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Advertising on TikTok: Why Brands Should Care About It

By Reading Time: 10 minutes

If you’re looking for ways to reach a younger audience, you should think about advertising on TikTok.

TikTok now has 800 million monthly active users, climbing up to 6th place in the global mobile app rankings by monthly active users for 2020. Even though it’s still behind WhatsApp, Facebook, WeChat, and Instagram, it’s already ahead of all the other social platforms. 

The most popular social media platforms in the world in January 2020. Source: We Are Social

So, what’s TikTok? How does it work? Can marketers actually use it to reach their target audience? Are there any marketing success stories on this platform? How do ecommerce marketers make use of TikTok to promote their products?

If you’re looking for answers to these questions, look no further. This post will walk you through a brief overview of TikTok advertising. After that, you’ll know for sure if this new social media platform is right for your business. 

Let’s dive in.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a video-sharing social media app designed exclusively for mobile devices (available for both Android and iOS). Using TikTok, users can watch, create, and share short videos of up to 15 seconds. These videos can be easily edited with music, filters, effects, and other built-in features. 

TikTok is the overseas version of the lip-synching app Douyin launched by the Beijing-based tech company ByteDance. In November 2017, ByteDance acquired, merged the app into their platform, and rebranded it as TikTok. This merger gave TikTok significant momentum to target the US teen market, which previously belonged to

If getting famous with a 15-second video sounds like a good deal to you, get on TikTok. The platform was built to give people the belief that anyone can become a global celebrity, no matter where they live or who they are. On Instagram or YouTube, you have to polish your image and/or video before uploading. But TikTok makes social media more fun, that is, the weirder you are, the more attention you may get. As long as you can access the internet and create a 15-second video to catch others’ attention, you can be huge. 

How to use TikTok

If you used Vine, you probably won’t have any difficulty using TikTok—they’re very similar.

The first time you use the TikTok app, you’ll see trending videos that are automatically shown based on the interests you chose when opening the app (see screenshot below). You can just swipe down to watch them. If you want to comment or share a video, you need to log in. 

With TikTok, you don’t need to have an account to view the content

Here’s what you can do on TikTok both as a personal account or a brand:

1. Make videos 

Using TikTok, you can record and create videos directly in the app or upload a video from your device library. The videos can be 15 seconds or 60 seconds in length.

You can create videos of up to 5 minutes by combining multiple clips from your uploads.

For video editing, TikTok provides stickers, animations, masks, and AR filters that can change  eye color, hairstyles, and even add makeup.TikTok users can also shoot in slow-motion/time-lapse/fast forward, and they can rotate/crop videos, and change the playback speed.

Sephora did a great job of using videos to promote their products and give tips for their follower

If you want your TikTok video to go viral, focus on the music. The app lets you pick a popular song and record with it or choose a soundtrack from the built-in library to add to your video. 

2. Add video reactions

TikTok allows users to use video reactions to broadcast their emotions while watching videos without leaving the app. 

Video reactions allow you to show emotions while watching a video

To post a reaction, you just need to select the React option in the Share menu for a given video. Then, you can record your reactions when the video starts playing. You can also decide where you want to place the overlay video alongside the original. 

3. Perform a duet

TikTok Duet lets users, regardless of their location, create content together. All users who like to sing enjoy this feature because they can duet with their loved ones, a celebrity, or any other music lover. 

The Duet feature in TikTok app

If you want to become popular on TikTok, you should think about shaping a duet challenge. 

4. Create challenges

Memes are a defining part of how teens communicate in the digital world. They grew up in the golden era of the internet and have a knack for identifying trending memes as well as recreating them. TikTok challenges are inspired by meme culture, which makes the app so appealing to a younger audience.

Users can perform a challenge and then challenge others to do the same. Each challenge is often a combination of 3 elements: text, sound, and movement.

Who uses TikTok?

Before advertising on TikTok, it’s crucial to understand its demographics and whether they match up with your target audience.

TikTok demographics

In the beginning, TikTok became a hot trend among women. But now the number of male users is higher in all groups

According to Vox, 66% of TikTok users are younger than 30. However, research shows that TikTok caters to a specific demographic: nearly half of its users (41%) are between the ages of 16 and 24 (Gen Zers).

