8 lessons in TikTok and Gen Z engagement from Aussie startup founder

the founder of Ovira, an Australian startup boasting of the most followers on TikTok locally, shares her learnings

Gen Z consumers want brands to talk to them at eye level and show them under the hood, not market to them, says the founder of Australian period pain care provider, Ovira.

Alice Williams founded the three-year old startup after personally experiencing horrendous period pain and becoming frustrated with the lack of suitable pain relief solutions in market. Today, Ovira has tens of thousands of customers globally across Australia, Canada, the US, UK and Europe.

It’s also earnt the title of Australia’s most followed brand on TikTok, boasting of more than 6 million followers on the social media platform. In addition, Ovira has a private Facebook group with 14,000 members, most of which are customers, along with a swathe of loyal customers actively posting positive reviews and advocating for the brand.

Williams caught up with CMO to talk about Ovira’s social media success as well as the learnings she’s gleaned both in building social media engagement and engaging Gen Z. With no prior background in marketing and business, Williams sees her lack of formal knowledge as a strength in both fields.

“I came to building Ovira like I’m the consumer, analysing the things I want to read about, ads I would click on, and the education I’d want to see,” she said. “And it’s all been test and learn.”

Here, Williams shares other insights into building commercial success via social channels and with younger audiences.

Lesson 1: Meet your customers at eye level

Initially, Ovira’s third-party social platform participation was limited to Instagram, with typical tiles featuring quotes and stock footage.

“But you just can’t do that anymore – there is so much noise, no one cares if you’re Instagram looks beautiful and everything is on brand,” Williams said. “That’s because Gen Z don’t care about brands. They don’t want to click on ads, they want to talk to you at eye level. They love when brands lift the hood and they get to see behind the scenes. They feel like they’re building a relationship with you one-on-one.”

Williams also described Gen Z as hyper engaged. “They don’t care about being politically correct; they care about values, social impact and so on, but it’s not about who is going to sound the smartest or use the biggest words, like it’s become on Twitter,” she said. “They don’t tear people down, they’re all about having fun and being more entertaining. They do have a very low attention span, which has been exaggerated by the way we consume content now. If you stall 1-2 seconds at the start of the video, they’re scrolling fast.”

It's these learnings Ovira has applied in its TikTok approach and it’s what Williams attributed its success to.

“We had learnt not to look at other brands for inspiration. Stop thinking like a brand was our biggest learning and start thinking like the consumer,” she said. “You see it so often – the millennial brands that try to come into TikTok with really scripted, beautifully shot in-studio videos. But if you scroll on the ‘for you’ page, you barely see any videos on there that look like that – unless you dropped the camera and are being laughed at. Why keep doing something if it doesn’t work? It’s the definition of insanity. Yet brands keep doing that.  

“The brands that have done well, such as Ryan Air and Duo Lingo, make fun of themselves, they are not pristine, they’re laughing and having fun and it’s very raw.”

Lesson 2: Embrace customer advocacy

As a business that’s solving a problem, Ovira was clearly entering the space with a product and purpose people could get behind. People loved the product so much, they were quick to share their experiences and support for the business.

Ovira’s customer base generally fit into two buckets: Women with secondary conditions like severe endometriosis, who were early adopters; and women who have mild to general period pain and would usually just take pharmaceuticals but may have seen reviews of the brand and decide to try the product.

“We are solving a huge problem from the first click. We had people writing in, crying at the checkout as they had never seen a brand that dealt with endometriosis and did X, Y and Z. We were therefore able to build a hyper-engaged community early on who wanted to see us win,” Williams said.

As a result, the micro influencers Ovira works with are organic and usually customers who love the brand, and it works to build a relationship with them directly.

Lesson 3: Test-and-learn on TikTok

Ovira started experimenting organically on TikTok 18 months ago. “There were a lot of changes that took place in the last 18 months with Facebook and so on. They were a blessing, as ultimately they made to better marketers,” Williams commented.  

“Previously, you could put up average ads, press the green button on Facebook and make money. Suddenly, it didn’t work anymore and Facebook didn’t know who your customers were. You need to create extremely good ads to convert anyone. At the same time, we had Covid, and everyone launched an ecommerce offering. The barrier for entry is so low and everything is so competitive.

“One of our goals became ‘F*** off Facebook’. We started to look at different things we would do to still impact our end customer and be able to scale. We tried everything – we were going to go headless with our Shopify store, for example.

“One of the other things we tested was TikTok. We saw incredible results from an engagement perspective right away. It scaled from there.”


♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys - Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

Initially, Ovira started with organic posting. “We started posting about trends, then tested education,” Williams explained. “We’d go hard on the data - as soon as we got 10,000 – 20,000 views, we’d look at what worked and test again. We were getting videos from 1 million to some of the most watched videos on TikTok at 100 million views.”

Lesson 4: Everyone can be a content creator

Williams said no one on the team is a dedicated content creator, and none could speak on camera well at first. But they figured it out.

“Velocity of content uploading is number one,” she said of the keys to harnessing TikTok well. “We don’t hire dedicated content creators. That can work against them. We are hiring hungry people keen to learn, and we’ll give them the data and our learnings and off they go.

In addition, Ovira has adopted a ‘growth team’ approach to marketing. “There are no individual titles, you’re just in the growth team,” Williams said. “This gives us huge flexibility to be super fluid and change our focus to where we need to.”

Lesson 5: Ditch the brand guidelines

Williams is adamant: You will not win on TikTok if you just follow your brand guidelines. “We don’t have internal guidelines and it’s intentional,” she said.

“A brand is not a colour palette, it’s an emotion someone feels when they look and engage with your company. Realising that gives you total freedom. You can try something completely crazy. If people love it, they’ll love your brand. They’re the brands winning at the moment.”

Lesson 6: Harnessing the medium for the message

Today, Ovira’s content emphasis on TikTok is around sex education. “At school, it’s very serious, technical and stale in the classroom. We are the epitome of TikTok content – it’s bite-sized content, we make it fun, have jokes, we talk about things people in the past didn’t want to talk about,” Williams said.

“A lot of topics are even basic things, as you wouldn’t believe the things people don’t know. What’s more, about 40 per cent of our TikTok following are men.”

Lesson 7: Don’t forget why you’re doing it

“We only do things that ultimately get our product into the hands of a customer. We are not obsessed with vanity metrics – none of the following numbers matters if it doesn’t do anything for your engagement and sales,” Williams added.

So even as TikTok dominates engagement for Ovira, it’s not the only marketing tactic or channel the team is involved in, and Williams said the business is always looking at other ways to expand its reach.

“We still believe in digital advertising,” she said. “We do offline media, such as getting behind causes we care about, and we have done billboard campaigns. We are also having conversations with retailers and we’re keen to explore that.”

Lesson 8: The short and long-term game

While Williams said the team can turn things on or off to see how it impacts top-line revenue, attributing sales on a daily basis to social engagement isn’t possible. As a result, she stressed the importance of embracing the numbers as a team, as well as constant collaboration and experimentation.

“You do need smart people who can get a feel for the situation looking at thousands of data points all the time and picking up,” she said. “On a weekly basis, we get together to look at what worked last week versus what didn’t, and what we’ll do next week.”

Don’t miss out on the wealth of insight and content provided by CMO A/NZ and sign up to our weekly CMO Digest newsletters and information services here.  

You can also follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page



Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

More Videos

More Brand Posts



CMO's top 10 martech stories for the week - 9 June

Read more

Great e-commerce article!

Vadim Frost

CMO’s State of CX Leadership 2022 report finds the CX striving to align to business outcomes

Read more

Are you searching something related to Lottery and Lottery App then Agnito Technologies can be a help for you Agnito comes out as a true ...


The Lottery Office CEO details journey into next-gen cross-channel campaign orchestration

Read more

Thorough testing and quality assurance are required for a bug-free Lottery Platform. I'm looking forward to dependability.

Ella Hall

The Lottery Office CEO details journey into next-gen cross-channel campaign orchestration

Read more

Great Sharing thoughts.It is really helps to define marketing strategies. After all good digital marketing plan leads to brand awareness...

Paul F

Driving digital marketing effectiveness

Read more

Blog Posts

Marketing prowess versus the enigma of the metaverse

Flash back to the classic film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Television-obsessed Mike insists on becoming the first person to be ‘sent by Wonkavision’, dematerialising on one end, pixel by pixel, and materialising in another space. His cinematic dreams are realised thanks to rash decisions as he is shrunken down to fit the digital universe, followed by a trip to the taffy puller to return to normal size.

Liz Miller

VP, Constellation Research

Why Excellent Leadership Begins with Vertical Growth

Why is it there is no shortage of leadership development materials, yet outstanding leadership is so rare? Despite having access to so many leadership principles, tools, systems and processes, why is it so hard to develop and improve as a leader?

Michael Bunting

Author, leadership expert

More than money talks in sports sponsorship

As a nation united by sport, brands are beginning to learn money alone won’t talk without aligned values and action. If recent events with major leagues and their players have shown us anything, it’s the next generation of athletes are standing by what they believe in – and they won’t let their values be superseded by money.

Simone Waugh

Managing Director, Publicis Queensland

Sign in