CIM Marketing Podcast - Episode 28: How brands found confidence on TikTok
- 04 February 2021
Brands and the TikTok explosion
This podcast will:
- Examine the best and the worst of TikTok campaigns
- Show why brands must change their culture to capture the power of TikTok
- Explore how instant editing techniques boost accessibility
Ally Cook 00:02
The contents and views expressed by individuals in this podcast are not necessarily those of the companies for which they work. Due to the Coronavirus lockdown the CIM Podcast is currently being recorded via web conferencing. We apologise for any issues with the audio.
Ben Walker 00:18
Hello, everybody and welcome to the CIM Podcast. And you know, I was surprised when, on my son's Christmas list, was a halo light which allowed him to produce his own TikTok videos with decent illumination. I'd never even heard of the halo light before this December. And it turns out a lot of his friends have also got halo lights and they've become one of the most popular Christmas gifts this year. Because, TikTok.
Ben Walker 00:46
And to try to make some sort of sense of all of this. I'm joined today by Miss Lucy Handley, who many of you will know. Lucy, amazingly, has not been on the CIM Podcast before, despite the fact that she is editor-at-large of the CIM. Member magazine catalyst. And we're also joined today by Mr. Kim Slade, who is head of skills and confidence at the Touch Video Academy. Hi, guys, how are you today?
Lucy Handley 01:13
Very well. Thanks.
Kim Slade 01:14
Ben Walker 01:16
Now tic TOCs popularity. Lucy, is it something that's going to endure? Or is it something that is just there to kill the boredom of lockdown, when there's pretty much very little we can do, beyond make TikTok videos, to be creative?
Lucy Handley 01:35
Great question. I think, you know, the lockdown really was the perfect storm for tic toc in a way. I mean, it was growing. And then we had this lockdown in March, which is obviously kind of ongoing, and now we're into the third one. And people were bored at home, people turn to their phones, creators couldn't necessarily create the travel content because they weren't going anywhere. And we still got a bit addicted to TikTok and I think families were watching it together, you know group viewing happened. And it is designed to be addictive. So you're kind of like swiping through. And if you don't like that video, you swipe to the next one. And if you do you share it you like it, you comment on it, you look at the that person's TikTok page. And it's it's very, very immersive.
Lucy Handley 02:24
As to whether it's going to carry on? Yeah, I think it will, you know, I think as certainly for advertisers on the platform as they get used to it, I think it's only going to grow. And I think they're going to kind of get more sophisticated in using it. And I definitely think there's a sort of, you know, the way that we communicate these days, it's about GIFs and memes and short form and fun. And you know, even when you're at work, we're all communicating on Slack and Teams and you don't have to even type out yes or no anymore. You just put a thumbs up or thumbs down. So it's all this very kind of short, sweet communication that I think he's going to carry on.
Ben Walker 03:04
Do you think marketers are using it to their full advantage at the moment? Do you think the industry has caught up with this phenomenon?
Lucy Handley 03:12
Not quite. So, there's definitely sort of an education piece going on. Certainly from TikTok. They're very keen to talk to marketers about how to create content, and they're still being asked questions about how do we do this? Can't we just put an Instagram video on Tiktok? Can we just put our 30-second TV ad on TikTok? I mean, maybe they're not quite going that far, because I think most people realise you can't do that.
Ben Walker 03:37
Kim Slade. Do you think actually that Lucy might have a point that people not really got to grips with this yet?
Kim Slade 03:43
Totally. I think that, you know, you could, for the purpose of this conversation, rephrase marketers as adults, you know, and I think that's kind of where it's at the heart of it, really, you know. The boom on Tik Tok is, was fueled and certainly before locked down. As you mentioned these days, definitely. It was definitely massive before locked down. But as we all know, it's a much younger audience. First off, right, the early adopters were a lot younger. And so then, you know, adults are trying to figure that out. And generally, at the moment, most marketers are adults. So it's a lot to do with an age thing initially. And then, obviously, when there's something where that is getting so much attention, then marketers are gonna go, 'oh, how can we get a slice of that pie?', essentially.
