While TikTok is facing scrutiny from regulators, the brand continues to flourish with more and more marketers turning to the platform to engage with its expansive consumer base and widening roster of increasingly influential creators.
As the Washington Post recently reported, TikTok creators had a presence on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet this year interviewing stars alongside journalists from traditional media – with the app itself being the primary platform for celebrities to share what they were up to at the fest.
Even with debates over TikTok continuing in the halls of government, its growing popularity with marketers shows no sign of slowing – earlier this month even the iconic New York Yankees expanded their partnership with the platform.
As Michael J. Tusiani, New York Yankees Senior Vice President, Partnerships, said in a release: “Continuing our relationship allows us the opportunity to connect with a younger demographic and grow its interest in the Yankees and the game of baseball.” That partnership includes TikTok branding at Yankee Stadium, and a “TikTok Days” planned for later this season.
To catch up on TikTok’s presence in the Asia Pacific and how brands are using the platform, we recently spoke with Shant Oknayan, Vice President of Global Business Solutions – Asia-Pacific, Middle East & Africa at TikTok.
Over the course of our conversation, he talks about how TikTok communities are “leaned-in and primed to engage with brands”, the recent scrutiny from regulators, a rise in creators from different walks of life, how marketers in the region are using the platform, and more.
In terms of brands using TikTok to engage with consumers, which APAC countries are seeing the most growth and in what countries are you prioritizing your presence?
TikTok has rapidly gained popularity across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, seeing significant growth in user and business adoption and engagement. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to prioritizing our presence in the region, we continually evaluate and tailor our strategy to ensure that we are supporting brands and their marketing needs across different markets in the region. We’re committed to being that trusted platform that inspires creativity and delivers results.
What are some of the challenges that brands face marketing on TikTok and what advice do you have to increase exposure and engagement?
The economic challenges today are significant and marketers need to remain agile to keep improving their Return on Investment: testing, learning and repeating. TikTok can be a highly effective marketing channel for brands to drive effectiveness. WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit survey, for instance, found that 69% of APAC marketers are shifting investments to target interest-based communities, with 67% reevaluating their media mix towards TikTok.
TikTok’s communities are leaned-in and primed to engage with brands. To increase exposure and engagement, my advice is to focus on showcasing your brand’s unique personality and values as well as building creative messages that are authentic and genuine in order to resonate on the platform.
Furthermore, collaborating with potential buyers as well as creators to be a part of your brand story; formats like HashTag Challenges, Branded Missions, and Spark Ads allow participation by these communities to co-create brand content with their tone of voice to deliver a more authentic and genuine marketing message. And platforms like TikTok Creative Exchange and TikTok Creator Marketplace can help brands find the perfect creative partners and creators to do this with.
A recent campaign we ran with Klook, the leading digital travel company, included bringing in 12 different creators from across Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam to Singapore to indulge in the ‘Avatar: The Experience’ exhibit. The campaign was designed to help users on TikTok take a ‘trip before the trip’, by creating hype, awareness, and excitement for the exhibit tied to the biggest movie of the year – Avatar: The Way of Water. The campaign encouraged visitors from around the region to experience living in the stunning beauty of Pandora, the fictional planet from the movie franchise.
“To increase exposure and engagement, my advice is to focus on showcasing your brand’s unique personality and values as well as building creative messages that are authentic and genuine in order to resonate on the platform.”
The creators showcased the spectacular venue with livestreams and TikToks. Ads appeared at the top of users’ ‘For You’ pages, instantly grabbing attention and generating brand awareness while maximizing audience reach. Klook was able to generate 1.15 million ad impressions and reach a total of 648,000 unique viewers, achieving over 40,000 total unique livestream users.
It is also crucial for brands to regularly monitor and measure performance to make adjustments to their content strategy. A study by consultancy Ebiquity found 42% of advertising’s profit happens in the short-term and 58% in the long-term. The power of TikTok is that it enables brands to engage consumers along their full journey – from discovery to purchase, helping brands achieve measurable results and ultimately grow their business.
As an example, Torano, a leading fashion brand in Vietnam, drove higher ROAS and Average Order Value by using Value-based Optimization on Video Shopping Ads Leveraging ecosystem partners and saw 1.6x higher ROAS and 3x increase in GMV.
“In APAC we see a similar impact, with Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya having separate shelf space dedicated to trending books on TikTok in Singapore. TikTok is helping consumers experience discovery through entertainment.”
We also see a fundamental shift in the way consumers interact with brands. They are more open to participating in and reviewing brands and products because of the democratization of creativity on online platforms like TikTok, especially through hashtags like #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. The recently launched BCG report also shows that 81% of APAC TikTok users say video content influenced their recent purchase. Because shoppable videos on TikTok are entertaining and convincing, Maybelline Vietnam drove a 790% increase in sales of their Superstay products by utilizing #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt.
In what ways is TikTok supporting small and medium-sized businesses in the region, and what initiatives are there to help them succeed?