Here’s why TikTok is so popular with youth:

1. TikTok creators have a deep understanding of Gen Z’s behaviors, interests, and preferences. This helps them create a social media app that gives their target audience exactly what they’re looking for. 

Look at how TikTok entered Japan. The director of TikTok Japan had been working and studying in the country for 17 years before joining the company, and the rest of the team are either Japanese or have studied in Japan. Using insights into the local culture, they designed contests that allowed students to join interest groups like cheerleading, driving a lot of traction for TikTok in Japan. 

2. TikTok brings users an experience-directed feed based on algorithmic observation and inference. The first time you open the app, you see a page called For You. The pool of videos is enormous, and most of those videos are incredibly addictive. This can explain why millions of teens are obsessed with the app.

3. Teens love challenges. The brain of a teenager is compelled to seek out new experiences. TikTok understands that, so it gives teens new, fun challenges they can’t find anywhere else.

Which countries use TikTok the most?

With TikTok, you have an opportunity to reach audiences around the world. TikTok is available in 155 countries and currently supports 75 languages

Among TikTok’s 800 monthly active users, 500 million of them (equal to 60% of the total) live in China. However, Indian users have made the main contribution to the number of TikTok downloads across the App Store and Google Play, with 466.8 million in 2019. This number is equal to 31% of all unique installs coming from the country. 

How do American teens use TikTok?

In October 2017, there were 2.6 million adult US TikTok users. A year later, that number increased to 7.2 million. By the end of 2019, the US generated the third-largest number of TikTok downloads with 37.6 million or 7.4% of all global installs. 

The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon was considered one of the main contributing factors of TikTok’s sudden rise in popularity in the US. In the show, he encouraged viewers to join a TikTok challenge with the hashtag #tumbleweedchallenge. The challenge eventually drew more than 10.4 million engagements and over 8,000 submissions.

TikTok videos with the hashtag #tumbleweedchallenge attract huge engagement

The popularity of TikTok in the US is supported by teachers at many schools. A lot of educators even set up their own accounts and encourage students to use TikTok for assignments. These positive reactions towards TikTok in the US are what brands should bear in mind. If you find a way to resonate with the target audience through the app, TikTok advertising can be a smart move. 

Benefits of advertising on TikTok

Here are some advantages of promoting products on TikTok:

Easy to reach young audiences

Teens love TikTok, so this platform is an ideal choice for brands whose target audiences are younger consumers. Some brands have already achieved tremendous success with TikTok

Elf Cosmetics, a brand that’s popular among teens, for example, hired an agency to produce the song “Eyes Lips Face”. The song title is based on the brand name’s acronym and inspired by Kash Doll’s 2018 hit “Ice Me Out”. The brand then worked with some influencers to create the TikTok hashtag campaign #eyeslipsface. 

The #eyeslipsface hashtag has over 4.6B views

As for the results? More than 2 million videos were created using the Elf Cosmetics’ song, and as of now, the #elfcosmetics hashtag has 4.6 billion views. 

When used effectively, TikTok can help you tap into one of the most lucrative pools of users and increase engagement with your brand.

Improve brand awareness

TikTok’s hashtag system labels content and makes it easier to explore. Brands can use trending TikTok hashtags or create their own to include in their videos.

Yves Rocher is a good example of using TikTok to increase brand awareness. Their campaign targeted Gen Z women and focused on the message that it’s OK to be imperfect. This In-Feed Ads campaign helped Yves Rocher drive a CTR of 1.55%. 

The TikTok ad of Yves Rocher. Source: TikTok

How to advertise on TikTok

In early 2019, TikTok launched a beta version of its ads offering. TikTok’s ad platform is already available in certain regions such as the US, EU, India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. You can access TikTok Ads if you’re based in these regions.

TikTok Ads are similar to Facebook Ads with features like custom audiences, lookalike audiences, a tracking Pixel, or a three-part ad structure (campaigns, ad groups, and ads). However, regarding ad types, TikTok Ads are different.

