How these 3 brands are winning on TikTok

McDonalds, L'Oreal and Kayo Sports detail their content and campaign approach on the social media platform and what it means for brand engagement

TikTok is dominating the social media platform scene right now at a consumer level. And with that comes a rush of brands looking to get into the game and build engagement through the platform with these far-reaching audiences.

During today’s TikTok for Business Australian event, brand and agency leaders from McDonalds, L’Oreal and Kayo Sports shared how they’re using the next-generation social media platform as part of their wider marketing strategy, and learnings on what it takes to be relevant and authentic on the platform

McDonalds: Sounding authentic

As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations in Australia in 2020, McDonalds tapped into the TikTok platform with an audio-based approach, allowing creators to take its iconic sting, ‘I’m lovin’ it’, and turn it into something new.

As a first step, McDonalds senior brand leader, Nicole Tsiros, said the QSR used TikTok to gather insights about what its fans were doing on the platform. This led to the realisation many users were already remixing its iconic jingle. With music such a key part of the platform, taking a sound-first approach was identified as a powerful way to engage.

“Instead of force-feeding a campaign or concept around that, we decided to just encourage creators to do that,” Tsiros said. “We engaged with several content creators and just had fun with it. The intention was trying to speak the same language as our fans, giving them content that is engaging and fun.”

McDonalds selected seven creators to work with, including Australian DJ, Havana Brown. Each was given a brief to remix the Maccas sting in a way that was “ownable to them and their community and audience,” DDB head of social, Alex Watts, said. So far, the campaign has chalked up 41 million impressions in terms of reach as well as 20,000 pieces of user-generated content.

“That’s 20,000 individual stories of how people spend time with McDonalds,” Watts said. “If you think about brand results and building, knowing people are telling a story about you that’s on brand is exciting, and with such a distinctive brand asset as the sting, is incredible to see.”

Vital to brand success for Tsiros was allowing TikTok creators to produce something that was recognisably theirs.

“We gave them a brief but it wasn’t like we said they had to do X or Y. The beauty of the campaign was it came to life as there was flexibility to it,” she said. “We kept brand codes true and strong, they put their character into those pieces of content. That’s why they have hundreds of thousands of followers. We didn’t want content to be any different to their normal feed content.

“They were also all young Australian artists, which was another important thing for us: Helping to uncover Aussie talent.”  

Notably, fans on TikTok who created their own versions of the Maccas tune weren’t just Gen Z or millennials either. They also included families plus niche communities like the Ford car and BMX communities.

As for learnings on how brands can activate on TikTok, Tsiros’ top piece of advice is to give content creators some flexibility.

“Yes, there’s a brief and things you need to communicate and make sure are coming across. But for us, authenticity is such huge piece of how we want our content to appear moving forward and make it engaging,” she said. “You need to be aligned to the content creators and be comfortable in their world.

“Also, it’s about having a bit of fun. You can’t plan everything that is co-content created… Consumers are smart: If the content doesn’t look like what they’re used to seeing in that platform, they will dismiss it. It is important to make sure it’s actually content, not an ad.”  

Watts said the result was content that’s authentic but still featured one of the most powerful brand cues for McDonalds upfront in first 2 seconds.

“Building and embracing how people spend time with your brand is revelatory. You can be authentic – you are speaking the way they speak and acting the way they act,” Watts said.  “If you are willing to give a bit of brand over, you get so much in return.”   

L’Oreal: Social commerce

A more direct example of the tie-in between social platforms, entertainment and commerce – or what TikTok is labelling ‘community commerce’ - can be found in L’Oreal’s use of the platform as part of its marketing efforts.

L’Oreal A/NZ chief marketing officer, Matthijs van der Putten, stressed authenticity, along with the speed, two-way engagement and ability to close the loop on conversion as major drivers for the brand’s decision to invest.

“The reason why we use TikTok is because we have this direct feedback from consumers – we can see what they like and can see the direct response in our sales,” he explained. “Things spread fast. With our Maybelline New York brand, we launched the Sky High mascara in the US, which was picked up by creators, then it moved to Australia, where we saw sales take off as well.

“It’s a platform where people are given the opportunity to see a product in action, test it themselves and give direct feedback to other people in the community.”  

