Optimizing for TikTok with challenges and influencers
Movers+Shakers’ Evan Horowitz, the mastermind behind Godzilla vs. Kong’s “ROAR Challenge,” and GRIN’s Ali Fazal share strategies
“Godzilla vs. Kong,” the new Warner Bros release, has topped 4 billion views on TikTok with its dedicated “ROAR Challenge.” What are the strategies that produce big results like this? What do marketers need to know about what sticks in the growing TikTok community? What role do influencer marketing platforms play in orchestrating successful campaigns?
For TikTok it starts with a concept that fits the network’s culture. Every social platform has a unique flavor. Creative agency Movers+Shakers has become a TikTok specialist, topping 100 billion views on the platform across all of its campaigns.
Creating a winning concept for TikTok challenges
Agency CEO and co-founder Evan Horowitz appears to have cracked the code, but he is also looking at other emerging social destinations like Clubhouse and Triller. His priority is being at the cutting edge of culture and infusing it with brand love.
Movers+Shakers had helped create TikTok campaigns for past Warner Bros films, including last summer’s “Scoob!” and “Tenet.” To Horowitz, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which opened to wide release March 31 in theaters and on HBO Max, seemed tailor-made for a concept native to TikTok – the challenge.
“The most important thing is the challenge, the concept itself,” Horowitz said. “Warner Bros knew going into it that it was the ‘versus’ aspect that fans could get excited about. Are you ‘Team Godzilla’ or ‘Team Kong?’”
The moviemakers provided the roaring soundtrack of the two famous titans at war. It was then up to creators on TikTok to film themselves in situations where they could lip synch these primal screams.
Attracting more views by keeping the concept open
“A lot of challenges can fall flat pretty quickly,” Horowitz cautioned.
The key to the “ROAR Challenge” was to keep the concept open, to pull in more than just movie buffs who were familiar with Godzilla and King Kong’s previous on-screen battle, back in the 1960s.
“We twisted it so anybody can participate by focusing on the theme of an argument, dramatizing something in your life you want to share about,” Horowitz explained. He added that now a teenager could use the 15-second soundtrack to stage an argument with a parent, or two spouses could bring humor to a mundane domestic debate.
With its growing audience, TikTok holds the key to wider brand exposure and younger audiences.
“It’s all about meeting people where they are, and on social,” said Horowitz. “And the share of social is rapidly shifting to TikTok. Gen Z and Millennials are spending time massively on TikTok.”
What Horowitz saw was that Gen Z was already embedded on TikTok by the end of 2019. Millennials gravitated to it during the pandemic, attracted by what’s perceived as a more authentic experience than a competing social platform like Instagram.
Horowitz calls Instagram “aspirational.” With its manipulative filters, Instagram has earned the reputation for being less realistic. Brands, however, break ground in social channels to build authentic connections with audiences, so they will gain more traction with platforms that are perceived as more authentic.
Launching a TikTok campaign with an authentic team of influencers
According to Ali Fazal, Vice President of Marketing for influencer marketing platform GRIN, influencers themselves have suffered from a loss of perceived authenticity. He agrees that emerging social platforms like TikTok and Clubhouse offer an antidote to the fakery.
Because photoshopping and retouching technology is on everybody’s phone, airbrushing and other techniques that made legacy advertising in fashion magazines shine had worn out their welcome with a younger audience on social media.
“It reached a tipping point, and people got sick of it,” Fazal said. “It doesn’t represent real life.”
This doesn’t mean there aren’t influencers on TikTok. They are just unfiltered and more authentic. For brands, this means their audiences are more relaxed and potentially likely to buy, according to Fazal.
In a TikTok video, “you can see their background, the home, the people they live with,” Fazal explained. “All those small things contribute to a user experiencing the real thing.”
Even if a TikTok creator doesn’t have the massive audience of top YouTube or IG influencers, they can still be connected with brands and combined with other relevant influencers to execute a campaign.
GRIN’s platform is channel agnostic and works outside of influencer agencies. It allows brands to communicate with the right influencers based on their network of followers. Alternatively, brands can plug in their established influencers and orchestrate the full lifecycle of a campaign.
“As influencer marketing has evolved, it’s gone beyond being manufactured and doing things for a paycheck,” Fazal said. “Companies are using influencers as an extension of their own team.”
He added, “TikTok is table stakes now. It’s proven to be a network with legs. It’s super clear since going through the pandemic that people are craving non-manufactured authentic content.”
Maintaining consistency — and knowing when to let go
Authentic content, according to Fazal, brings “more trust and relatability within the relationship.” He explained, “That authenticity between content creator and consumer could push [the customer] over the edge in believing the advertiser.”
For the “Godzilla vs. Kong ROAR challenge,” Movers+Shakers didn’t recruit any influencers (that was handled by another agency). But once they developed the concept, they briefed the influencers to maintain consistency.
“When we structure a TikTok campaign, we create a through line, [then encourage users to] add your own twist, as creators and consumers of those videos,” said Horowitz.
TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2020, and marketers should allow its impressive size to work its magic when executing a campaign on the platform. Besides the sheer reach, its algorithmic curation gets many users to watch an hour or more content in a sitting. This means that attempts at TikTok virality can be worthwhile investments.