Kim Slade 04:34
And so I do think marketers are kind of trying to catch up and trying to follow and understand what is popular and why it's being so popular. And I think, you know, on the back onto that first part of that question, the popularity of it, booming, certainly in this country in the US during lockdown. Is, I think more so than like Instagram and stuff like that. It's much more a plat-platform for the invite contribution in collaboration with some trends, you know, everybody's kind of doing stuff to the same music or doing the same actions. Or even, you know, some of the best, the most funny videos are those that are the same thing repeated, but just with different people's, from different people and different points of view, everybody's doing the same thing.
Kim Slade 05:20
So it allows people to actually contribute and, like connect with other people in a way that say, Instagram didn't. Where if you're creating something on Instagram, it's very much like from your point of view or from yours in your style. Whereas on TikTok, a lot of the popularity comes from doing things kinda not necessarily with other people physically, but doing the same things that other people are doing in your own way. So it's kind of has that connection piece, I think, which is why it was that perfect storm, as you say loosely, to sort of become a bit more popular during this time, because people are lacking that connection. Right.
Ben Walker 05:53
You know, the story of social media generally, I always think is a bit like the five stages of grief for people who don't use it. So they start off in the state of denial, and I'm speaking from my own point of view, this isn't going to last. And then they then become sort of slightly angry with it. They eventually start bargaining and eventually down the line somewhere in the fifth stage, they come to accept it and even embrace it, you know, and it has been led generationally by teenagers and children. And the feeling is that those strange breed of people called adults are catching up, Lucy, is probably a fair comment, isn't it?
Lucy Handley 06:29
It is but there's a lot of families actually on TikTok. So there's a lot of kind of parents doing fun videos with their kids on on TikTok. So I think certainly families with kind of teenager children are are kind of getting into it. But yes, I mean, certainly, I guess from my point of view, when music.ly, which is the app that TikTok bought that became TikTok was, was fashionable and was this kind of fad of, Oh, my God, people are lip synching onto videos and millions of people are watching them, and they're all these stars. I mean, that just seemed crazy to me. So I was in the denial stage of that grief.
Lucy Handley 07:06
But now, I mean, certainly, when I wrote about TikTok, and I have to say, you know, I wasn't one of those people who turned to it in the summer, but certainly when I, when I was going to write about it, I watched an awful lot of TikTok videos. So as an adult, I, I'm definitely kind of catching up myself. But more broadly, yeah, I mean, TikTok, again, they're very keen to kind of push the fact that it's not just young people who were on it and who are watching it. I mean, I think maybe, and Kim, you'll, you'll, you'll probably know more here but it feels like yeah, that the creators on TikTok are younger, but maybe the view is, are a broader age spectrum.
Kim Slade 07:45
People with specific niches are becoming more popular, and a lot of those people can totally can be adults doesn't matter what age, I think I was more sort of referring, I guess, to that sort of early adopters. And that sort of generalisation of like, okay: there's loads of people on TikTok. Now, what do we do about this? Like you say, Ben, there are those sort of five stage stages, as you've mentioned, and it's, I think, that comes from, like a human, sort of element of if you are a marketer, or you're somebody who's running a small business, 'Ah, another thing I have to figure out'. You know, it's like, 'ah, there's another thing, there's another social media platform that I have to figure out'.
Kim Slade 08:27
And it seems like more are added faster than those that are dropping away. So there are more then, more platforms to consider. And, and it's trying to, for people to try and work out, have I got a genuine, can I genuinely contribute to this? Is this a place where I can actually bring value? Or is it something that I can just 'okay, I don't need to focus on that, because I've got all these other platforms that actually are much more, much more suited to what I do.'
Kim Slade 08:27
In the commercial world, in the business world - who is getting it right? You know, we know that teenagers are getting around, we know that children are getting it right. And to some degree, we know that families are getting it right. But in the business world, who is getting it right do you think, Kim?
Kim Slade 09:12
I think those who are who are actually just letting the people who are already getting it right, get on with it for them, necessarily. We're about trying to go like you mentioned earlier, Lucy's 'How can we just put our adverton there?' It's like, yeah, that's probably not going to work. And what's much more authentic and much more powerful is actually doing what works already, which is, is giving some autonomy to those people who are already creating. So I think those brands who, who sort of embrace that, and don't try and do their thing and squeeze it into the platform will be the ones who who do best on it.
