NEW GEN Z 101: Unlock & Outlast Microtrends

4 Brands Tapping TikTok to Reach Young Europeans

Jul 05 2022

Having a TikTok marketing strategy is a must for brands trying to reach young Europeans today. Here’s how four brands have successfully done it…


TL;DR

  • TikTok is creating the pop culture, fashion, food, and music trends that young consumers care about most—and brands have ample opportunity to get involved
  • Some brands are winning over young Europeans with direct TikTok shopping and sponsorship partnerships
  • Other brands are going DIY, tapping into viral trends, memes, and their own employees to create a splash

The influence of TikTok on young consumers’—and especially Gen Z’s—lives cannot be overstated. Just weeks after the first lockdown orders came down in 2020, TikTok was named “the breakout COVID-19 social media platform”—and the past two years have only seen its use and influence grow. Now, the majority of young Europeans are on the app, and it’s quickly become the source of viral content and memes that are creating culture today. Now, TikTok has changed the music industry, spawned fashion trends, created the next generation of celebrities, and is generating the pop culture moments young consumers care about most.

TikTok has also become a marketing hotspot: among Gen Z, who are using the app the most, TikTok is the top place they last saw an ad that made them want to purchase something. But a brand’s success on TikTok is not about creating an ad to show up on young consumers’ fyps. Instead, Gen Z and Millennials want brand content to integrate seamlessly into their feeds, and tap the viral trends, memes, and features that only TikTok has to offer. Here are four brands that are doing just that:

L’Oréal’s #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt products

TikTok has led the rise of social shopping over the past two years, thanks in part to the user-generated hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which has a whopping 10.7B views and is a top way young consumers are finding out about and buying viral products. Now, TikTok has its dedicated Shop tab, a shopping feature that enables merchants and creators to showcase and sell products directly on TikTok, and is testing a dedicated “Shop” feed that lets users browse and purchase products from a number of different categories, such as clothing and electronics. To tap into this social commerce goldmine, L’Oréal partnered with TikTok to sell its creator-curated gift boxes exclusively available in the U.K. on the app via #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt branding. While TikTok has been upping its social shopping game lately, this marks the first time it put its own branding on another company’s product. The two brands worked with popular TikTok creators Kirsty Bell (@kirsty.bell) and Dolli (@dolli.glam)to curate the boxes, and even held a week-long festival of live beauty events featuring popular creators, with over 100 hours of live content. YPulse’s WE shopping and retail research found that nearly half of young Europeans want to shop via social media, and 69% say that online shopping should be an experience. Meanwhile, TikTok is continuing to explode in popularity among young consumers and is officially the top place trends are born, giving brands like L’Oréal that move into the space an edge among these generations.

Mark & Spencer’s staff influencers

In late 2020, the store manager of British retailer Marks & Spencer’s Longbridge location posted a TikTok video of him enthusiastically showing off the company’s new “scan and shop” feature—and instantly went viral. Young consumers everywhere responded to the manager Craig Field’s upbeat attitude and overall wholesome vibe, and the video quickly racked up more than 1.3M views. Mark & Spencer saw an opportunity to reach this new generation and handed the account over to Field, who has since become a social media star in his own right. Now, the brand has let other local branches hand their social media accounts over to their employees—and other companies are following suit: British high-end department store John Lewis now has nearly 400 employee-led social media accounts linked to their work, and the staff at the Leeds branch of the U.K. health and beauty retailer Superdrug have become TikTok sensations by posting coordinated dances, product recommendations, and other viral trends bandwagoning. Employees know the company better than anyone else, and seeing employees promote their employers on their personal accounts makes the brand feel relatable—and the content genuine. Now, YPulse’s WE Pop Culture Redefined report found that more than a quarter of young Europeans say using employees to promote a brand would cause them to like the brand more.

Cannes’ official TikTok partnership

As young consumers increasingly turn away from the major live events and awards shows of old in favor of social media, the institutions responsible for these occasions are partnering with TikTok in a bid to reach younger audiences. This year, France’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival was the latest to tap TikTok, providing users with exclusive content from backstage, glamorous red carpet scenes and interviews with talent. As part of the partnership, Cannes also worked with TikTok to launch #TikTokShortFilm, a global in-app competition of short films between 30 seconds and 3 minutes long, three of which were given awards at the ceremony in May. The Academy Awards also partnered with TikTok creators to generate hype about this year’s Oscars ceremony, while MTV’s VMAs added a TikTok award category to recognize up-and-coming artists and creators, and last year’s MET Gala was heavily covered on TikTok by Gen Z and Millennials. YPulse’s WE Pop Culture Redefined trend research found that memes / viral videos, album drops, and celeb scandals outrank award shows when it comes to pop culture moments they pay attention to, and live events and institutions that can quickly hop on viral trends—and create them themselves—will have a better chance of reaching these gens.

Barilla’s Rigatoni Day

As mentioned above, memes / viral videos are the pop culture moments young consumers (and Gen Z in particular) care about most, and they’re more than OK with brands jumping on board. In fact, 64% of young Europeans agree that brands should comment on viral pop culture events to stay relevant with their generation, and even more say they like it when brands do this. One example of a brand doing this successfully is Italian pasta brand Barilla, which seized on a bizarre viral hashtag and running joke on TikTok—and took it to the next level. In 2020, a TikTok post shared by user @jimmyrules32 encouraged people to “eat a bowl of rigatoni pasta on May 24th 2021” and went viral, inspiring the hashtag #EatABowlOfRigatoniPastaOnMay242021, which accumulated more than 41 million views. The joke “rigatoni day” even spawned a separate account, @rigatonipastacountdown, which posted daily reminders leading up to May 24, 2021. Seeing an opportunity, Barilla created a parody of the original video, which was set to the tune of “Funkytown,” by Lipps Inc., and officially named May 24th “Rigatoni Day.” Barilla partnered with Khaby Lame, a TikTok creator who lives in Italy and is now the most-followed person on TikTok with 145 million followers, to promote its tune and the fake pasta-themed holiday.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full Pop Culture Redefined report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.

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