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GUEST COMMENT From in vogue to on trend: how luxury brands can master TikTok

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Emma Lacey, SVP EMEA, Zefr

Having surpassed one billion monthly users in late 2021, it’s clear TikTok is no flash in the pan. So it’s no surprise that luxury brands have now embraced the social media upstart. TikTok is known for being Gen Z’s social platform of choice, and with 20% of luxury goods now bought by that demographic, these brands are deciding to get in on the action. 

With TikTok challenges like Burberry’s #TBChallenge – which resulted in 57 million views – to working with the platform’s influencers, as Gucci did with Francis Bourgeois, luxury brands appear to have adapted to the platform’s creative, short-form video format and community-led ethos with style. But on such a rapidly evolving platform, what are the key things brands need to consider to ensure their continued success on the app? 

The TikTok opportunity 

Historically, luxury brands have maintained an image of exclusivity by targeting adverts at audiences from specific socioeconomic backgrounds and demographics that might typically be able to afford their price points. High-end fashion brands often feature in prestigious publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and run aspirational TV ad campaigns, while luxury car manufacturers tend to sponsor legacy events, such as Jaguar’s partnership with Wimbledon. 

But with the rapid growth of influencer marketing and social commerce, the opportunities in social media and in leveraging user generated content (UGC) platforms are undeniable. By tapping into popular social platforms such as TikTok, brands can broaden their reach and appear more relatable to audiences, all without losing their high-quality aesthetic. Through partnerships with influencers or crafting their own tailored campaigns for the platform, products take on a life of their own; they promote online discussions and breed communities, with content often going viral. 

For example, the organic #GucciModelChallenge was developed independently of the brand by TikTok creators, with Gucci eventually jumping on the trend itself and featuring in Vogue — circling back to familiar territory for the fashion powerhouse. Meanwhile, BMW is the most-viewed luxury car brand on TikTok, largely driven by the manufacturer’s creative behind-the-scenes content and partnerships with influencers such as Younes Zarou.  

New platform, new followers

Leveraging TikTok allows brands to branch out from their usual target audience and reach engaged consumers who may aspire to buy their products. Considering Gen Z’s large presence on TikTok and their $360 billion spending power, luxury brands would be wrong to dismiss the platform’s advertising value and ability to nurture brand loyalty. 

With the TikTok algorithm delivering relevant content and recommendations to users based on their previous interactions, brands are more likely to reach the right audiences at the right time. One way brands can harness these audiences is by aligning with trends – or creating them – that reflect both their own ethos and the consumer’s interests. For example, Moncler created the #MonclerBubbleUp challenge; working with TikTok creators such as Charli D’Amelio, the hashtag encouraged users to recreate Moncler’s signature padded coat with found items. 

By keeping up with these trends, legacy brands can position themselves as reactive and current. However, to ensure they’re embracing TikTok to the best of its potential, marketers will need to adapt content to suit the platform’s distinct format. Simply reusing content from other channels, like on the open web, won’t work for the app’s video-specific environment and users will disengage. Testing content until they find what works for them will be the key to TikTok success.

Safety first 

Brand safety is a legitimate concern for any advertiser, particularly when finding their feet with a new platform. If ads appear alongside inappropriate or harmful content, brands can reach irrelevant audiences and suffer other unintended consequences, such as reputational damage. On TikTok, brand safety and suitability controls are more nuanced due to the changing nature of user generated video content, which cannot be vetted in the same way as analysing text on the open web.

Industry initiatives such as the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) already exist to combat this issue, outlining specific risk thresholds so brands are armed with the right knowledge to put protective measures in place. Marketers can responsibly, equitably, and openly create and share content they know audiences will love, in addition to being able to transparently analyse and understand the impact of campaigns that are safely running on the platform.

Mastering TikTok 

So what are the key takeaways for luxury brands hoping to crack TikTok and open their doors to new audiences?

  1. Tailor campaigns to the platform. Creatives built for websites or even other social apps are unlikely to elicit the same response with target audiences on TikTok.
  2. Engaging with audiences and creating community hubs is key. Monitor trends, hashtags and the behaviour of consumers to determine the perfect time to react.
  3. Ensure brand safety and suitability controls are in place before any campaign goes live. Mitigating all forms of risk from the beginning is a vital contributor to the running of a smooth campaign.

Luxury brands have an exciting opportunity to expand their reach and establish valuable, long-term consumer relationships through TikTok. By creating dynamic, relevant content that taps into current trends, brands can spark engagement, build their audiences, and diversify into new territory.

Emma Lacey is SVP EMEA, Zefr

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