Lucy Handley 09:49
Gucci is a great example. I think of a brand that's doing really well on the platform. So on their, their own accounts. They do really funny fun stuff. And I mean Gucci is kind of an edgy fashion brand. Now, yes, they have beautifully produced ads and photoshoots and all of that. But on TikTok, you know, in the summer, they did this lipstick campaign for one of their particular reds. And the first shot you saw was someone putting lipstick on and it all looked beautiful. And then the second shot was them doing it again, I think, then the third one was, they smiled, and they've got lipstick on their teeth or all over their face. And you know, even a year or two ago, a lipstick ad would never have lipstick on your teeth. That's like rule number one of a lipstick ad it's like the most beautiful ad you've ever seen.
Lucy Handley 10:36
So I think they've managed to use their platform to their advantage. And they also did a really funny kind of model challenge where they had a voiceover and you had to dress up like a Gucci model. So you put on a polo neck and then you put on a V neck and then you put on a jacket and you put on a skirt and then you're then you're kind of a Gucci model. And I think that was really funny because the the voiceover might have said you now put on a blue skirt, but the person actually put on a red skirt. I think Gucci has got their handle right like their their actual Tik Tok account, right, the content they put on so I think they're doing really well.
Ben Walker 11:11
It's interesting isn't it, Kim, that you know, Lucy's point, that you never get a situation where a lipstick model would end up with red lipstick on her teeth normally. And the idea that, you know, someone would tell her to put on a blue skirt, and she actually puts on a red skirt. And yet somehow it works. Seems absolutely bizarre, but somehow it does work. And that's what it's a little bit different, isn't it about TikTok, it does give a niche for a bit of messiness. And something a bit unusual.
Kim Slade 11:41
Definitely. And it's it's the combination of authenticity and surprise. So like authenticity, people are just hungry for authenticity, you know, like what I'm teaching people at the moment who are helping them build personal brands, rather than, like personal brands within larger brands. Right? So because people want to see real reality and real people, people have always loved that. And I think that, again, potentially fueled by, you know, like, we're, like we're doing now you know, there could potentially be we're, like potentially big kids running around in the background. You know, I remember only, it was only like a year and a half ago, made it was like a big news story that like someone was on the news, and a kid running and then someone running after I got the kid out. And it was like so hilarious.
Kim Slade 12:29
And this amazing thing that happened just because there was a glimpse into real authentic life. And now it's like, every single day, almost every call, there's an interruption by something because we're kind of at home and, and but it's it's that I think this whole thing, if there's a positive to come out of, are we going into the COVID conversation, I don't wanna go there too much. But you know, there's a positive to come out, is it around, it's like people have allowed that guard to be let down. And that's okay. Because I think people are hungry for that authenticity and a bit of a laugh and, and for everything not to be perfect. So I think that really plays into to the way TikTok to what's popular on TikTok, too, you know, people are just like you say with with Gucci, they're, they're doing things that wouldn't normally be seen, or their Instagram feed or anything like that. They're allowed to do it on TikTok, because it's just a glimpse into a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere. And I think that's one of the reasons why it's popular too.
Ben Walker 13:21
Lucy Handley, how the competition dealing with it, is there anything that can hold a torch to TikTok, in terms of money, to channel this stuff that Kim has just been talking about?
Lucy Handley 13:31
So Instagram Reels is probably the only kind of big competitor to TikTok, and they're shorter, they're 15 or 30 seconds, whereas TikTok can be up to 60 seconds. Instagram Reelsdoesn't have ads yet within it. And I think, you know, they are also refining the product. So Instagram also has photos, as we know, so it has the grid, it has IG TV, it has Live, it has Instagram Stories, and it has Reels. So it has a lot of products, which I think it's still kind of trying to mesh together. I mean, the two are very different. Because we're all very used to Instagram. It's 10 years old. It's very established, it's very established for marketers. And so I think that TikTok is different. And I think the Instagram Reels kind of copycat product isn't really there yet.
Kim Slade 14:23
Yeah, I'd agree with that. But I think the main thing that is, I think the thing that that they've really copied and the thing that people have got hold of from a creators point of view from a creative point of view and a filmmakers point of view. Especially for people who've got no experience making films. I'm gonna get a little bit geeky now on you, but they bring back this kind of idea of in camera editing, right. So in camera editing is what people used to do, when it was really difficult to actually chop up, physically chop up film and sticking together and that'd be a really long, laborious process. So what they were trying to do is they would try and hit record ordered the exact moment they wanted to start the clip and press stop at the exact moment, they wanted to end the clip rather than then going back and fixing it in post or whatever. And what that allowed back in the olden days was that they could make films and it'd be quite efficient because they didn't need to have to go in and chop it all up.
