The Brands That Are Smashing TikTok Marketing

When it comes to social media platforms, TikTok is fairly new to the game. That being said, the social platform has seen extraordinary growth over the past two years, largely due to the pandemic giving the app a huge boost. In fact, the app recently announced that it now has over 1 billion active users globally. Now, that’s quite a way behind Facebook’s 3.5 billion, but it’s extremely impressive for a platform that is only been around for roughly five years.


What’s become a bit of a mystery to marketers is how to approach the platform from a brand marketing perspective. The target audience of TikTok varies massively, as does the creative content – long gone are the days of recommending social media content designed for ‘sound off’ – and influencer marketing is a whole different ballgame. Basically, you have to approach TikTok marketing in a completely different way than you would other social media platforms. Effective marketing strategies have to work with this entirely new platform as opposed to being repurposed from other apps or chopped up from shoot days.


With that in mind, I think it is important that we delve into the brands that have succeeded in this approach. Whether that be by creating viral content, piggybacking on hashtag challenges or simply utilising trends effectively, let’s take a look.

1. Duolingo

As someone who spent many years learning modern foreign languages and eventually getting a degree in Spanish and German, I’ve always been fascinated by language learning. Whilst I was at uni, I discovered the app Duolingo and utilised it as a revision tool, spending hours conjugating verbs and expanding my vocab (not to brag but I completed the Spanish and German courses on there). It was a very useful app for when I was on a bus or train and wanted to get some revision in without getting out all my folders and textbooks. And that was about it. The key takeaway from my waffle about studying languages is that it’s always been a very boring world of study – there, I’ve said it! Now, Duolingo is in a whole different league.


The brand evolution of Duolingo is absolutely phenomenal and if I could write my whole blog about them then I would. However, more recently they’ve catapulted themselves even higher up in my favourites due to their incredible use of TikTok marketing (we eventually got back to the point). Duolingo’s mascot is a little green owl, aptly named Duo. What the app has recently done is use a giant version of this mascot (I’m assuming it’s a costume and there’s a person inside) and had it jump on new trends and any relevant trending song, whether they are slightly inappropriate or not. The juxtaposition between a quite boring language learning app and an explicit remix of Adele’s Easy On Me utilising the sound Smack My Ass Like A Drum is something to behold.


Duolingo uses very tongue in cheek messaging to go with the videos, usually berating Google Translate in some way, and even refers to themselves as the social media marketing team at Duolingo. This use of messaging, mixed with the original content, makes it extremely engaging and has led to some insane reach and likes.


Here are some of their most popular videos:


@duolingoafter all, we have always said we’re free, fun and ✨effective ✨ at teaching languages. #Duolingo #squidgame #redlightgreenlight #run #helpme #owl♬ original sound – Golden Stables


@duolingoevery time you open Google Translate, I lose a feather. ##duolingo ##swiftok ##enchanted ##languagelearning ##trend ##brandtok ##comedy♬ Enchanted Taylor Swift – Kaylen


As you can tell, I am utterly obsessed with their digital marketing. They’ve taken the main principles of Tiktok – jump on trends and be funny or relatable to succeed – and utilised this in such a way that it doesn’t feel forced or like a group of marketing professionals sat in a room and thought “cracking idea”. It seems so natural and is a perfect way to reach a younger audience with an app that may have otherwise become a bit irrelevant. Nice work Duolingo!


2. Pantene

Another brand that has had some great TikTok moments by being relatable and relevant is Pantene. Of all the content that they post (which is actually pretty regular and consistent) the ones that perform the best are usually where they refer to themselves as actual people. By showing the face behind the brand in an extremely relatable way, people can be more engaged than just a brand.


My favourite TikTok example from them was after Taylor Swift had released the All Too Well 10 Minute Version (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault), which was a momentous pop culture moment and was trending all over the social media platform. Rather than just ignoring the trend because it’s not particularly relevant to their brand, the Pantene social media team took a different approach and actually expressed the struggles of having to work when really all they want to do is cry in the shower to the lines “you call me up again just to break me like a promise”.


Another example of the brand personifying themselves on TikTok is here:

@pantenebe back in two hours👋 #millennials #corporatelife #communitymanager♬ son original – French Fuse


For a brand that is relatively disinteresting, I’m really impressed with these marketing campaigns.


3. Netflix


Ok, so as a humongous brand, if anyone is going to have the budget and time to spend on creating a successful digital marketing strategy on TikTok, it’s going to be Netflix. That being said, they have been doing it really well. Recently, for the promotion for their upcoming film, Red Notice, Netflix partnered with TikTok creator giant Khaby Lame (121.7M followers) to create a whole new trailer, just for TikTok:

@netflix#RedNoticeTTTrailer w @galgadot + @khaby.lame is #LearnFromKhaby #LearnFromGal #RedNoticeTTTrailer♬ original sound – Netflix


The brand also recently worked with true crime Youtuber Eleanor Neale, to promote an upcoming documentary about a serial killer, where she ran through the story and history of the murderer to encourage viewers to watch the show.

@netflix@eleanornealeyt introduces us to the fascinating case of Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan #netflix #truecrime♬ original sound – Netflix


Netflix are absolutely smashing inventive ways to utilise influencer marketing campaigns on a platform that is built on relatable, relevant content by people – not by brands.



If you’re looking to learn more about social media advertising, social media trends or ways to up your marketing campaigns, get in touch.


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