Jul 07 2020
These days, when you want to know what young consumers are doing, head to TikTok. YPulse’s last social media report found that 31% of 13-39-year-olds, and more importantly 52% of 13-18-year-olds are currently using the app. Daily engagement among these young users is impressive, with 40% of 13-18-year-olds saying they use the app daily. The app’s user growth among young consumers has been massive, and it’s quickly become one of their favorite social platforms. TikTok is transforming marketing for many brands, and can help products sell out in the blink of an eye. At this point brands understand that they should probably have a TikTok plan to reach Gen Z, and sponsored content on the app abounds—and is often incredibly successful. The sponsored hashtag #HamilFilm to promote the premiere of the filmed show Hamilton on Disney+ has racked up 658.1M views.
So, curious what kind of content is successful on the app? The popular content that shows up in the Discover page is a mixture of sponsored campaigns, popular songs being used as background tracks, and user-generated viral topics. Some of those trending hashtags are self explanatory: #FavoriteRecipe has 1.1B views, #BeautyReview has 502M, and #WearAMask has 1.3B. But others take a little more investigation. If you’re mystified by TikTok trends (or just don’t feel like downloading the app to check it out yourself), we’ve got you covered. Here’s an explainer of some of the most popular hashtags on the platform right now, and what they say about young consumers:
SummerVlog (1B views)
Well, it might look very different from any summer they’ve had before, but it is officially summer—and TikTokers are sharing what they’re doing with #SummerVlogs. The hashtag is full of simple and wholesome content. The top videos include a girl bringing her dogs to Starbucks, a DIY instructional on creating cut off shorts from Walmart jeans, and a cute couple shopping for an apartment. Guacamole recipes, DIY water parks, a behind the scenes look at making ice cream from an employee at Cold Stone Creamery are all #SummerVlogs. A video of another cute couple making BLTs together has 256.6K likes and 1.1M views—of course, the TikToker @elleliniewski has 1.5M followers. (And yes, you might have noticed that cute couples do very well on TikTok.) #SummerVlogs are both envy inducing, aspirational, and entertaining, a little like watching all the happy parts of a teen movie in little clips. The fact is that pure content has been thriving during the pandemic, and young consumers seem to have an endless appetite for it right now—for good reason of course. These videos prove a bright spot (or endless feed of bright spots) during an undoubtedly difficult time. #SummerVlog in particular is helping them to celebrate moments in a summer that for many is full of cancelled plans and skipped traditions.
Cottagecore (1.4B views)
Looking for a place to ogle homemade candles, tiny gardens, and tea sets? The hashtag description encourages users: “Flower prints, knitting, plants and mushrooms. Show us your #Cottagecore life.” Think of #CottageCore as a version of ASMR—the videos are soothing and satisfying. CottageCore is both an aesthetic—think country vistas and cute cottages—and a content type, with DIY recipes and crafts shown off to millions of viewers. Unlike many hashtags, no single song or track unites the videos. Bread bakes to the tune of the Totoro theme song, fireplaces crackle, and homey projects and gardens are shown off as classical or oldies play in the background. But one track used for several hundred of the #CottageCore videos does sum up the trend: ogpeachykeen’s original sound asks, “Anyone else just wanna just like, move off the grid into a cottage in the middle of the forest where you can bathe in a nearby stream, and make your own quilts, and grow your own herbs and spices, and dance with the fairies? Because, same.” Study Breaks theorizes that Cottagecore is Gen Z’s way of coping with the pandemic. Young consumers have pivoted to new fashion trends in response to quarantines, and cottagecore “is an aesthetic on the rise.” Cooped up teens who want to indulge in the fantasy of being “soft and domestic” and get caught up in picking flowers, cooking, cleaning, and “daintily” decorating their homes are attracted to this comforting content. For many, it’s not necessarily a realistic lifestyle for them, but images of “pressed lilacs, frilly dresses, moss covered trees and thatch-roof cottages” provide a combination of escapist fantasy and self-care.
#YouGotIt (2.1B views)
As the New York Times put it, TikTok has become an outlet for expression unlike “anything that came before” it. Whether “it’s serious or silly,” one thing is for sure: TikTok has become the ultimate space for its (majority Gen Z) users to share how they feel and who they are—and the #YouGotIt hashtag shows that they are all about talking about mental health, support, and acceptance. Unlike the other hashtags we’ve explained here, #YouGotIt videos all use one track: the song “Sales” by Renee—or specifically the chorus’s repeat line, “Hey, you got it, you got it.” Several of the most popular videos show “cool” parents listing all the things they let their kids have—from mental health days to ice cream for dinner. (Some of these TikTokers don’t actually have kids yet, but are sharing their dream parenting style.) But other #YouGotIt clips generally fall along one theme: listing out or showing various ways that they support friends or loved ones, or reminding viewers of self-care moments. Encouraging “it gets better” messages abound. User @Ms_Ryan’s #YouGotIt video lists all the ways that she says “you got it” to her students, from giving advice to using preferred pronouns. #YouGotIt puts young consumers’ desire for acceptance, and their openness about mental health, in plain view.
#AppleJuice (258.2M views)
TikTok is full of viral challenges—many of them dance challenges, which have become a go-to way for brands (and musicians) to get their content to trend. But right now, a non-dance challenge is trending on the app: #AppleJuice. Social media challenges can often be, well, dangerous (remember Tide Pods) so one might be wary about any food or drink related trending tag. But this one turns out to be incredible wholesome. Apparently, when the plastic Martinelli brand apple juice bottles (which are round and slightly apple shaped) are bitten, it sounds like biting into an apple. The hashtag is full of teens and families trying out the challenge and being delighted when they’re able to create the sound. A video explaining why the bottles make the sound (they contain three layers of plastic) has 636.9K likes and 4M views. (Four million.) So, if Martinelli is wondering why their plastic apple juices are selling more than usual—they can thank this hashtag. No, it’s not sponsored—it’s one of the more rare and more authentic moments that a brand benefits from a viral challenge. But, the brand did feature one of the more adorable videos (starring @greyandmama, a.k.a. the “thank you mama” baby) on their own social channels, capitalizing on the moment.
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