Kim Slade 15:15
And actually, where they brang that back in with the mechanic of just holding whilst you record, or just creating little pieces, the mechanic of how you actually make a video on both, on TikTok and Reels, is that kind of in-camera editing. And what it makes, it basically enables people to create a video that has multiple clips, and not have to actually go and edit it, which is the hardest thing and the most laborious thing for most people when it comes to filmmaking. So the thing that, that Reels has done has allowed that and it was already there, you could already do that on stories to a certain element, but they've given more tools to it. So is that in-camera editing, which is why I think the popularity of so many, it's enabling so many more creators, because people don't now have to figure out how to use camera and editing software, they can just hold record, record a little bit.
Kim Slade 16:12
And even the features like ghosting where you've got the mirror where you've got the old, you can see the end of the last clip, in a faded sort of point of view, you can see the end of the last clip over the image that you go to record during the next clip, it's very hard to explain without visual, but essentially, it allows you to match up your last clip with the next clip you take, which is how people do all this, you know, change your clothes effects, all that kind of stuff. So it's really the mechanic that I think that is is enabling more creators. And that's the thing that other platforms are starting to copy. You know, my whole message of what I do is that anyone could do it, just hopes to have someone guide them in the right way, you know,
Ben Walker 16:52
isn't it, isn't it a lot more about the skill is in the creativity and the idea rather than the nuts and bolts of using the tools, it's the difference between being envisaging a great building and actually knowing how to use, you know, a power saw. That actually, you know, this is a tool that everybody can access. But the really good stuff comes from the great creativity and the ideas and the artfulness,
Kim Slade 17:12
Definitely. And if you think about like, you could spend 1000s on equipment, right and get really amazing looking visuals, and you could be somewhere awesome. And you could take amazing looking footage. But if there's no story, if there's no, if there's nothing that grabs the human emotion, like whether it's humour or whatever it might be that like that story is story-led. And so, like on Tiktok, where people are getting entertained by it, you know, it's almost some of it's almost joke content, there's a setup, there's like, you know, the bit before, and then all of a sudden, they snap their fingers, and they change the clothes and they're dancing silly or whatever. It's, it's because it follows some sort of curve, it's not just a beautiful, pretty thing. That's it, it's like, actually, you have to have a bit more creativity to to create that curve to create that story, whatever. And when I say story, at least use that loosely, it could be a joke, it could be, you know, actual real story. But it what it, what it does is it allows you to have different parts in one short thing. So there's a setup, there's a reveal, or there's a, you know, there's something unexpected. And it's having the creativity around those stories and having that freedom with the simpler tools, which is making people get more creative. And that's what's shining through.
Ben Walker 18:28
You know the fact that it's easy to access could be stereotyped as feeding into this idea that people's attention spans are reducing and people can't be bothered with stuff that's complicated. Alongside Lucy's great article on this subject in this month's Catalyst magazine, which goes out to CIM members, we got a roundtable and one of the guys who attended is Will Scougal, global director of creative strategy at Snap Inc, Snapchat. And he actually says that, actually this idea about people's attention span falling is a bit of a myth.
Ben Walker 19:07
But actually, marketers need to realise that they must do a lot more to capture that attention and like he was saying, Kim, building stories, making things often an interesting polishes perhaps less important, isn't it, Kim then then actually been able to tell this visceral story that that amuses or excites.
Kim Slade 19:27
So there's an area that's been created with smartphone cameras getting much better, is it this whole area whereas before it might have been like, you know, if you envisaged mobile video, it would just be someone doing a shaky selfie and that's it and then on the other end of the scale is like super polished brand video, whereas now there's this whole area in between that which makes accessible for everybody to actually in most people's pockets. They have a high definition camera that allows that could potentially with the creative creativity applied allowed them to create content that's actually really high quality. But they don't necessarily need it to be high quality, if it's led by a story that's actually actually captivating. So the barrier to entry is a lot lower for people to get into the game of video marketing.