Where TikTok differs is their ad types. Below are the TikTok ad types that work best for brands:

In-feed ads

An in-feed ad appears as a full-screen native video and is embedded within the For You feed. It has the sound automatically played and allows users to comment, share, like, etc., directly from the feed.

TikTok In-Feed Ads. Source: Facebook TikTok Ads

Using in-feed ads is a good way to drive traffic to internal pages (like hashtags or challenges) or external landing pages (like websites).  

Brand takeover

A brand takeover ad is a full-screen ad that pops up when a user first logs into TikTok. It lives on the first screen they see when opening TikTok. Simply tap the ad, and they’ll be directed to the brand’s website. A brand takeover ad can be an image or a 3-5 second GIF/video. 

TikTok brand takeover ads. Source: Facebook TikTok Ads

Top view

A top view ad showcases your brand as soon as users open TikTok, which helps reach and engage audiences in a visually impactful way. It’s a version of the brand takeover ad unit that fades into an in-feed video ad, lasting 15 seconds in total. 

TikTok Top view ads. Source: Facebook TikTok Ads

Branded hashtag challenges

Branded hashtag challenges help you maximize engagement by tapping into user-generated content. You can choose a branded hashtag, create a challenge, and encourage users to join your challenge as well as include your branded hashtag into their post. 

TikTok branded hashtag challenges. Source: Facebook TikTok Ads

According to TikTok Ads, “the branded hashtag challenge is a new and unique way to engage users. It taps into users’ passion for creation and expression by inviting them to join in on a collective movement. Over 50% creators have participated in a hashtag challenge with an average engagement rate of 8.5%, generating huge brand buzz and affinity.”

How much do TikTok ads cost?

There are 4 different advertisement goals (bidding methods) based on what your campaign anticipated results are. Use CPC (cost-per-click) goals to get more clicks or any of the view objectives to increase awareness and gain more ad impressions.

  • CPC (cost-per-click): Pay for clicks. Acquiring more clicks will serve as the optimization goal.
  • oCPC (optimized cost-per-click): Pay for clicks that lead to conversions. The system optimizes delivery to get more conversions (e.g. app download, purchase, or sign-up).
  • CPM (cost-per-mille): Reach and thousand impressions are the optimization goal.
  • CPV (cost-per-view): Pay for every 6-second video viewed. 6-second video views will serve as the optimization goal. 

TikTok ads are new and at the moment they might be less affordable for smaller businesses or any other brand that has a shoestring marketing budget. 

TikTok Ads come at a premium cost that starts at an average of $10 per CPM and require a minimum investment of $500. For larger campaigns, the cost for TikTok Ads can go up to $300,000 in total. 

Advertising on TikTok in 2020: 5 things to note

To make sure your TikTok advertising strategy is on the right track, you should these things in mind: 

You’re on TikTok, not Instagram or YouTube

It’s worth repeating that TikTok is a unique platform. So, never reuse your Facebook ads or Instagram ads for TikTok ads and vice versa. 

Leave your aspirational content on Instagram and your polished video on Facebook. TikTok content is ultra-creative, genuine, intriguing, and funny. TikTok users and video creators, don’t take themselves too seriously. 

Make your approach authentic

TikTok doesn’t help you increase sales directly. On Instagram, you can add promo code or use gifts to encourage purchases. But these incentives may not work on TikTok ads. 

Your approach to TikTok advertising should be authentic. Your goal should be about engaging with the audience in creative ways, not pushing sales. Everything in your ad campaign needs to align with the nature of the app. TikTok isn’t the place for heavily commercial ads—at least for now. 

Influencers, influencers, influencers

Influencers are a big deal on TikTok. According to Madison Bregman, CEO of youth marketing consultancy GirlZ, “TikTok is a platform where we’re part of a generation where every single kid wants to be an entrepreneur or an influencer.” The app makes it easy for aspiring Gen Zers to have their post go viral and become an influencer only with some videos. 

That’s why brands should think about a TikTok influencer marketing strategy to advertise their products. When working with influencers on TikTok, you should ensure they understand your campaign’s main goal and the message you want them to convey, then give them space to free their creativity. 

