© MMXXII X—LABS
Brands are seeing the benefits of dropping their guard on TikTok, making authentic connections through entertaining content that not only drives awareness but also shortens the path to purchase.
Inspire Creativity. Bring Joy. Build Brands.
Few brands are better known for their polished marketing style than Marks & Spencer.
But when the retailer took a different tack for Valentine’s Day last year, making light of its iconic ‘This isn’t just…’ tagline with a series of funny short-form videos on TikTok, the high street stalwart saw huge impact.
In just five days, the videos generated more than 18.5 million impressions with a clickthrough rate above 15%, driving thousands of users through to M&S’s website. With nearly 150,000 followers on its TikTok account today, M&S Food marketing director Sharry Cramond has described the platform as “going off like a rocket”, breaking old customer stereotypes and driving sales via a new, younger audience base.
Its success is testament to the growing power of entertainment content in driving sales for UK brands. Entertaining audiences hasn’t always taken centre-stage in marketing, but whether it’s John Lewis’s annual Christmas ad, witty one-liners on social media, or experiential and immersive events, there’s an increasingly prominent role for humour, characters and storytelling alongside product messages.
Nowhere is this trend more in evidence than in brands’ activity on TikTok, where they are creating entertaining content not only to amplify reach and awareness, but also to turbocharge the sales funnel.
This is also changing the way marketers think about their brand voice. Today, it can be much more effective for them to drop their guard and connect with audiences on a more human level.
“Historically the brand teams in organisations have had a protective view of how they portray themselves on media,” says Ryan Walton, founder and managing director at Aura Ads, which works with brands to develop creative paid content for TikTok. This is all changing, thanks to how TikTok’s users reward highly engaging and authentic videos. “TikTok is breaking the mould in that sense,” he says.
Tapping into this demand for authenticity and entertainment is what sent Little Moons viral in 2021. It was a young graduate working in the brand’s head office who first began posting to TikTok, initially as a small side project, but its mochi desserts quickly began to attract a flood of attention on the platform as users began interacting with its content and sharing their own creations. Not only did their efforts attract more than a 100 million views of the #littlemoons hashtag but, coupled with paid ad content, the brand saw a 1,300% spike in sales.
“TikTok is an essential platform for Little Moons, both because it fits with what we want the brand to mean for our audience – ‘little lifts of positivity’ - and because it’s been instrumental in creating huge reach that ultimately propelled our business forward dramatically in 2021,” says marketing director Ross Farquhar.
“We see [platforms such as TikTok] as opportunities to entertain and collaborate with people, in an effort to make them feel warmer towards the brand,” he adds, “and ultimately, for that warmth to convert when they find themselves in front of a freezer in their local supermarket.”
Authentic connections with audiences
How brands are harnessing entertainment on TikTok to drive sales
TikTok has “put creative back at the forefront where it belongs”, says Nic Taylor, founder and CEO of skincare brand 47 Skin. “There is no room any more for lazy creative. TikTok is an entertainment platform; you have to entertain and, in that, drive from awareness through to conversion. You have to join the dialogue that’s already going on in a consumer’s mind; it has to be engaging and authentic enough to earn its right within that person’s entertainment space.
“It’s making all advertisers step up to where they should have always been but for the most part haven’t – including us. It’s a great thing for consumers, brands and advertising itself.”
Indeed, the definition of entertainment, and therefore the opportunity for marketers, has changed over the years, according to Terri Squibb, head of partnerships at JUMP, part of Havas Entertainment. “With the emergence of new platforms, entertainment no longer lives solely on TV or at in-person events. It comes from anywhere, from anyone, at any time, in the real world or a virtual world, or both.”
“TikTok is an entertainment platform; you have to entertain and, in that, drive from awareness through to conversion.”
— Nic Taylor, 47 Skin
This power of entertainment to drive sales isn’t only about reach and awareness. It’s also the way in TikTok has dramatically shortened the traditional sales funnel, catalysing the journey from product discovery to purchase. Where once this journey could see consumers interact with brands across multiple touchpoints - from TV ads and billboards to in-store promotional campaigns – before picking up a product to try, now watching a few seconds of creative content can prompt a purchase.
As a result, “there is huge growth in brands looking to implement specific full-funnel entertainment strategies to complement their media plan and ultimately drive sales - in some cases, investing solely in this space”, says Squibb at JUMP.
“The growth of fandoms and communities has led to a shift in influence through entertainment, particularly in the worlds of gaming, streetwear and tech. Product drops across platforms like TikTok or YouTube can result in items selling out within minutes, thanks to the simplicity to purchase, with goods being only one click away.”
In fact, according to 2021 research by TikTok, 92% of users on the platform say they’ve taken action after watching a video there, and one in four globally say they’ve either researched a product or made a purchase after doing so. That puts the platform squarely ahead of in-store displays, TV and print when it comes to nudging potential consumers along the purchase journey. It’s also what has driven 13 billion views of the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag.
“It's speeding up and lubricating commerce, making it super quick and fluid,” says Walton at Aura Ads.
Greater functionality has recently been added to TikTok, to allow users to jump more easily to ecommerce sites. And in 2021 it launched TikTok Shop, which allows brands to showcase and sell products directly on the platform through live and in-feed videos, and the product showcase tab.
But it also comes back to the way in which TikTok rewards genuinely engaging, authentic and entertaining content from brands, rather than the type of polished messaging usually prioritised across other channels.
“With traditional media, there's a larger gap between the brand and the consumer, as the brand keeps consumers at arm's length,” says Walton. “With TikTok it's, 'here's Mary from down the road trying out the product and loving it,' or a fun piece of creative. That feels much more relatable to the end consumer, and therefore reduces the distance - even if just cognitive distance - between the brand and consumer, making purchasing much easier and much quicker.”
A quicker path to conversion
Learn how you can maximise your retail and ecommerce TikTok presence with this Marketer's Guide to TikTok.