How TikTok is Teaching Brands to Stand Out in a Crowded Market: A Lesson in Authenticity and Innovation

Recently, after landing in Bangkok with my partner, we were starving from our early morning flight. While I was busy typing “best pad thai near me” into Google, he was already rapidly listing nearby restaurants within a 5km radius of our Airbnb.

How was he doing this? Did he have a secret “places to visit” list? Or some advanced search tool I didn’t know about?

I glanced at his phone. He was using TikTok. 

On the search page, he had found countless videos showing users trying out “Top Ten Thai Restaurants” or “Must-Visit Restaurants in Bangkok”, all with mouthwatering footage of the most delicious-looking food we’ve seen. 

This experience alone highlighted for me a significant shift in how we find information and make decisions. Initially (and infamously) known for its viral dances and catchy videos, TikTok has cemented itself in the lives of people, now morphing into the one-stop-shop for all your shopping, entertainment, travel needs and more. It’s not just a platform for fun; it’s a powerful tool that’s reshaping the landscape of digital marketing.

The Power of Short-Form Content

TikTok’s short-form video format, usually ranging from 15 to 60 seconds, has revolutionised content consumption. Brands now focus on creating concise, engaging videos that quickly capture attention and convey their message effectively. 

And who knew guacamole and dance could go so well together? Chipotle did. For National Avocado Day, they launched the #GuacDance challenge, inviting TikTok users to show off their dance moves. The result? Over 250,000 videos and 430 million views. This campaign wasn’t just about dancing; it was about driving Chipotle’s guacamole sales to an all-time high. The short, fun, and engaging videos perfectly illustrated how brands can capture attention and boost sales with creative content on TikTok.

Algorithm-Driven Discoverability

Using an algorithm-based approach to content curation, the longer you use the platform, the more it speaks to you. This democratises visibility, and brands can easily leverage this by churning out different types of content at different frequencies. Even small brands or individual creators can achieve viral success without a massive follower base. 

Skincare can be serious business, but The Ordinary found a way to make it viral. Without spending a dime on ads, this skincare brand saw users organically sharing their skincare routines and product reviews. TikTok’s algorithm, favouring content based on interests, turned these genuine, user-generated videos into viral sensations. This grassroots approach didn’t just boost sales; it built a community of skincare enthusiasts who swear by The Ordinary’s products. Many other skincare brands (and even brands under larger conglomerates like L’Oreal) have taken this route and seen major success.

Authenticity and Influencer Marketing

TikTok thrives on authenticity and spontaneity, with users preferring genuine, relatable content over highly produced videos. Brands are leveraging this by encouraging user-generated content (UGC) and collaborating with influencers who resonate with their target audiences. For example, Guess launched the #InMyDenim campaign, inviting users to showcase their personal style in Guess denim, resulting in a flood of UGC and organic engagement. Similarly, Aerie’s #AerieREAL campaign partnered with body-positive micro-influencers, celebrating real, unretouched women. This approach resonated deeply with audiences, boosting brand loyalty and sales by providing targeted, authentic endorsements.

Enhanced Engagement Metrics

Engagement on TikTok goes beyond likes and comments. Features like duets, stitches, and live streams enable users to interact with content dynamically. For instance, the “Duet” feature allows users to create split-screen videos interacting with other users’ content, providing brands with unique ways to engage their audience. The National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) utilised this feature to engage fans, encouraging them to duet with players and create their own game-day content, boosting fan interaction and brand visibility.

In addition to these strategies, brands have also humanised themselves through active engagement in comment sections. By using their company accounts to interact with users, brands like Duolingo and Ryanair have fostered a more relatable and approachable image, further enhancing their appeal on the platform.

Innovative Advertising Solutions

TikTok offers diverse advertising options that cater to different marketing objectives. From in-feed ads and branded hashtag challenges to branded effects and top-view ads, the platform provides various formats for brand promotion. 

Marc Jacobs exemplifies innovative brand campaigning on TikTok by collaborating with niche TikTok comedians and influencers. For instance, the brand’s recent campaign featured creators and models like Alex Consani, who brought humour and high fashion together in a unique blend. By engaging these influencers, Marc Jacobs tapped into their unique styles and follower bases, crafting a campaign that felt fresh and highly engaging​, like it had never been done before. This approach not only increased visibility but also aligned the brand with Gen Z’s preference for authenticity and creativity in marketing.


TikTok’s impact on digital marketing is profound, driven by its emphasis on authenticity, user-generated content, and innovative influencer partnerships. While the digital space is increasingly saturated and standing out can be challenging, being attuned to TikTok trends and understanding what resonates with audiences is already half the battle. By staying in tune with the platform’s dynamic environment and leveraging its unique features, brands can build stronger connections with their audiences and achieve significant marketing success. As TikTok continues to evolve, it will undoubtedly remain a pivotal force in shaping the future of digital marketing, setting a precedent for other social media platforms (like Instagram and Facebook) to follow suit.