TikTok: ‘About a year ago, we weren’t really taken seriously in the beauty space’

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

TikTok now has a raft of beauty brands on the platform - creating and inspiring content among its millions of worldwide users, 100+ million of which are in Europe (Getty Images)
TikTok now has a raft of beauty brands on the platform - creating and inspiring content among its millions of worldwide users, 100+ million of which are in Europe (Getty Images)

Related tags: TikTok, Social media, digital, social commerce, Beauty apps, Beauty brands

Video-sharing platform TikTok is a promising space for beauty brands – big and small – to build up meaningful communities and consumer buzz in an increasingly saturated market, say the company's brand partnership managers.

Established in 2018, the video-sharing social network service TikTok was the most-downloaded mobile app in the world in the third quarter (Q3) of 2020, according to Sensor Tower, with close to 190 million global downloads. The platform now had more than 100 million active users in Europe alone and, worldwide, 66% of its users were aged 25+, despite it being renowned as particularly popular with younger* Gen Z consumers. [*TikTok has a 13+ age policy for its app]

In the beauty world, TikTok had certainly started to build plenty of noise, so CosmeticsDesign-Europe sat down with Ola Pelovangu and Antonia Baildam – global brand partnerships managers for beauty at TikTok – to find out exactly why the platform had made such an impression.

TikTok – ‘celebrating progress versus perfection’

“Obviously we’re the new kid on the block; TikTok is new to the social media world. But we’ve definitely made a loud entrance,”​ Pelovangu said.

Ola Pelovangu, global brand partnerships manager for beauty and tech at TikTok
Ola Pelovangu, global brand partnerships manager for beauty and tech at TikTok

“…The fact brands are leaning into us is mainly because it’s an environment that fosters celebrating progress versus perfection. The content is less polished and it’s more relatable and more around authenticity,” ​she said.

Baildam agreed: “That’s the real beauty of TikTok – we are such a safe space for authenticity and honesty for creators that care about their community around them. They care about giving the best advice; they care about debunking skin care ingredients; calling out products they don’t think work well; and suggesting those that do.”

“…We do have a really highly-engaged community, and that’s the way we see TikTok: as a community. It’s more than just a platform,”​ she said. 

Antonia Baildam, global brand partnerships manager for beauty at TikTok
Antonia Baildam, global brand partnerships manager for beauty at TikTok

Appetite for TikTok beauty content rising

Baildam said the appetite for beauty-related content on TikTok was “absolutely there”​ – the beauty hashtag alone had around 20 billion views – and brands were now starting to take note.

“About a year ago, we weren’t really taken seriously in the beauty space and now we’ve definitely seen brands manipulating and changing their entire strategies, with TikTok first.”

Asked what part of the beauty industry had succeeded on TikTok thus far – big multinationals or indie brands, Baildam said: “It’s not about who you are as a brand, it’s more about the creativity and content you’re putting out there.”

Big brands and indies had “thought about TikTok in different ways”, ​she said.

Right now, the platform had a huge range of companies present – from majors like Sephora through to complete startups like Pink Salad that had “literally built themselves from TikTok”, ​she said.

Beauty brands are a ‘guide’ on TikTok, not the hero

However, for beauty brands interested in joining TikTok for the first time, Pelovangu said it was important they were prepared to be fun but also vulnerable.

“Every good story has a hero, a guide and a villain. And brands coming onto the platform need to realise they’re not coming on to be the hero; they’re coming on the be the guide and showing up when it matters most.”

“…[TikTok] is not about marketing to people and selling, it’s more about storytelling,” ​she said.

TikTok users were looking for “memorable experiences”,​ Pelovangu said, and brands had to help create and inspire this among the users and creators on the platform.

Baildam added: “We’re having conversations with many, many different brands – some of which aren’t on the platform from an organic perspective – ​and the audience are literally waiting for [them] to show up. It’s a great social tool for brands to see how they’re being spoken about and really what the customer genuinely wants.”

Beauty visibility during TikTok’s ‘hyper-growth phase’

So, was TikTok the social media space to play in as we edged towards 2021? “Absolutely – above and beyond,” ​said Baildam. “…We are in this hyper-growth phase and brands are really excited about tapping into a whole new audience.”

The visibility a beauty brand could get on TikTok with the right content, she said, and more importantly the speed in which this could happen was significant. “We just ran a campaign with Nyx Cosmetics and in the first six days they’ve already got 770 million views. That’s what makes TikTok really unique.”

Pelovangu added: “What’s so exciting is that brands are willing to grow with us (…) Even brands like Olay who traditionally speak to the more traditional audience – we saw them taking Olay Regenerative and teaming up with rapper/singer Lady Leshurr.”

“…The people who are going to see the biggest benefit are the people who get involved early on. We all know beauty is a saturated market (…) There is an untapped opportunity on TikTok,” ​she said.

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