginners – A Marketer’s Guide to Advertising on Tiktok, Influencer Marketing Hub, March 2021.
TikTok Marketing: The Definitive Guide, Loomly Blog, 2020.
TikTok Statistics – Updated February 2021, Wallaroo, February 2021.
TikTok Statistics – Revenue, Users & Engagement Stats (2021), Influencer Marketing Hub, April 2021.
Warren, Jillian. The Ultimate Guide to TikTok Marketing, Later, May 2020.

view more