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TikTok Branding: Why Deviating from Brand Style Pays Off

TikTok is a unique platform. The content is quirky, prioritizing creativity, and entertainment above all else. That leaves little room for the carefully manicured content that’s worked for brands in the past. 

Businesses that cultivated a highly branded content strategy geared towards marketing products and driving brand awareness on Instagram may struggle to find similar success on TikTok. TikTok videos are raw and unfiltered. The platform’s culture values authenticity above all else. Carefully curated content can come across as stuffy or ingenuine alongside the unapologetic creativity shared by high-performing TikTok videos. 

So, how do brands channel that same edgy creativity while adhering to existing brand guidelines? The short answer is that they don’t— that is unless they’re interpreted with a bit of that same creativity. Brands willing to get flexible with their brand voice have a solid shot at TikTok success.

Why is TikTok Uncomfortable for Brands? 

Comedy is at the heart of TikTok entertainment. The culture evolved from a majority Gen Z audience, giving the humor a dry and self-deprecating undertone. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find relatability as the undercurrent for most all successful content on the platform.

Brands already struggle to come across as relatable on Instagram and Facebook. Throwing in denominators like video and quirky humor makes TikTok content especially daunting. Brands that have clear voice guidelines for social media may hit a wall when it comes to brainstorming fun video content that fits their guidelines to a tee. 

Diving headfirst into bizarre skits and stationary dances after adhering to strict guidelines is understandably uncomfortable, but that discomfort is well worth the brand exposure and new audiences you’ll gain once you overcome the hurdle.

Why Hop on the TikTok Humor Bandwagon?

Trying to pick viral TikTok audio clear of any cuss words is like trying to pet a cat without fur. They exist, but they’re few and far between. Like we said before, TikTok humor is modeled after Gen Z humor, making it a little bit… unhinged (in a good way). The cuss words add lighthearted, unbuttoned energy that acts as a beacon for new audiences. 

Still need convincing? There are quite a few reasons even the most prim-and-proper brands can benefit from assimilating to TikTok’s carefree culture. Creating content that fits naturally with what works on the platform leads to higher reach, which does wonders for brand awareness. Videos that reflect that quirky, brutally authentic vibe come across as more relatable. Viewers are more likely to engage, connect, and build trust in your brand. 

You come across as a “cool” brand– one that understands what it takes to succeed on the platform. TikTok users see brands that post malaligned videos to the platform as the parent who says “YOLO” and “on fleek” in 2022. They’re trying to fit in, but they missed the mark by a few years. 

What About Educational Content?

You don’t have to inject edgy humor into every post. Many people use TikTok like a search engine. They hunt for product recommendations or look for videos of people using their newly acquired products for tips and tricks. 

With that said, the type of educational content you post to TikTok still needs the raw vibe. Curated product videos are more likely to be overlooked. Instead, post in-the-moment videos showing users how your product works. Make them friendly, with a touch of the edgy attitude or meme-style that works so well on TikTok.

Think Outside the Box

Brands that embrace TikTok humor and the flicker, flash, flare approach create high-performing videos on TikTok. They prioritize appealing to the masses first through entertainment (while staying true to their niche, of course). Once they have their audience hooked with entertaining content, they toss in their value prop to snag consumers. If you want your videos to go viral, follow their lead. 

Duolingo dove headfirst into TikTok humor by creating an edgy, unhinged owl mascot named Duo to be the face of their brand on the platform. They entertain their audience by having Duo engage in popular trends, trash talk Google Translate, and harass people around the office. Then they throw in their flare content (large-scale campaigns that occur 1 to 3 times per year) that entice their now massive audience to download the app. 

Wonderkind Co is another brand that knows what’s up. 

This is a perfect example of the way they loosen up their brand guidelines to perform well on TikTok:

The popular sound features a curse word or two, but not in a negative way. An employee gets the rest of her team to take a geography test. It’s funny because everyone fails, and relatable because who really knows their geography once they walk across the high school grad stage? This is a cute idea that is quick to make and even quicker to replicate. Did someone say spelling test? Who still remembers their multiplication tables or the entire cursive alphabet? What about in all caps? Go ahead– the idea is yours for the taking.

Then, there’s this combo of a popular trending audio + a product show off moment:

It fits the vibe of what works on TikTok, while showing off their branding prowess. Chef’s kiss. This video concept can be repeated again and again. The “ladies and gentlemen” sound is constantly evolving. Even if it wasn’t, the concept leaves room to show off a different set of designs each time. 

TikTok isn’t the place to worry about posting similar content close together. People are looking at the FYP, not your feed. And because content moves so fast on the platform, nobody’s going to bat an eye when they see you following the same trend more than once. It’s the norm. 

The Bottom Line

TikTok is about entertainment. Stay true to your niche and have fun. Experiment to find out what your audience responds to. Don’t be afraid to grow, even if your videos reach a new demographic. Keep trying new humor, trending audios, and handing viewers answers to the questions your brand answers, always keeping entertainment at the forefront. And when your account pops off, we’ll be here to help you manage your TikTok community.

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Danielle Townsley

Danielle is the Social Media Manager at PLANOLY. She stays in the know of the latest industry trends and is always finding ways to create engaging and educational content for PLANOLY’s social platforms.

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