There are several programs and initiatives that TikTok has put in place to support SMBs. For instance, Grow with TikTok’s Starter Lab offers interactive sessions to help SMBs in Southeast Asia build their expertise as advertisers and grow their businesses effectively on TikTok. TikTok has also formed partnerships with local governments and organisations such as Vietnam E-commerce Association and Indonesia Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy to enable local SMBs to join the platform.
Beyond partnerships, the platform is also always on the lookout for ways that it can innovate its advertising solutions to make it more accessible to SMBs. These include the TikTok Creative Exchange, which connects advertisers with creative experts to support the creation of native-looking TikTok videos for ad campaigns, TikTok Creator Marketplace, which connects brands with TikTok creators for paid partnerships and collaborations. SMBs also have access to CapCut, a solution for small businesses to create impactful videos.
“We are happy to engage with regulators to address any concerns they have, as we continue to make industry-first strides and investments in prioritizing trust and safety of the platform.”
Many SMBs across APAC have benefited from these solutions. In Vietnam, Nerman, a household men’s health & beauty care brand in Vietnam, specialising in perfume, body lotion, and shower gel, positions TikTok as their key channel to supercharge growth. The platform contributed to Nerman’s leading position in the field of Men’s Health & Beauty in Vietnam, with 30% of total revenue tracking from sales via TikTok. Currently, the brand is taking the first steps into other markets such as Thailand and the Philippines, with aspirations to have a presence in all markets across Southeast Asia.
In Indonesia, BMKS and Bio Herb decided to take their journey onto TikTok after joining the first #MajuBarengTikTok programme. The unprecedented growth on TikTok prompted the SMB to experiment with TikTok for Business Ads Solutions and within 5 months, BMKS and Bio Herb saw sales increase by 300% upon creating videos that featured everyday people and prominent, well-liked creators using and explaining the benefits of their products.
TikTok has faced increased scrutiny from regulators around the world. How is the company addressing these concerns while still providing a personalized experience for users?
TikTok is an entertainment that provides entertainment value to users, creativity to creators, and drives results for brands. We are happy to engage with regulators to address any concerns they have, as we continue to make industry-first strides and investments in prioritizing trust and safety of the platform.
We’re committed to being transparent in how information is being collected, used and shared, and this will be coupled with partnerships with trusted industry trade groups, like TAG Brand Safety Certified and experts in the industry like the Asia Pacific Safety Advisory Council, which will help uphold our rigorous standards for transparency in digital advertising and brand safety as we continue to be growth partners for brands.
Can you talk about the role social media has in shaping consumer behavior in the APAC region, and how TikTok approaches the responsibility that comes with such influence?
Online platforms have revolutionized the way brands interact with their consumers. TikTok has been at the forefront of this revolution, offering different ways to interact with brands, discover products and services, and shop. And it’s not just online. TikTok has transformed offline activity, with the success of #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt which has seen products go viral, and #booktok, which a recent survey in North America put as the main reason people are reading up to 50% more [Bookriot].
In APAC we see a similar impact, with Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya having separate shelf space dedicated to trending books on TikTok in Singapore. TikTok is helping consumers experience discovery through entertainment.
“Because shoppable videos on TikTok are entertaining and convincing, Maybelline Vietnam drove a 790% increase in sales of their Superstay products by utilizing #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt.”
At the same time, we want users on the platform to enjoy this discovery process in the safest way possible. To this end, we have safeguards in place like age-appropriate privacy settings and Family Pairing to protect the viewing experience of younger users, in addition to robust content moderation processes, combining next-generation technology with robust human intuition and response, that removes any content that violates our Community Guidelines. We’re committed to being as transparent and accountable as possible to our users and brand partners, ensuring that our Transparency Reports contain the information needed for them to make informed decisions on our platform.
When I first got Facebook years ago, it was tough convincing older family members to join and share so I could keep up with them while living abroad. Eventually, they couldn’t get enough. Do you see TikTok on a similar trajectory? What efforts are you making to expand TikTok’s age demographic?
We believe that the diversity of our creator community is a huge part of what makes TikTok a meaningful and inspiring place to spend time and be engaged, excited, educated and ultimately entertained.
“One is never too old for TikTok and we have definitely seen more seniors joining the TikTok community since the pandemic, with more people spending time at home and looking for ways to interact with their family members.”
We have seen a rise in creators from all walks of life, with families, parents, and grandparents coming onboard the platform to share snippets of their everyday lives. Some of our most highly viewed videos feature whole families across generations coming together to perform a perfectly choreographed dance or young folks connecting with their parents through fun shared activities. Some examples include SG-based Shahrizal Salleh, better known as Chef Bob, or MY-based account @DaddyLucas.
One is never too old for TikTok and we have definitely seen more seniors joining the TikTok community since the pandemic, with more people spending time at home and looking for ways to interact with their family members. TikTok’ll continue empowering users of all ages and backgrounds to express themselves authentically with intuitive tools, functions, and filters that spark joy and bring communities together.