A Not-So-Brief History of Brands Slaying on TikTok (And a Peek at What’s Next)

April 4, 2022 • Written by Camera IQ

A Not-So-Brief History of Brands Slaying on TikTok (And a Peek at What’s Next)

Your social media strategy isn’t complete without TikTok. The music-loving video platform went from new kid on the block to the third largest social network in the world in the span of a few years, and it even surpassed Google as the most popular internet domain in late 2021. Brands that got on board with the platform early have seen some compelling results, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to carve out a piece of TikTok for yourself.

TikTok is standing at an inflection point as AR-powered experiences become more prevalent and powerful for anything social, and this is the perfect time to get your brand involved. Before we get to the future of brands cleaning up on TikTok, let’s see what we can learn from some of the best brand efforts from the past.

2017: TikTok Debuts

TikTok first hit app stores around the world in 2017, though it was preceded by its China-only counterpart Douyin the year before. TikTok’s initial offering was largely the same then as it is today, compelling users to scroll through an endlessly updated selection of short-form videos then record and submit their own. TikTok attracted early comparisons to Vine, another social media site focused on even shorter videos. While Vine withered a few years after it was purchased by Twitter, TikTok and its developer ByteDance have ascended.

It would be beyond the scope of this article to try and break down the secret sauce that allowed TikTok to rise victorious from the masses of 2010s social media startups. In any case, users couldn’t get enough of its 15-second clips, whether they were about social causes, singing to neighborhood cats, or beauty hacks — and soon they wouldn’t be able to get enough of their favorite brands on the platform, either.

Guess #InMyDenim TikTok marketing history

2018: Guess #InMyDenim Challenge Sets the Tone

TikTok’s first branded content in the US was the Guess #InMyDenim challenge. This promotion took the pre-existing TikTok meme format of an instant visual transformation (typically taking users from a drab and dull “before” to a sharp and sexy “after”) and wrapped it up in jeans and a matching jacket, all to bring attention to Guess’ Fall ‘18 Denim Fit Collection. #InMyDenim started off with a branded takeover of TikTok’s splash screen, then cued up a set of four pre-seeded videos from influencers — each set to the tune of “I’m a Mess” by Bebe Rexha.

By the end of the six-day campaign, users had submitted more than 5,550 of their own videos inspired by the challenge and the videos were watched 10.5 million times. The hashtag has taken on a life of its own since then, racking up a total of 53 million views as of this writing. Now imagine how many more people may have submitted their own videos if they could have just used an “instant denim” AR effect instead of having to dig through their wardrobes to get in on the fun.

e.l.f. #eyeslipsface TikTok marketing history

2019: e.l.f. Cosmetics Makes a Song and the Bops Don’t Stop

Music is the beating heart of TikTok, and e.l.f. Cosmetics was the first brand to create its own original track for a TikTok hashtag challenge in October 2019. “Eyes. Lips. Face.” was written by Grammy-winning songwriter iLL Wayno and performed by Holla FyeSixWun, with inspiration pulled from popular songs including “Watch Out” by 2 Chainz and “Ice Me Out” by Kash Doll. It even got its own music video a few months after its initial release.

The catchy beat combined with an easy-to-replicate video format — just show off your eyes, lips, and face — was an instant success, resulting in more than 400,000 videos being created for the hashtag challenge within a week of its launch. Getting hundreds of thousands of people to sing the name of your label (that’s what the “e.l.f.” abbreviation stands for, naturally) as they celebrate themselves is just about everything a beauty brand could want. The hashtag remains a TikTok favorite with 9 billion views today.

Beats by Dre TikTok marketing history

2020: Beats By Dre and Ashnikko Make a Community-Wide Mixtape

The year after e.l.f. made a new song for TikTok, Beats By Dre and singer/rapper Ashnikko came in from the other direction. Users had the chance to be part of an official music video spanning a four-week challenge with four colors, each one lining up with one of the new shades of Beats’ upcoming PowerbeatsPro headphone collection. It was only appropriate for Ashnikko, since her own fame got an early kick from her song “Stupid” going TikTok viral.

Beats and Ashnikko invited users to create clips to be used in the video, and they jumped at the chance to show off their creativity. The final product is a mesmerizing show of fire looks from across the TikTok community — and that’s just talking about the red ones. While TikTok says it received three times as many user submissions as it expected, it’s hard not to wonder how many more people it could have reached with some fresh and fun color effects for everybody to enjoy.

Reese's TikTok marketing history

2021: Reese’s Wins With #TeamStickyCup vs. #TeamCleanCup

So far, all these brand wins have brought the TikTok community together to try fun new things. But Reese’s woke up and chose chaos with an influencer campaign that asked viewers to make a fundamental, irrevocable choice. When you peel the paper wrapper off of a Reese’s cup, do you try to make it come away clean? Or with a little chocolate and peanut butter morsel to eat later?

It wasn’t just an idle question. Viewers of the influencer-led videos were asked to vote in the great cup debate via TikTok’s new voting stickers, which debuted alongside the promotion. Pairing the interactive voting element with some curated Spark Ads to bring in organic TikTok posts, Reese’s ended up netting 24 million impressions throughout the length of the campaign. Not bad for a little piece of wax paper on the underside of a peanut butter cup.

2022: The Next Frontier? Augmented Reality

Combining the real with the virtual still sounds like science fiction, but many people’s first brush with AR came years ago with the hunt for Pokémon in parks and other public spaces. Ever since Pokémon Go exploded into the public consciousness, AR experiences have stayed in the public eye — even when they weren’t on purpose, like that poor lawyer who just wanted to proceed with a court hearing on Zoom even though he was a cat.

The global number of mobile augmented reality users is set to surpass 1.7 billion by 2024, and brands have a golden opportunity to make the most of AR’s power for their marketing. The playful and creative energy of platforms like TikTok is a natural complement to bringing your brand straight to people. It’s the next best thing to setting up shop right in their living room, and it isn’t sci-fi any longer.

There’s already an easy and effective way to give your community fun ways to engage with your brand in AR. Camera IQ creates impactful AR campaigns for one of the 21st century’s most compelling new mediums. As the easiest AR creation tool, Camera IQ democratizes the creation experience with a solution that will take you from concept to social-scaled experience, then help you monitor performance to ensure it’s meeting your needs. If your brand is ready to make TikTok history in 2022, 2023, and beyond, we’re here to help.

Download the Ultimate Guide to AR Marketing on TikTok for a complete roadmap to designing and promoting winning TikTok effects, and use the form below to request a demo of the easiest AR creation tool.

Send us a message

We are always looking for innovative partners. If you have questions or comments, or just want to say hi, please fill out the form below.