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3 TikTok Trends Brands Should Know

These three things are getting billions of views from young consumers on TikTok—here’s what brands need to know…

We know that young consumers are not fans of traditional marketing—and that they’re great at avoiding it. In fact, 82% of Gen Z tell Millward Brown they skip ads as fast as they can if given the option, and another 69% percent said they physically distract themselves while an ad plays. The majority of young consumers tell YPulse say that advertisements (e.g. commercials, billboards) usually bore them. While that may sound grim, reaching Millennials and Gen Z is not a lost cause—it’s about finding creative ways to engage with them. And these days, TikTok is the go-to for reaching the young and ad-averse.

The short video app grew massively in 2019—and now over a third of Gen Z teens tell YPulse that they’re using TikTok, up from just 12% roughly a year ago, and a quarter say they use it daily. In our recent social media behavior survey, we asked young consumers how they feel about the most popular social platforms, and TikTok was the platform that 13-18-year-olds were most likely to call addictive. Brands have been tapping into trends on the app to reach them for a while now, creating sponsored hashtag challenges and original songs designed to go viral. Big-name advertisers like Ralph Lauren, Chipotle, Eos, Too Faced and E.l.f. have experimented with marketing on the platform by creating content that feels organic to what’s already trending with TikTok users. The hashtag #got2bstyled created by haircare brand Got2B is a recent example that already has over 833 million views. While some of the hashtagged videos are sponsored content, most of them are unpaid users creating videos to keep up with the trend, ranging from Millennials doing their hair before work to teens getting ready for dates.

According to our recent Ad/Marketing effectiveness survey, 65% of Gen Z and Millennials like or love it when brands create ads based on trending memes or viral content—and it’s been a key to success for brands playing on TikTok so far. While sponsored hashtags are an easy way for brands to attempt creating their own viral moments, there are also organic trending topics on the app that more brands could be creatively tapping into to make marketing moments that actually are entertainment (instead of interrupting it). Here are three TikTok hashtags currently racking up billions of views, and the what brands can learn:


While they’re often portrayed as a Peter Pan generation, the majority of Millennials tell YPulse they’ve already reached adulthood and are taking care of a range of adult responsibilities themselves, from housework to making appointments to handling financial responsibilities. But they do joke about the struggles of adulting—and now Gen Z teens (and young Millennials) are giving each other advice and “adulting” hacks on TikTok. The hashtag #howtoadult is explained with the caption: “Being a grown-up isn’t easy. Show us how you’re making it in the real world with #HowToAdult”—the tag currently has 1.9 billion views. Videos range from therapy “hacks” (“When you get into an argument with your partner, the goal should be to understand the others [sic] perspective”) to household tips (using Borax to clean your white sweat-stained items rather than bleach) to life skills (repairing holes in jeans, etc,). While these aren’t new pieces of advice, the short-form video delivery, and the trending music, makes them feel different for young consumers. In other words, they feel like entertainment, not a lecture. Brands (especially CPG and household goods) could join in by posting entertaining videos of “adulting” tips and tricks that feel helpful, not condescending (think new uses for products or little-known tips).


This trend with 1.1 billion views was created in honor of National Pizza Day last week, but the love of pizza is enduring and timeless—and it’s an opportunity for many brands to play with a TikTok trend. Of course, the trend is full of #foodporn shots of giant pizzas, perfectly melted cheese, and even pizza eating hacks. (Yes, they exist.) A video posted by a young female Domino’s employee (showing her expert dough tossing skills) is an example of how brands in the space could be participating. (As Vox points out, young employees can be a brand’s biggest ambassadors on TikTok, but some are wary to partner with them.) But one of the top videos for this hashtag is from ESPN, showing kiss cam footage that accidentally captured a #relatable girl chowing down on multiple slices of pizza behind the couple making out. The clip is a great example of brands using a trending tag to boost engagement with teens in areas that don’t necessarily fall under their purview, but that will feel both entertaining and authentic.


The caption on the front page of this trending hashtag reads, “Whether you’re shopping online, or hitting your local stores, show us those #MustHaves that everyone needs.” Amazon, Zara, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Walgreens and Dollar Tree are all featured in the top videos for this hashtag, most of them montages of essential products from mostly accessible brands.  Like other content produced by TikTok users, these don’t need fancy backgrounds or edits—they’re just another way for young consumers to teach others about tips/products they’ve learned about. Another win for these brands: because TikTok users themselves are creating the content, the result is a diverse spread of gender, race and even personality types (and free publicity for these brands—none of the top videos is sponsored content). At 624.3 million views so far, this trend isn’t yet as big as the ones above, but the potentials for brand participation are huge. Tapping influencers to create their own #musthave videos for a brand (that are clearly marked as ads of course!) is an obvious in on the trend, but brands could also create their own catch #musthave lists to share with followers on the app and promote specific products.