TikTok Marketing 101 in 2020

By Alizeh Rasool

So, you are a brand who has tried advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat but you want something more organic and Gen Z? Well, you have landed on the right page. Yes, we are talking about TikTok; the same app where you are most likely to find your 16-year-old kid flipping bottles to a catchy tune or making you say silly words out loud. TikTok is where you witness everything from comedy to creativity. It is a place where you will find famous celebrities promoting their films with popular TikTok stars. This is THE app that can drive your brand to the next level if advertised correctly.



TikTok, the Chinese app estimates about 800 million monthly active users worldwide, with 1.5 billion downloads! There were 113 million new users in February 2020 alone! This figure may overwhelm you, but if you are a Canadian brand seeking a Canadian market, you are still at an early stage. In August 2019, Canada accounted for only 1.7 million unique users, 16 to 64 years old. It is currently Canada’s most downloaded app. We believe COVID is playing a huge role in its ever-increasing popularity and it is estimated that the number of unique Canadian users may be closer to 2 million now. In fact, users are spending more time on TikTok (52 minutes a day on average) than on Instagram (32 minutes a day on average). You can bet on reaching the Gen Z audience however figures also suggest that their middle-aged parents are being influenced by its addictive entertainment power.



According to HubSpot's social media team, the video-based social app TikTok is "leaking" with brand opportunities. Reach and engagement are two of the biggest benefits a marketer can achieve by using this platform. Here is an example that demonstrates this.

Jennifer Lopez recently posted the same video on both Twitter and TikTok. She has 45 million followers on Twitter and has 5 million follower base on TikTok. On Twitter the video got 2 million views (off 45 million followers). The same video on TikTok got 71 million views (off 5 million followers).

Tiktok has even started #HappyAtHome: LIVE! Nightly Programming Block which is undoubtedly training Gen Z to tune in at certain times when actually appointment TV viewing is now the story of past.

The most organic way to use this platform is by adopting a UGC (user-generated content) strategy. If you try giving your new XYZ brand to Nadia (@nadiyuhz), a Montreal based teenager with 124.4k followers and give her the freedom to use your product in her own unique and funny way, you might just hit the bull’s-eye. However, if you are an established brand with deeper pockets, you can go for more structured advertising plays.

  • Brand Takeover, a full-screen ad that can last three to five seconds and will link back to your brand’s profile.

  • In-feed Native Ads, a full-screen video ad of 15 seconds that appears to users while swiping through.

  • Hashtag Challenges, where you create a video for the brand with a particular hashtag and kick it off to see how users engage with the hashtags creating a chain of exposure.

  • Branded Lens, where you create a filter for users to use to represent your brand.

Pro-Tip: Tiktoks are short bursts of interactions. Interactions that last just a few seconds. The use of humour, memes, witty, pop-driven content are key. So, create Tiktoks. Don’t create basic ads. As different as TikTok is from other marketing platforms, so is its advertising. If you want to engage with your audience, do not to sell but join in instead.

Fun Fact! – Baskin Robbins Canada had a tie-up with Netflix’s Stranger Things for which they created #StrangerThingsBinge with the help of Canadian influencers leading to 22 million views in a five-day campaign.



Apart from the fact that TikTok is fiercely entertaining and influential there is also a dark side to be aware of. With allegations of cyber risk and data privacy it has given way to accusations of Chinese influence and control. It is being taken seriously by some governments regarding their political strategies. Here are some recent developments.

  • US government fined TikTok $5.7 million accusing the app of keeping the personal information of minors and is now planning to ban the use of the app altogether. More news on whether it will be sold to Microsoft or Twitter will be know in September 2020.

  • Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok, alleging it contained pornography and blasphemous content.

  • The Government of India recently banned TikTok and other 59 Chinese apps citing “national security and defense of India” as its reason for doing so.

There is bright side!

TikTok is in its early stage in the Canadian market. The app will evolve into much more than what it is right now. Theo Bertram, TikTok's head of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said it would refuse any request from China to hand over data. Given the recent backlash TikTok is showing signs of responding to secure its strength in the market.

Marketers should keep in mind that they are dealing with mostly young people, who get influenced easily. We know that social media has a wide reach and impact. So marketers should carefully plan their communication strategies to avoid sensitivities and potential backlash.

We can quite confidently say that for Canadian marketers, there is a huge audience ready to be tapped into by creative and fast-thinking brands. It is an open ground to position your brand as a creative powerhouse and potentially shift its reach to new audiences.