Douyin/TikTok: a first-class marketing tool for brands?




Douyin, aka TikTok, has become the leading Chinese social media app. Secret recipe of this “sweet and sour” app.


Douyin is a hip short video app launched not so long ago in September 2016. In November 2017, ByteDance, the holding of Douyin, bought the US app for 1 billion USD. Since then, the app has seen exponential growth over the last 3 years, becoming hugely popular among China’s young social media users. The app currently has 250 million daily active users (DAU) and 500 million monthly active users, and is gaining millions of new users every month. 60% of Douyin users are female, and around 70% reside in China’s top-tier cities. Outside of China, the app is known as TikTok and targets users aged 10 to 18. It has 2.5 million users in France alone, and has recorded more downloads than giants like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram in recent months.



The sweet: huge marketing value for advertisers

Leveraging its massive popularity among Chinese millennials, the app has obvious value to luxury marketers like Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel which are placing advertisements on the platform in China.



Beyond ad placement, Christian Dior has an official account on Douyin with a posting schedule synced to the brand’s operations in China. Photo: Jing Daily illustration



Content and format are key in determining if a video will go viral on Douyin. A good video should motivate followers to regenerate secondary content for secondary communication. In general, Douyin content is fairly down-to-earth and even sometimes distasteful. It would be easy to think that such a platform create a mismatch between Douyin’s audience and luxury clients. But in recent months, Douyin has also started to expand its e-commerce functionality to allow brands and retailers to capitalize on their traffic. Christian Dior, for example, added a store on the app that allows users to place orders. Social selling is a real phenomenon in China, and viewers can easily transform into impulsive buyers. It is therefore easy to see the benefit for marketers in using such a platform to push brand content and trigger sales.



The sour: a not so friendly app

Many foreign countries have tried to alert their youngsters to the dangers of the dark sides of social media (narcissistic behavior, bullying, addiction). TikTok is no exception to this, and has recently been under criticism due to the disconcerted facility to publish content that then spreads like wildfire onto various other platforms.





TikTok’s main feature is nothing fancy, since the app is basically a karaoke machine. Users take selfies singing and dancing. But its secret weapon lies in the challenges issued to all users on a weekly basis, such as trying different outfits or shoes on in 15 seconds… This scheme develops addictive behavior. Special effects and make-up are included to allow users to look like their idol. Like on any other social media platform, the ultimate goal is to get as many “likes” and “followers” as possible striking stereotyped and sexy poses. TikTok has become the ultimate narcissism platform. Many users try their best to look like their idols. If they fail, they risk being bullied and mocked. Indeed, it is not rare to find aggressive and sexist comments sent to users who post videos of themselves.



In a nutshell: impressive growth of its user base, but Douyin is still not a par with the WeChat ecosystem

TikTok has gained massive notoriety among youngsters. Like all other social media, users must be highly cautious about the content they post on it. TikTok is clearly the first ever “developed in China” social app with a clear agenda of conquering the world (not only China and Southeast Asia). Despite its fame, TikTok is still no match for the current social media marketing king WeChat. WeChat has a complete ecosystem, from social media, videos, to mini-programs and payment. Douyin is by no means a threat to it for now.



By Stéphane Joly, Global Key Account Director, Altavia Europe