This week, I highlight a key takeaway from the Glossy Beauty & Wellness Summit, held last week in Huntington Beach, Calif. Leave a comment on this story and tell us how TikTok has changed your business. –Emma Sandler, Beauty & Wellness Editor
TikTok’s importance to advertising is unquestionable. Even talking about how important it is feels blasé. What I find more interesting is our relationship with the social media platform — as individuals, as brands — and as the parasocial relationships it facilitates between individuals and brands.
At the Glossy Beauty & Wellness Summit last week, several brand founders and executives touched on the larger impacts of TikTok, namely how it has transformed the social and business landscapes. I’ve reported on some of this in the past, including in my August story on how TikTok became an aesthetic generator and producer of niche personality types. In the case of the Beauty Summit, it was mentioned more than once that TikTok has its own vocabulary (some of which is to avoid censorship, such as using “seggs” for “sex” and “unalive” for “dead” and “die”), sounds and trends. I previously explored its sounds as they pertain to brands’ sonic identity.
“Tiktok has its own lingo, trends and audio. You can’t create that much content ahead of time if it is a trend, because TikTok moves on so quickly,” said Marianna Hewitt, co-founder of Summer Fridays, during her session moderated by Glossy’s West Coast Correspondent, Liz Flora. “TikTok is great because there’s a whole new generation of influencers and creators. It’s leveled the playing field of influencers, and there are so many great niche accounts, too.”
Earlier in 2022, Summer Fridays launched an SPF and wanted to work with influencers who cover SPF specifically. TikTok has, in many ways, become a new search engine, and the team could easily see influencers who cover the topic. But the challenge is hedging the brand’s bets on whose videos will perform well. People can become overnight sensations due to one viral video, which means brands cannot simply cherry-pick the biggest and most notable names to see success — especially with rising costs to hire TikTok influencers. As a rule, Summer Fridays sends free products to people with various follower ranges, since everyone’s reach ends up being different. Often, Summer Fridays will search for organic videos already posted and offer the creator behind them payment to use the video or boost the video using TikTok’s paid boost feature. It’s a hybrid method for the brand to find authentic videos while still amplifying its reach on a budget.
Erica Culpepper, group manager for L’Oréal Multi-Cultural Beauty, including Carol’s Daughter, said her teams have developed new products and social content ideas based on TikTok comments. Furthermore, teams have developed their own vocabulary for TikTok and incubated their own influencers for the men’s depilatory hair brand Magic. Magic, which states on its packaging that it’s formulated for Black men, became a sensation on TikTok when non-Black women were found promoting its use. Magic sales quadrupled in 2021, as a result, she said.
These small but mighty changes influence the contours of how organizations operate, but we cannot forget the larger impact TikTok has on altering consumers and their behaviors. On one side, there are fun trends like “TikTok made me buy it,” which fuels product virality. On the other are more sinister issues, like people self-diagnosing mental disorders based on what they learned on the app or even developing physical tics because their brains mimic the tics they are exposed to from other videos.
“Millennials consumed all of their content as they grew up on [television] channels, while Gen Zers are educated through TikTok and YouTube. When you think of what TikTok and YouTube are, they’re essentially platforms for people and creators to bring their subjective experiences,” Shai Eisenman, founder and CEO of Bubble skin care, said at the Summit.
Eisenman said that many subjective experiences are often billed as objective truths, even if not the case. It’s a challenge that Bubble has had to navigate in its communication with customers on TikTok. Eisenman said that in 2018, while developing Bubble, makeup still reigned supreme among consumers and influencers. But when the great shift to skin care’s preeminence took place in spring 2020, Bubble launched a section of its e-commerce site called Skin School to encourage people to learn about their skin, acne and Bubble products.
“[We’re] constantly [creating] ways to educate people to make it very digestible, but not dumb it down,” she said. “We want to speak to them in a digestible yet very straightforward way, because sometimes the truth is gray; it’s not black and white. It’s very important to help consumers understand.”
On a lighter note — because I just made you aware of how children live in an echo chamber of psychosomatics — there is one thing TikTok has not changed, however, which is authenticity. We can all sniff out an ad, even when it’s Hulu pretending to be clever by attempting to get me to choose my “ad experience” (queue eye roll). And Gen Zers and young millennials take particular pride in the sport of skewering brands and people they deem inauthentic or cheugy.
Culpepper said it best when she remarked, “The market is competitive, and I cannot afford to pay people who are not passionate and engaged with the brands.”
She added, “Those relationships make a difference. Because when they create the content, they create it from a place of meaning, care and a place of passion.”
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