If you’re a marketer trying to get a message across to Generation Z (20 year olds and younger), then you probably already know that this generation hates ads. According to a study by Kantar Millward Brown, they are more advertising resistant than Generation X or Y. This makes marketing to Generation Z a little more difficult, but for higher education, some consumer products, and other marketers, this is a key audience.  The good news is, there are ways to get your message to Gen Z in a fun, digestible way that they will actually enjoy. Gen Z may hate ads, but they love TikTok. As of March 2019, the short-form video app had 1.1 Billion downloads, with 66% of those users being under age 30.

"What exactly is TikTok?"

TikTok is a social media app, created by a Chinese tech firm called ByteDance,  that allows users to create short, looping 15-60 second videos. With multiple visual and audio effects exclusive to the app, it’s no wonder it has become so popular as a quick form of entertainment for pre-teens, teens, and young adults. Popular videos include dance challenges, funny skits, and anything involving a cute dog. After seeing it’s extremely quick growth in just two years, marketers have begun to explore TikTok’s potential as a marketing channel. 

After testing and tweaking for a full year starting January 2019, TikTok’s self-serve ad platform is now fully in use by many brands. Even in its early stages, marketers saw great potential in TikTok for marketing. In April of 2019, Marc Anthony True Professional, a hair product brand, noticed a 60% increase in sales of one of their products “Strictly Curls Curl Defining Lotion.” Come to find out, the unexpected upsurge was caused by users recommending the product on their TikTok accounts. While this was completely unplanned on Marc Anthony’s part, it’s a powerful testament to how effectively a message on TikTok can take hold with Gen Z. There’s no denying that TikTok has potential, but for some marketers it is totally uncharted territory, and you may be overwhelmed trying to figure out where to even begin with using TikTok in your marketing.

Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your ads on TikTok:


Take advantage of user generated content

User Generated Content

Paid ads on TikTok come up in a user’s feed just like any other video, and should be treated as such.  By partnering with TikTok users to create ads, your videos will appear more authentic in the context of other user-generated content and are less likely to be skipped over/swiped past. Buzzfeed is using young people ages 16-19 to create videos for their Instagram and TikTok related to the 2020 US election, saying they wanted to keep the new generation informed on politics with content made “by Gen Z, for Gen Z.” You can also create a hashtag to go along with your ad, that encourages users to generate their own follow up content to yours, like Doritos has done with their #CoolRanchDance ad featuring music artist Lil Nas X.

Work with influencers

TikTok Influencers

The last thing you want to do in your TikTok ads is to be perceived as just some “boomers” trying to grab money. One way to avoid this is to present your message with a familiar face. By using an influencer not only is your message more likely to be well received, but as someone with a large following they will likely know the ins and outs of TikTok and be able to offer some expertise. For example, when creating their #chipotlelidflipchallenge campaign, Chipotle employed internet star David Dobrik, who currently has a TikTok following of 9.5 million, to start off their challenge, which involves trying to flip a Chipotle to-go lid, using only the bowl.

Get Creative

If there’s one thing you need to remember when creating TikTok ads it’s to be creative. Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and other social platforms your marketing team may already be using, brand presence on TikTok is very new. Users are not going onto the app to find product information, get the news, etc. thus far; they are there for pure entertainment. So if you expect them to view your whole video, despite the fact that it’s labeled as sponsored, you’re going to have to give them the experience they’re already having on TikTok: laughing (at funny skits), being wowed (by epic dances), and even brought to tears (by cute puppies.) No matter what approach you take, the important thing is to create some form of entertainment, some sort of emotional response, if you want engagement.

Know the Risks

Users and lawmakers alike have raised concerns about the popularity of a Chinese app with young people in the US. Is TikTok sharing our data with China? TikTok representatives say no, and with 60 million users (and counting) in the US and Europe, TikTok has a lot to gain by earning the trust of foreign users and governments. TikTok claims it wants to work with congress to ensure the safety of its users in the US, but nonetheless it is important to consider the data privacy risk you and your company may be taking by using TikTok.


Other Ways to Use TikTok

TikTok for Business

These tips will get you started on your TikTok ads campaign, but they can also be applied to an overall TikTok brand strategy. By creating your own account and posting content to TikTok as a user, you can create an audience and promote your brand, especially if your target market is in Generation Z. While you can’t guarantee to reach as many eyes as a paid ad would, posting to your own account comes off as more authentic and can be used to showcase your overall company and brand culture, as well as individual products.

Have Fun!

Just as its users do, marketers should have fun with TikTok. This app is all about bringing the funny, the cute, the entertainment, and creativity. While they may be paid ads, your TikTok videos need to come off as anything but an advertisement, or they will stick out like a sore thumb. It may be tricky at first as a totally new platform to work with, but when it comes to targeting Gen Z, marketers will not want to miss out on this opportunity.

Marketing to Gen Z: 7 Strategies to Capture & Retain the Rising Generation