July 27, 2021

How Brands Should Be Using TikTok, According to Gen Z

Luke Roehm

As TikTok has become more popular, more brands have been joining in. And to be honest, we Gen Zers don’t really mind their branded content or their ads. In fact, we love looking at new products on TikTok to see what’s out there. But most brands are doing it wrong—even if we watch their content, we don’t actually want to buy it. Read on to see what brands need to change to be successful on TikTok.

1. Get Personal

When we’re on TikTok, we want to see a different side of your brand. We want you to be personal with us and the TikTok style helps us feel more comfortable and less intimidated by big brands. Unlike most social media platforms, TikTok does not encourage users to solely portray their “best” selves—rather, it encourages people to be themselves regardless of physical appearance or background. The unique energy of TikTok requires an equally unique approach to the content you are creating. Simply reposting content from other platforms is usually perceived as annoying and boring. TikTok provides the opportunity for users and brands to have an honest and sometimes intimate conversation about topics that some would otherwise feel uncomfortable sharing. All of this is done through brands staying authentic, personable, and positive. Think behind-the-scenes content—which we love!

A company that has made users, especially Gen Z users, feel more comfortable around their brand and their values is The Ordinary. The Ordinary is a skincare brand that achieved TikTok fame through its blood-red face mask. People were trying the new face mask because of its bold appearance, but also because the TikTok beauty community unsolicitedly raved about the results the mask had on their acne. Acne is something that everyone, especially the younger audience of Gen Z, struggles with and it is often stigmatized to talk about. By showing “get ready with me” videos and actual results from their products, The Ordinary embraces everyone’s differences and shows that they want their customers to feel confident from using their products.


The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution really is no joke!! 🩸😜

♬ obviously not a joke –

2. Live Your Values

We Gen Zers can spot (and ignore) an ad from five miles away. Instead, we want to see you start a campaign, a challenge, or something about a topic your brand cares about. Finding a way to bring your company’s values to life in a fun, sharable way is pivotal. And, of course, it is vital to react to viral trends or challenges as soon as you can. Jumping into what we are currently obsessed with only increases your chances of appearing on our “for you” pages. Use songs that are trending, hop on recent challenges, and use popular effects like lens swap, crystal jacket, and face stretch. And make sure your hashtag game is strong.

A company that encompasses their values so well on TikTok while also staying on trend is Levi Jeans. If you go through their account, they have simple videos of people wearing Levi’s while doing popular challenges like the #accentchallenge and sounds like the “silly goofy shemar.” You will also see videos that directly show Levi’s values. For example, during Pride Month, Levi’s posted a video about how to respect pronouns. The video was a simple conversation with artist and influencer Yetunde in which she gave some tips on different pronouns while clad in Levi’s clothing.


How to respect pronouns each and every day with Yétúndé ✨🌈

♬ original sound – Levi’s

3. Engage With Us

Besides keeping up to date with the trends, Gen Zers want brands to engage with us like a person. Replying to comments and even creating content from the comments you receive is a great start. But the best way to have us love your brand is to be open and encourage users to duet your videos. Duets are fun for us and it makes us feel like a part of the brand.

One thing that Gen Zers and other generations have in common is that we all love free things! Vessi, a waterproof shoe company that reached its success through TikTok, has been a prime example of fan engagement. In one of their videos, Vessi duetted a customer who posted how much she loved her Vessi shoes and showed just how waterproof they really are. In the duet, Vessi promised the customer a new, free pair of Vessi shoes just from showing support. By doing this, Vessi is not only giving back to a supportive customer and showing a caring value, but they are also encouraging others to post about their product in hopes of getting a free pair of shoes.


#duet with @agajillian Show us your #vessifootwear and you could win a free pair too! #giveaway #nomorewetsocks #waterproofshoes #tiktokwellness

♬ my strange addiction – Billie Eilish

If you’re going to use TikTok as a marketing medium, you can’t just dip your toe in the water, creatively speaking. You need to fully embrace the TikTok aesthetic and mentality of content that is fun, silly, and on trend. If you do, you’ll definitely be able to win over Gen Z consumers like me.

Want to create TikTok content that resonates with a younger audience? Get in touch.

Tags: Best Practices, Creative, Social Media, Strategy, TikTok, Trends

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