Ben Walker 20:15
Is there any barrier to entry at all? Do you think?
Kim Slade 20:19
Confidence, right? interest? And that's why that's why I think with all the training that I've done with people, it boils down to beneath all of the what kit should I use? What apps should I use? How do I what format, what do we say all of this stuff, the, the, what I think is underneath most of it is the confidence to try. And I think there is no barrier to trying. But obviously, for brands, and I think with the larger brands, they feel it's a bit more dangerous to try things because everybody knows you put the wrong thing on social media, wrong judgement, that could be a huge backlash. And so there's a there's a fear, and the lack of confidence in trying new things.
Kim Slade 20:59
And so one thing that I tried to tell people is instead of, you know, people have traditional brand guidelines, right. And what I tried to get into like, this is what you have to do, these are the guidelines is the box that you have put things in, what I tried to say is create a new box that is like, safe to try, rather than you have to do exactly this. Because it's what that you create then, it's things that you definitely don't do. And then it gives you much more space for for creativity and to test things out. And that barrier to do that, you know, technically is a lot lower because we've got the smartphones and the kit that's becoming a lot cheaper and stuff like that.
Ben Walker 21:37
Lucy, your job is as a journalist to follow trends and monitor brands and see how they're performing in the creative space. You've mentioned, Gucci as an exemplar of someone who's getting it right, but presumably the fact that you weren't reading off lots of names means that there's probably quite a few that are still stuck in their old ways and concentrating too much on polish and not enough on exciting innovation.
Lucy Handley 22:02
I guess it's sort of test and learn mentality. And you know, it, you know, maybe there needs to be a bit of a cultural changes, some brands to go, you know, 'it's okay, if we try it and fail, because, you know, if we don't try, we won't get anywhere'. But I do think that sort of, you know, when Twitter came along, corporate teams, and brand teams, were probably a bit scared of it, and they can still, you know, you can still get things dramatically wrong on Twitter, and then, you know, journalists pick up stories from Twitter. And then the the worry is that it goes global.
Lucy Handley 22:36
And I think brands sort of thought that they had to have editorial departments or newsrooms to react quickly and, and what have you. And I think they're sort of getting used to that. If you look at the ads on TikTok, that's a sort of different kettle of fish, because like I said, you kind of expect a paid for ad slot to be a bit sort of polished, although they don't always have to be. And there's all sorts of different ad formats on TikTok, like branded hashtag challenges, for example, where you're giving your hashtag challenge to the audience. So it's up to the creators to create stuff and get involved and that either kind of takes off or it doesn't.
Lucy Handley 23:08
Yeah, I've definitely seen some examples of larger brands where, you know, they might have a sort of very well known, for example, brand character or brand narrative that you might see on TV that does very well and tell the story, but then they put that character on TikTok, and they kind of tried to go behind the scenes, and they just get it completely wrong. It just doesn't feel right, there isn't that element of surprise, or the story element. And I think the other thing that is, is, is good to see is where you've got, yes, you've got that great post, but you might have a sequential story. So in a few days time you get like the next part of the story, or the next part, and then people kind of keep, keep watching. But again, that's quite hard to do, because some businesses are not really used to doing that. I'm not naming any names there. But I guess those are the sorts of things that I've, I've seen, not done so well.
Ben Walker 23:59
It does strike me as a bit of a challenge, Kim, that you know, if you're glossy, if you're a glossy luxury brand, or whatever, and your entire being is about putting out glossy, luxury photography. And then you'll suddenly encounter this thing, which is about being a bit rough and ready being a bit quirky, sticking lipstick on your teeth. How do you get those things to align? You know, with your general brand, does it even matter does it even need to align?
Kim Slade 23:59
I mean, it's, it's a good question and a really, really hard one to answer. And I think if I you know, if I could, if I could put it in a, in a one-pager then it would make a lot of money. You know, it's it's, it's the intangible. I hate to look for one of a better word, it's vibes. Like it's a vibe, and I know that like that, that word can be like, you know, I'm not trying to be super hip and cool, but it's true. You know, it's like a certain vibe that you get. It's like nuances with music or nuances with things. It's like you can really go you could have two pieces of content that are very similar, but one just captures something over the other. And I suppose that's the thing about going viral is, you know, brands are trying to make viral videos. But if you try and make a viral video, then the chances are you're not going to make a viral video.