Music is the key

TikTok amateur creators can create viral videos thanks to using remixed songs. 

Before approaching TikTok Ads, brands should choose the right approach and align it with today’s youth. Video content showcasing “behind-the-scenes” footage or bringing an ordinary aspect of your brand to life through music and motion can get your ad campaign to stand out.  

TikTok isn’t for every brand

TikTok’s predominantly Gen Z user base should make it clear that the platform isn’t a good fit for every brand. 

If your brand is targeting GenZ and younger millennials, advertising on TikTok is worth considering. It can even be an essential addition to your marketing mix. The platform is also the right choice if your products are related to fashion, food, travel, retail, and music. 

However, the platform may not be the right choice for brands that target older generations. Brands in this category should consider other platforms. 

TikTok advertising case studies

Big names like Nike, Danette, Maybelline, Clean & Clear, Oppo, and Rexona have created compelling TikTok ad campaigns to promote their products. Let’s take a look at some TikTok advertising success stories:

#1 Maybelline

Maybelline’s in-feed ad highlighted a popular influencer Reiko and used a customized song to catch TikTok users’ attention. Source: TikTok
  • Goal: Win the hearts of a younger female audience. 
  • Advertised product: Volume Express Hypercurl Mascara.
  • Influencer: Reiko. 
  • Video theme: Mascara Boyfriend. 
  • Ad type: In-feed ad. 
  • Results: 48,700 likes, 2,907 comments, and 709 shares within 1 day.

#2 Danette


Danette created brand takeover and in-feed ads to drive the community to the hashtag challenge page. Source: TikTok
  • Goal: Reach a younger Gen Z audience. 
  • Influencer: seven French influencers (with 6M followers in total).
  • Ad type: Branded hashtag challenge, brand takeover, and in-feed ad. 
  • Results: 40 million views in the first week of the campaign and 17,000 TikTok users took on the challenge. 

#3 Clean & Clear

Clean & Clear launched a Hashtag Challenge (#UnbottleApnaSwag) to drive brand awareness. Source: TikTok
  • Goal: Increase brand awareness and engagement among Indian female teens.
  • Advertised product: My Swag (limited edition). 
  • Influencer: 5 female influencers (with 5M followers in total).
  • Ad type: Branded hashtag challenge.
  • Results: 1.96B views and 2.62 million user-generated videos.

These brands killed it with their TikTok advertising campaigns. One thing to remember is that TikTok isn’t just for big names. The platform can work wonders for small businesses as well, so it’s not early to get in there and test the waters. If it does take off, you’ll be well ahead of your competitors.

Your turn

What do you think about advertising on TikTok? Do you have a plan to promote your product on this platform? Let us know in the comments below!


Lavender is a full-time freelance writer for SaaS and eCommerce. She’s obsessed with research, writing, and reading. Learn more about her at


    1. Madara Zute

      Hi Francisco,
      It’s great that you’re utilizing this platform as well, best of luck with your store! 🙂

  1. Aaron Starc

    TikTok is slowly and gradually taking reigns in the digital world. I think it has surpassed Instagram and Snapchat in terms of fame and popularity among the neckdown generation. The challenges that are being thrown on the platform almost on daily basis and people making them even bigger is just too good. Also, the fact that TikTok videos are widely crossposted on social media. Hence, the reason for such popularity. Recently, Dettol did handwash challenge and it really got a great deal of traction. In the end win-win for the brand and their CSR.

  2. SL

    Apparently, the US government is advising against Tiktok because it is grabbing and sharing more information from your device than is needed for the application. Also, it is owned by a Chinese company which is required to share info with the Chinese govt. Just something to think about.

  3. Carmine

    I am a content creator for pod sites and have uploaded designs on various products.
    I would like to sell a design on a t-shirt about littering awareness on tiktok.But,I am a little apprehensive
    about revealing my face or true name (for obvious reasons). Is it possible to do so.
    Many thanks in advance.

    1. Alise Zindiga

      Hey Carmine, it is really up to you if you wish to show your face or not. Seeing a real person behind the business often encourages clients and builds trust, however, if you’re not looking for the intimacy, you don’t have to do it!

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