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TikTok Marketing for People Who Don’t Understand TikTok

TikTok Marketing for People Who Don’t Understand TikTok

What does Dungeons and Dragons, self-depreciating humor, and bad dancing have in common?

Aside from being an apt description of your teenage years, it’s the foundation of the social media phenomenon that we call TikTok.

This viral video platform fills the cold void that Vine left behind, giving users the opportunity to create cringe-worthy videos that can blow up over night.

In fact, it’s so popular with the 12-24 demographic that it has surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat in installs, hitting 40 million monthly downloads in late 2018. With over 500 million monthly users, 66% of which are younger than 30, it is rich in opportunities to market to the people who are paying the most attention to trends and products.

So, if you like your memes hot and fresh, and you’re ready to take your marketing creativity to the extreme, this lil’ gem of an app is the place to do it.

Cash Me on TikTok, How Bou’ Dat?

If you’re still busy shaking your fist at Gen-Z kids and their damn smartphones, you’re missing out on a highly marketable demographic. They’re cynical, they’re intelligent, and they’re hilarious. They take irony to a level that a certain Canadian female songstress could write a song about.

Don’t be this guy.

Look, we get it. The new generation is a little hard to understand. You don’t know the difference between a VSCO girl and an e-girl. You’re still confused about how Billy Ray Cyrus revived his career with a rap song. And you’ve definitely never seen yee-yee juice in any grocery store that you’re shopping at.

But these self-proclaimed “smol beans” are well on their way to becoming informed consumers, and their willingness to call out anything they deem contrived or artificial puts businesses in a unique marketing position. More than ever before, you have the chance to have fun with your strategy. Gen-Z wants raw, and they want real. Most importantly, they want to be Tracer.

If you can hear this image, you probably already have a TikTok.

Stranger in a Strange Land: A Guide to Gen-Z Humor

Marketing on TikTok isn’t difficult if you understand the basis of Gen-Z’s humor. It’s all about making light of serious issues, but in a way that respects the seriousness.

To help you navigate this new and intimidating landscape, we interviewed three 6th graders to see what they thought was funny. After getting past fart jokes and watching kids fall off of bikes, we got to the real heart of this new age of comedy. Names were changed so that their parents don’t find out they have a Tik Tok. They asked if they could pick their own fake names… We said yes.

Jimmy John

“If you want to make someone laugh on TikTok, you can’t be like… too serious. Everything’s kinda funny, or you can make it funny. It gets annoying when people leave comments that are [like] “Don’t joke about dying!” Obviously, I don’t really want to die, I just want to be dramatic. It makes dealing with hard stuff easier because then I can laugh about it.”


“I think animals are funny… and when people use weird stuff to look like something else. People will pretend like they’re texting but just use a phone case. I don’t know why it’s funny, I just like it. I saw this one video where a kid put a whole vacuum cleaner on his head to look like hair, so he could be himself and his mom in the same video.”

The 5th Hokage

“Last year, I liked Big Chungus, but this year I like Yung Gravy. That’s the one that sings that song about Mr. Clean. And I like the videos where it’s old people trying to make TikToks because it’s funny that they’re cringy, so it’s a different funny. I laugh at everything, pretty much. Why do you want to know what I think is funny? Are you making a TikTok? Can I be in one with you?”

You heard it first here, folks. Put a vacuum cleaner on your head, then threaten to jump out a window. You’re well on your way to becoming Tik Tok famous.

5 Tips for TikTok Marketing Success

It’s time to crack your knuckles and get down to business. Here are a few tips to kick off your TikTok marketing strategy:

  1. You have to start by watching TikTok. There is no way to possibly understand the veritable cornucopia of strange humor without diving in with both feet. You’ll come across some pretty weird ones, but like finding a curly fry in your tator tot order, they’re usually a happy accident.
  2. Build up an appreciation for quirk. If there was one word to describe TikTok, it would be “surreal.” The first time that I used TikTok, it was because my little brother wanted to show me a cringe compilation. Eventually, the cringe becomes less cringey and more relatable. It’s like TikTok is screaming “It’s okay to be weird! We’re all weird! Do you like cheese sticks?” If you can balance irreverent humor within your marketing strategy, you’re going to have a great time with this platform.
  3. Don’t try too hard. Gen-Z doesn’t want to be marketed to, they want you to prove that you understand them. To get serious for a moment, this generation lives in troubling times. They are being forced to face tough topics that previous generations did not. From climate change to gun control, Gen-Z is more vocal, more educated, and more willing to share their beliefs with no holds barred. They want to know what you believe before they support you. If not, you may find yourself… cancelled.
  4. Before you make paid ad content, make user generated content. TikTok’s paid advertising system is still small, allowing users to hit skip immediately. The best way to be seen is by putting out videos that follow trends and making it onto the “For You” page. Don’t spend the money if your creativity and humor can do the work for you.
  5. Don’t underestimate Gen-Z intelligence. One of the most popular TikTok trends of 2019 was lipsyncing a song about hooking up with someone’s mom by showing her their stock portfolio. My personal favorite video of all time (below) is about investing spare change into the Robinhood app. This exemplifies TikTok humor. It’s clever, it’s smart, and it’s goofy for the sake of being goofy. These kids are smart, and they expect you to recognize that.

TikTok is social media marketing without the pressure. It gives businesses and their customers the chance to bond over something more than a product. It creates relationships that Facebook couldn’t dream of building. Most importantly, it’s just fun. Get out there and make ’em laugh… It’s a marketing investment that’s way more fun than sending out emails.

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