Top challenges facing marketers in 2021 — and how to beat them


The TikTok Trendsetter competition awards winners in three categories — individual category, agency category and existing campaigns
The TikTok Trendsetter competition awards winners in three categories — individual category, agency category and existing campaigns

TikTok’s unbridled celebration of humour, creativity and community has made it the app of choice for millennials and Gen-zers. Since exploding into the international scene in 2018, the platform has gone from strength to strength, clocking up a total of 800 million active users at time of writing. By the end 2020, it had become the world’s most downloadable app.

One shouldn’t underestimate its marketing potential. In the past year, brands have leveraged the platform to stellar results, from promoting a new product (Vivo’s #vivoY51Style campaign in Pakistan), to a limited-edition collection (Uniqlo’s #UTPlayYourWorlds challenge), to fostering a sense of community during the pandemic (L’Oreal’s #LetsFaceIt challenge).

To showcase the creativity that drives business solutions on TikTok, the platform launched TikTok Trendsetter competition. The platform is awarding winners in three categories — individual category, agency category and existing campaigns. Submissions closed January 15, with the winners’ announcement set for mid-February. The stellar panel of judges include Nyuyen Dinh Toan, executive VP of marketing at Suntory Pepsico Vietnam, Sutirapan Sakkawatra, EVP head of marketing at Siam Commercial Bank, Roberto Saputra, chief brand officer at Smartfren Telecom, Jeff Cheong, deputy CEO at DDB Group Singapore and Asia president at Tribal Worldwide, Maryzyle Fernadez Galinato, group creative director at Hakuhodo Saigon, Pingkan Rarumangkay, executive creative director at Wunderman Thompson Indonesia, Tay Guan Hin, chief creative officer at BBDO Singapore, Sompat Trisadikun, chief creative officer at The Leo Burnett Group and Publicis Group Thailand, and Katis Puris, TikTok’s managing director of global business marketing.

“This year, we’ve seen how marketers, from small businesses to multinational brands, have tapped into the power of TikTok to tell their brand story in new and compelling ways,” says Chew Wee Ng, TikTok’s head of SEA business marketing.

“Experimentation on TikTok is not only limited to users, but also extends to marketers and brands. We found this to be the perfect time in our journey in Southeast Asia to invite marketers to be experimental and explore their creative side, while addressing today’s brand challenges through the Trendsetter creative competition.”

Chew Wee Ng, head of business marketing, TikTok

A topical yet creative example included Dettol’s HandWashChallenge, which asks users in Asia and North Africa to turn hand-washing instructions into a dance. The challenge generated over 70 million videos, clocking up over 100 billion views. Another case in point is Colgate’s #SmileStrong challenge, which encouraged people to share their gratitude and appreciation for their mothers on Mothers’s Day on TikTok. The campaign consisted of stickers like ‘I Love you Mom’, which were activated with certain hand gestures and a song, ‘Gratitude’, which users were encouraged to sing along to.

One thing that differs TikTok from other platforms is that it doesn’t suffice to have a large number of followers — the platform’s algorithm ranks videos for users based on individual preferences, from previous interactions to language and country. In a nutshell, any video has the potential to go viral – making it even more imperative for brand marketers to ensure every video they put out is as engaging as possible.

In 2021, brand marketers must learn to serve, not sell

For Gaurav Virkar, SK-II Future X Media Leader, it is a question of #makingtheclout versus #breakingtheclutter.

“Social media posting is a democracy and everyone has a voice in it. That is why brands need to keep their voice clear, consistent to their character and stay true to who they are.”

Gaurav Virkar, SK-II Future X Media Leader

He adds, “Consumers do not like to be pushed content or sold to, and they have higher expectations towards brands and businesses on how they positively impact communities, society and the environment. They will only continue to build a relationship with a brand if there is a real and authentic common purpose. At SK-II we believe in serving, not selling, and finding new, fresh and meaningful ways to engage with our consumers.”

It’s a philosophy that SK-II takes to heart. When the Olympics got postponed in 2020, the brand, a worldwide partner of the Games, launched a campaign featuring Ikee Rikako, a Japanese swimmer diagnosed with leukemia in early 2019. Part of the brand’s wider #ChangeDestiny campaign, the video captures the swimmer showing off her short hair as she tells of her battle with the disease.

“We shared her story of hope and finding beauty in strength and resilience with everyone in these challenging times as she made her first public appearance without her wig and to show her a new side of her. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of positive support and encouragement from the nation.”

Leveraging machine learning and automation for creativity and scale

Yet, TikTok isn’t only a branding tool. It’s increasingly allowing marketers to take a full-funnel customer engagement approach. As Ng notes, “TikTok has a range of solutions that solve not only awareness objectives, but also performance objectives such as driving app installs, online and offline sales. TikTok Ads Manager provides a variety of advertising solutions that fulfil the need of any advertiser at any stage of their campaign or sales funnel,” says Ng.

In the past two years, TikTok has bolstered its B2B offerings, from 2D, 3D, AR lenses to highly customisable shoppable video ads.

Long gone are the days of manually piecing together various creative assets. Not only does the platform boast a suite of creative tools backed by machine learning, including Video Template, Smart Video, allowing marketers to create creatives in various styles simply by uploading their assets, it also provides advertisers with precise targeting to engage new audiences, as well as measurement tools that allows them to track and measure campaign performance.

In a digital era, having the tools to engage with your customers at every point in the purchasing journey has taken on added urgency.

While most in Asia have been quick to pivot physical events to online models, for Ng, the challenge lies in replicating the personal element of that face-to-face interaction in the digital sphere.

She gives the example of VinFast, an automotive start-up which launched two new ‘e-scooters’ in Vietnam during the lockdown period.

“Potential customers couldn’t visit a VinFast showroom to test drive the scooters, so the company worked with TikTok to create a ‘virtual test drive’ for their e-scooters by using Branded Effects on TikTok. This allowed users to enjoy a virtual test drive on the scooters without ever having to leave their homes.”

The campaign was accompanied by an ad campaign comprising Brand Takeover and In-Feed Ads. By inviting users to participate in the challenge, VinFast was able to reach out to users who might have missed the campaign, or saw but hadn’t participated yet.

When asked about the explosion of TikTok challengers, Ng says they’re taking it in stride. The important thing, she says, is to innovate according to the needs of their users. At the end of the day, the strength of the platform doesn’t only lie in its innovative and easy-to-use ad tools but also the community it has managed to foster in a relatively short period of time.

“The TikTok community is special in many ways. On TikTok, you’re not only allowed but also celebrated for being yourself. You see a level of authenticity, creative expression and community collaboration that you don’t see anywhere else. And that’s not easily replicable.”

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