campaign / 6 minute read

Unleashing the Power of TikTok: Why Brands Need to Embrace the Chaos

Written by Marlijn Hegge

12 May 2023

Picture the scene: it’s a weeknight, you’ve had a long day at work and you’re ready to settle in for an early night. What do you do with your few precious hours of freedom? You could watch some TV, or finally pick up the book that’s been gathering dust on your bedside table. But if you’re anything like me, and quite literally billions of others like me, you’ll spend your time learning about how dice are made, or about a three-legged baby goat that defied all the odds, or about fifteen new and interesting ways to cook potatoes. With 3.5 billion downloads worldwide and 672 million of those in 2022, TikTok is officially the world’s favourite way to unwind. With that in mind, should your brand be jumping on the bandwagon? 

In short, yes. The statistics speak for themselves: TikTok users in the UK spend an average of 49 minutes on the app every day, well ahead of its top competitors Facebook (42 minutes) and Instagram (29 minutes). Ad revenues have also spiked, and now amount to more than those of Snapchat and Twitter combined. But as any TikTok user will tell you, the secret to doing well on this app is not paid ads, and nor is it reposting content you’ve created for other platforms. In the age of carefully crafted online presences, it seems that what TikTok users really want to see is authenticity.

To the untrained eye, TikTok might seem like utter chaos; lip-synced songs and audio, overlayed images, clever edits and people speaking to camera follow each other in quick succession, creating a colourful and seemingly random jumble on the user’s so-called ‘For You’ page. However, upon closer inspection, this mix isn’t random at all, because TikTok’s algorithm works in such a way that it shows the user exactly what they want to see. Did you visit a creator’s page to see more of their content? Suddenly you’ll see their face every day. Linger a little too long on a video of a cute cat? Here are twenty more cat videos, and one of a dog just to see if that interests you too. TikTok’s usage statistics show they’ve perfected the art of capturing the attention, and in today’s saturated social media market this is absolutely essential. However, it’s also harder than ever. 44% of TikTok’s users are between 13 and 26 years old, and this generation have been shown to lose interest in as little as 1.3 seconds!

So, how do you capture an audience that is spoiled for choice, can sniff out paid ads in milliseconds and will ruthlessly skip past anything that doesn’t grab them instantaneously? Looking at brands that have done it, the answer appears to be by letting go of what you think you know about marketing and just doing TikTok the TikTok way. Take the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust for example. In a recent video, they use a viral audio clip combined with footage of a water vole and a roe deer, to suggest that the vole is offended about being compared to a baked bean. While most of the Wildlife Trust’s videos average a few thousand views, this six-second edit of existing footage has had a staggering 15.9 million views and 3.5 million likes. This just goes to show that being in the right place at the right time and jumping on trends as soon as possible pays off, even if you don’t have thousands of followers or if your brand doesn’t seem to align with TikTok’s audience at first sight.


Another example of a brand that does TikTok right is the Black Country Living Museum, based just 15 miles from our own DRPG headquarters and featured in our recent film for the West Midlands Growth Company. In their videos, they reimagine history in a way that appeals to TikTok’s audiences by inserting the actors that are part of the museum into the trends that are known and loved on the platform. For example, they remind viewers of the role that immigrants from the Commonwealth played in relieving Britain’s labour shortages during World War II, set to an edited ABBA song. Using a clever mix of educational content, edits with popular audio and even recipe tutorials, their videos average at around 50,000 views, with outliers well into the millions. 

While the Black Country Living Museum’s content is current and sensitive to trends, they also have a clear marketing strategy in place. This reminds us that even if TikTok may seem like chaos at times, that doesn’t mean the years of learnings and insights around video marketing are out the window entirely. 

At the end of the day, the secret to TikTok is to be a brand without looking like a brand. Content that is fun, down to earth and authentic will capture your audience, and a solid foundation of planning and strategy will keep them engaged. Sounds easy, right? Almost as easy as crocheting a whole new wardrobe, if my algorithm is to be believed.