TikTok Marketing Trends That Go Beyond the Platform

by Susan Mullin

Move aside Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – a new kid is in town!

Launched in 2016, TikTok started off as a revamped “Musically” or “Vine,”  which were short video platforms used to make fun little dances or seven-second skits. Over the next two years, TikTok saw a massive spike in users, to the point where now, in 2023, there are over a billion users. How can companies take advantage of TikTok marketing trends to increase engagement?

TikTok brand logo

Marketing possibilities on TikTok

TikTok is currently the platform to be on, especially for marketing professionals. TikTok influencers such as Charli D’amelio and Addison Rae are getting brand deals with big names such as Dunkin’ Donuts and even receiving invites to the renowned MET Gala. However, It’s not just people that are going viral on the app. Iconic clothing pieces such as the Urban Outfitters corset are selling out completely.

Users wiped Aerie’s physical stores of their infamous crossover leggings after a video of a girl dancing to Justin Bieber’s “Drummer Boy” sporting a pair went viral. An employee made a TikTok saying “please stop asking us about the crossover leggings – y’all sold them out.”

Users exhausted the Dior lip oil from stores after the product blew up on the platform. Once a product or service becomes a TikTok craze, it sells out. According to Statista, 31% of TikTok users bought products because celebrities or influencers advertised them. Clearly, the app is a perfect space for targeted marketing.

Beyond using the actual TikTok platform to advertise your own products and create viral trends, brands are using these TikTok marketing trends and sounds native to the platform OUTSIDE of the app. TikTok has become like a massive inside joke – particularly for Gen Z. And many brands are using trends on the app in their online, social and in-store marketing. Here are a few TikTok trends that left the platform and made it into the “real” marketing world:

The Emily Mariko Bowl

Late last year, a woman named Emily Mariko gained rapid popularity in the span of a few weeks due to one particular thing – the way she reheated her leftover salmon. A simple video depicting Mariko reheating rice and leftover salmon, adding avocado, kewpie mayo and topping it off with seaweed, quickly went viral. It didn’t even include music, closed captions with measurements, details of a recipe – nothing. Her video racked up millions of views.

Tiktok screenshot of someone making the Emily Mariko bowl

Users on TikTok quickly started recreating the bowl and calling it the “Emily Mariko Bowl.” Surprisingly, you could see the effects of this trend beyond the app. Mariko’s first video of the beloved salmon bowl went up on September 21, 2021. Instacart’s purchase data found that as of September 29th, their orders containing salmon and dried seaweed grew by 100 percent. A Twitter user wrote, “kewpie mayo is sold out at the Asian market…the Emily Mariko effect.” Another TikTok video showed a man at a grocery store telling a customer that they were all out of kewpie mayo “because of damn TikTok.”  

Some stores jumped on the wave and took TikTok marketing one step further. Harris Teeter created an “As seen on TikTok” area with all the ingredients necessary to pull off a Mariko. Ultimately, Mariko shows us that a short video of a salmon dish can have a massive impact on sales for big companies like Instacart to small local Asian stores.

Barnes and Nobles’ “BookTok”

Screenshot of TikTok for you page
A “For You Page”

TikTok is also known to have several “communities.” These are labeled with a specific niche interest followed by the word “tok.” “Gymtok,” for example, is a popular community comprised of avid gym-goers who are interested in fitness content. Due to the way the “For You Page” works, (aka your main feed on the app), once you interact with certain hashtags and videos, you end up in these niche algorithms which then curate specific content for you. 

One specific example is “BookTok.” This community shares the most popular reads at the moment, mostly fiction. 

barnes and noble tiktok marketing table labeled "the best of tiktok"

Barnes & Noble caught up to this niche community and created a “BookTok” stand in stores featuring the most mentioned books under the hashtag “BookTok” on TikTok. Bloomberg wrote an article explaining the phenomenon. Barnes & Noble noticed a turnaround during the pandemic when lockdowns led to “a renaissance among young adults.”

The spike in sales wasn’t online either – people were rushing to buy physical copies. Some of these customers were even filming videos at the stores to alert others in the BookTok communities that their recs had gotten a stand of their own. According to Barnes & Noble’s Director of Books Shannon DeVito, sales have been skyrocketing, and he disclosed that 2023 is on track to be stronger than 2021 and 2019, in part because of TikTok marketing.

TikTok Marketing Takeaways

Although originally a mindless platform where young teens were dancing “The Renegade,” TikTok has now become a major marketing platform that can address younger generations very well (Gen Z in particular).  TikTok marketing extends beyond the app and trends are being used to generate sales in mom n’ pops all the way to giant corporations. Any product, service or person can go viral on the app – even if we’re talking about a salmon being reheated in the microwave. Tapping into the niche audiences on this social media platform can help you reach a very loyal core of consumers. The most innovative marketers have to know TikTok is THE place to be!

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Posted in , Content Marketing, Digital Marketing