Wavemaker national head of content partnerships, Shivani Maharaj, highlighted the “real, raw and authentic” nature of TikTok as its strength, even as it “almost goes against all the things we were taught about advertising”. One element particularly pertinent for beauty and skincare brands is the direct review and listening capability.

“TikTok has really humanised reviews,” Maharaj claimed. “We have lived in a world that has been obsessed with star ratings online. Seeing what real people have to say, trying it, and hearing the good and bad, is much more human. TikTok is a nice way to almost focus group whether our products are great and working. I like being able to listen to the community, then also adapt advertising off the back of that.”  

A particularly useful content style in the beauty and skincare category on TikTok are hacks and how-tos, particularly those showing creators using products that make consumers’ lives easier.

Off the back of these insights, L’Oreal’s approach has been about building community around product usage, sharing tips, tricks and reviews.

“It all starts with good product. If you have a good product, then it’s picked up by people, they exchange tips on how to use it,” van der Putten said. “With make-up, people start looking at how to create the smoky eye look, or what the hottest lipstick colours in summer now we’re coming out of Covid-19 lockdowns. For skincare, it’s tips on treating certain skin concerns.”  

A L’Oreal campaign running right now is for its Le Roche Posay sunscreen range. As well as raising awareness of the products, van der Putten said it’s tackling a serious message around skin cancers and raising broader awareness across other consumers on the platform in Australia.

“That’s the power of TikTok – it is authentic, a fast dialogue and an ever-evolving message,” he said. “It’s totally different from traditional advertising, where you’re sending a polished message without direct feedback. Advertising in 2021 really has evolved.”  

Yet even as he said this, van der Putten compared live video to the rise of TV-based infomercials in the 1980s. These not only supplied product usage information, but also gave consumers the ability to order a product.

“Now, you can watch a creator live applying a product, talking about it, discuss it with other people, see direct feedback from people watching that video, then directly close the loop and buy on the product on our website or from a retail partner,” he said. “It’s direct response, direct purchase and for me, it’s the ultimate view of TikTok ‘made me buy it’. You see something, are excited by it, can purchase it then have it delivered to your door.”

Kayo Sports: Backstage access

Kayo head of social, Carl Burgmann, said TikTok is providing a pass for sports fans to backstage, with access to stories from athletes the core focus.

“It’s empowering athletes through our channel to tell their story away from the pitch,” he said. “It’s really resonating with a more youthful audience.”

Kayo Sport’s content strategy focuses on sharing stories from TikTokers across sports globally, looking for them across the platform then highlighting or following their lead. The sports streaming provider is also shooting content away from the pitch, using a mix of questions and antics to create a sense of banter, humour and engagement. Burgmann said it’s also heroing its ambassadors to be the face of the brand, pushing that content through TikTok.

“A lot of social platforms are built around two-way communication, and fans play just as important a role as we do trying to create excitement around a particular sport,” he said. “We try to hype up a sport or moment as much as we can, but also lean into what fans are telling us and what they’re excited about, then try to replicate that. That might be the ambassadors…and bring them a step closer to the fans.”

A recent example of how Kayo Sports is building community is through its hashtag, #kayohousemate, a campaign launched at the start of the AFL and NRL season in 2020. A core group of ambassadors were used to bring the Kayo house to life, with TikTok users invited to apply to also be part the house. Other athletes were also engaged who were also creating on the social platform to submit applications too. Features used to help collaborate on content included TikTok’s stitch feature to bring existing video content into your own, plus Duet to run content alongside your own.

Burgmann said it was about having a bit of fun and building banter, an important part of the Kayo brand approach.

“What we found was this built a strong community that allowed TikTokers to participate and gave them the freedom to flex their creativity. They might be sports fans but also chefs, mothers, artists,” he said.

Another campaign for the World Cricket T20 Cup saw Kayo Sports working with six creators to promote and educate Australian sports fan about the tournament and come to Kayo to watch it live. Creators included Australian Olympic diver, Sam Fricker.

“Sam for example had a big established audience, is a natural in front of the camera, is young and energetic. He doesn’t know a lot about cricket and brought this whole narrative around someone who is an unexpected cricket host but was someone young consumers would gravitate towards,” Burgmann said.  

“It builds an audience that wasn’t necessarily a core cricket audience and start to bring them into the Kayo family.”

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