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Of all the social networks, TikTok has exploded in popularity over lockdown. Regulator OFCOM saw UK TikTok’s visitors go up from 5.4 million in January to 12.9 million in April.
TikTok’s 800 million global user base, about 70% of which are Gen Z, already show a strong preference for short form video as opposed to traditional TV watching and streaming. Gen Z are also prone to using social media not just to connect with friends, but to laugh and ‘stress-bust’. So, it makes sense that TikTok took off at the height of the pandemic.
What’s interesting is the amount of food and beverage brands going viral, and food trends emerging on TikTok. As everyone stayed at home, we took up baking, cooking and even making our morning coffee from scratch.
We made so much banana bread, that searches for ‘banana bread’ recipes surged by 800% in April. Some people made intricate, decorated focaccia, as the ‘cottagecore’ aesthetic took off. TikTok coffee became a thing, as a viral technique for whipped Dalgona coffee made rounds across the internet. In a unique twist, Gordon Ramsay (yes, the one with the Michelin stars) started duetting home cooks’ recipes on TikTok, with the #RamsayReacts hashtag.
It’s not just home cooks who had their moment – restaurants and fast food brands found a new way to connect with customers who could only now order takeout. So, food is having a moment on TikTok. We’ve got a list of the top 5 food brands who have nailed their TikTok content: from fast food to snacks, candy and home cooking brands. Hopefully, your brand can take inspiration from these techniques, and kick off your own TikTok strategy.
Chipotle is the undisputed king of TikTok content, and for good reason. With 1.3 million followers and 22 million likes, Chipotle has consistently delivered relevant, funny campaigns that resonate with TikTokkers.
Chipotle’s decision to invest in TikTok is smart because Gen Z is 50% of their customer base. They realized Gen Z’s takeaway orders were of equal value to millennials’ orders, and that Gen Z ordered 3-4 times a week.
They also knew Gen Z was far more ad-averse than millennials, so traditional ad approaches wouldn’t work for this market. Enter TikTok: ‘advertainment’ – brand content that is interesting to watch.
Chipotle kicked off it’s first challenge in the summer, when it’s audience was free from school. Their first #ChipotleLidFlip challenge was based on a real employee who was great at assembling burrito bowls with flair.
They reached out to Gen Z creators who were Chipotle ‘fans’, such as Youtuber David Dobrik (20M+ subscribers). Dobrik is a Chipotle super–fan so this was a layer of authenticity, welcomed by Gen Z. This challenge inspired 111k user-generated videos, and led to Chipotle’s largest digital sales day ever.
Quickly realizing how effective influencer partnerships were, Chipotle partnered with Loren Gray (49M TikTok followers) for National Avocado Day. Using another hashtag challenge they kicked off with Loren sharing her dance backed by a catchy children’s song (The Guacamole Song). They added incentive by giving away free guacamole all day, referencing the meme ‘guac is extra’. It resulted in 1.1 billion views on #GuacDance’s hashtag, 500m views on Loren Gray’s video and 800,000 portions of guacamole served.
After this, Chipotle broke engagement records with Justin Bieber. Reaching 95 million people on TikTok, their Super Bowl challenge featured Justin Bieber, promoting ‘free delivery Sundays’ set to his hit song ‘Yummy’. Bieber’s 230 million fans were reached on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. This cross-channel approach led to 2.5 million engagements. And, it was much cheaper than traditional 30 second Super Bowl TV ads, which usually cost $5.6 million!
Idahoan Foods produce high quality, instant mashed potato products. They recognized that during lockdown, food content was incredibly popular on TikTok. We delivered a campaign for awareness and sales in the Gen Z market.
Our two-part campaign with Idahoan Foods featured 14 influencers. First, we featured a choreographed dance challenge using a custom sound we worked on with the brand. This challenge used the famous 1960’s ‘mashed potato dance’. It has all the elements of a viral trend: its easy to learn and replicate, catchy, and put the brand’s product front and center.
For the second part, we featured influencers eating their mashed potato products in organic creative videos. We gave influencers full creative control because they know their audience best. Their sponsored posts blend in seamlessly, which would be difficult if we scripted them out.
We gained an amazing 14 million views, with a 20% engagement rate (well above TikTok’s industry standard). Our sound reached an incredible 49.2k plays, and Idahoan Foods gained 3.7k followers.
Our key strategies were using a custom sound that was catchy and upbeat, and a little corny – which is very TikTok. We used an easy-to-learn ‘mash out’ dance in our challenge, so it was easy for users to make their own videos (they created 211 of them). Above all, the campaign blended right into TikTok.
F’real foods sell milkshakes. Their goal was brand relevance with Gen Z. F’real have nearly 700k followers, 40M views and 12.2M likes on TikTok. They focused on engaging with commenters, and making the brand relatable in everyday moments. Their aim was to create ‘organic’ trends as opposed to an overt challenge.
One of the most-watched videos on TikTok is F’real’s ‘braces life hack’ where a dentist takes about how much they love sweets and candy. Braces initially make eating crunchy, textured foods difficult, so how does one get the experience of eating candy without actually doing it?
F’real poised their milkshakes as the hack, since you can get Oreos, M&M’s, Skittles and other flavors blended right into the milkshake. It’s soft, it’s easy to drink and enjoy!
This tactic yielded 3.3 million views on their video, and actually lifted sales by 7.1% per month. The key strategy is that F’real demonstrated how their brand could actually be useful rather than simply asking people to buy milkshakes. They also capitalized on the popularity of ‘life-hack’ content on TikTok, so its very watchable.
Gushers has 2.6M likes and 268k followers, built through their fun, quirky approach. Gushers’ main strategy was to identify trends, and participate organically. They shot their videos on iPhone, using native TikTok effects for a DIY vibe. The goal was to create good content instead of ads.
Gushers’ first few videos gained an organic 12 million views over 4 weeks, growing the following from just 200 to over 150k. Comments from TikTokkers said that the brand ‘finally understood their humor’ – which is exactly what you want to hear.
Gushers also recognized that Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date, and deeply care about social issues. Their recent video asks for likes in exchange for a donation to the NAACP – and it’s got nearly 60k likes so far!
My Cookie Dough is a UK brand with a small but highly engaged following of 152k users. They’ve been delivering ‘home kits’ during lockdown, and their content has focused on aesthetically pleasing videos showcasing their cookie dough.
One of their most popular videos with over 1.2 million views, nearly 200k likes and 870 comments, uses a trending sound with a satisfying shot of their Nutella cookie dough. This sound has been used in 1.4M videos, so its not surprising it worked for them too!
They’ve also leveraged the trend of ‘soothing’ or ‘satisfying’ videos, and racked up nearly 2 million views on a video featuring chocolate being poured, set to the viral Doja Cat song ‘Candy’.
While it sounds deceptively simple, this brand has nailed the way they connect with their audience. They increase reach through trending sounds and video themes, and their products are always front and center.
Conclusion: Key Strategies for Food Brands on TikTok
So far, we’ve seen some amazing examples of food and beverage brands killing it on TikTok. There are some key strategies to keep in mind.
Dance challenges frequently crop up, and despite being a little kooky, they genuinely work. Humor is a running theme – if you get it, use it. Use trending sounds, or alternatively create catchy custom audio of your own.
Some brands have been clever about identifying micro-trends, such as ‘life-hack’ video formats and ‘soothing’ videos. If something like this works for your food brand, leverage it!
We hope these examples have inspired your food brand to kick off on TikTok. If you want to give yourself the best possible chance for viral success, get in touch with us!