Kim Slade 25:15
Well, you have to do is kind of tune in to what could potentially go viral, you know, because you're, you're in tune with what people are actually feeling at the time. And back to what you said about like, the, the attention span, I think this kind of comes into it is, it's, it's most - it's what mode people are in, it's what mindset they're in, in that current point of time. Of where they're, where they're, you know, sitting on the bus, having a scroll, whatever they want to see, compared to if they're sitting at their desk, having a scroll, you know, it's definitely the modes and I think, longer form content is still alive, there's still amazing, beautifully made, films that don't really mention the brand, but you just might see the brand in there somewhere. They've been funded by the brand, but it's a genuine authentic story that can touch someone or it can connect with someone. And, but then on the short term on the on the short-form content, it's about, you know, it's really hard to get that thing right, where you're actually capturing the moment or capturing a feeling.
Kim Slade 26:16
It's like, there's one video that stands out to me is the guy on the skateboard listening to Fleetwood Mac, and he was drinking some orange, drinking a carton of orange juice. And there's no way in the world any brand would have come up with that video, and it went viral. And it just like, you know, so many people copied it just because it just had a just had a certain feeling and a vibe, right? That in that moment, for whatever reason captured everybody else. So I think brand is really difficult. But I think when they, when they, if they really try to relate to the, to the people, and as far as the same for all marketing, really trying to relate to the people you're talking to. Really come up come at it from their point of view. And if you've got a brand like Gucci who's then putting lipstick on teeth, you know, like that, that's a great example of safe to try, you know, like they would know that would never be in there probably in their brand guidelines, never showing lipstick on teeth. But then it's kind of like what can we try?
Kim Slade 27:09
You know that and people that think on Tiktok people get it, they get that that's fine. If that had done that. Elsewhere, it might not have gone down so well, because in the mode that people would have been viewing it in in that moment, there would have been like, well, that doesn't make sense for Gucci, whereas in the mode, which people are watching Tiktok they're looking to be surprised they're looking to find something new and and be have some sort of element of shock. But you know, that surprise element? And if that's what Gucci had delivered, then that's why it's done that well.
Ben Walker 27:39
It's been a challenging beginning, as all of these things are Lucy, but you know. Are people are gonna get their head around it, are brands gonna get their head around it? Are we going to see better TikTok short form reels marketing in the next 12 months, 18 months, do you think?
Lucy Handley 27:54
Yes, I expect so because, you know, so many people are flocking to TikTok. Instagram is always tweaking its, its product. And, you know, marketers want to be a part of the next big thing. And I think you know, there will be this, these discussions in marketing teams going, Oh, God, we haven't gone on TikTok yet. We're going to go on TikTok, let's let's go on TikTok. So I think yeah, there's always that sort of, let's just try it. And I hope that the next 12 to 18 months will be about kind of refining the content and getting it right and working out kind of what works and what doesn't, and what has that vibe that you talked about and what's acceptable, you know, to talk about another beauty brands, kinship, they're kind of a small start up in the US. And their first post on TikTok was someone wrapping up a tube of pimple cream in their hair, it wasn't putting the cream on their face, it wasn't, you know, talking about the product benefits, it was just doing something random with the product. So I think the more that people realise it's okay to experiment. And the more confidence they get, then then yes, hopefully this, this, the content from the brands will improve.
Ben Walker 29:04
So Kim, on a word, abandon the rules, forget the rules and just build your confidence.
Kim Slade 29:10
Build your confidence, create some space that allows things to be safe to try. Try to tune in with what the person who's actually going to be viewing it at that moment what they want to see.
Ben Walker 29:24
If you can do that, you're probably going to succeed, but we'll see. 12 months, 18 months, we'll see. Lucy Handley, Kim Slade, thank you very much indeed for joining us today. It's been brilliant. Thank you.
Lucy Handley 29:34
Thanks Ben, really enjoyed it.
Kim Slade 29:35
Thanks a lot.
Ally Cook 29:37
If you've enjoyed this podcast, we've released an exclusive extract from Lucy Handley's analysis of TikTok's staggering success, as featured in January's Catalyst magazine. Read it now at CIM.co.uk/exchange. See you next time.
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