Should private brands sing and dance with TikTok?

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
Dan Ochwat profile picture
The "Deal Drop Dance" contest from Walmart on TikTok.

In its less than two years in existence, the mobile app TikTok has been downloaded more than a billion times, making it a new social platform to rival that of Instagram and Snapchat. The app is driven by the millennial and Gen Z demographics, posting mostly short lip-syncing, dancing or prank-style videos, and in recent months it has garnered the attention of national retailers and brands.

Well, despite knowing I’m too old to be using TikTok, I had to download it, mainly because as an editor of Store Brands I wondered if there could be some private brand participation. This isn’t a crazy idea: IRI recently reportedthat younger consumers are having an impact on the growth of the private label industry. Joan Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership at IRI, recently said,“Private label is experiencing growth that outpaces that of national brands and has increasing influence on store choice among consumers, especially among Gen Z.”

Based on this trend of young consumers having an interest in private brands, I think it’s a fair question: Will private brands dance with TikTok?

Well, my first interaction with the app brought me a video of a young man walking on paper cups until he crashed and spilled milk all over the floor. That wasn’t a good start. But then I quickly saw a Walmart Black Friday dancing contest that had nearly 2 billion views.

For an app that has only had a few reported brand or retailer campaigns, I was surprised to see a number that big, but I have to say the Walmart campaign looked very impressive. Called #DealDropDance, the program had influencers, celebrities and regular attention-craving shoppers dancing in the aisles, and cutting up the linoleum for a chance to win a $100 gift card. The concept of the campaign is shoppers dancing for joy over the upcoming Black Friday deals at Walmart, and the look of the campaign and videos fit right in with the app — the idea of self-expression and a few seconds of being goofy for a laugh.

It’s not the first time Walmart has used TikTok. In September, Walmart ran another program with TikTok influencers called #SavingsShuffle, asking users to dance on the app and tag Walmart. The Kroger Co. used the app for a back-to-school campaign called #TransformUrDorm, getting users to show off their decked-out dorms in a fun way. Macy’s, Guess, Chipotle, the NBA, Ralph Lauren and other companies have used TikTok, too, scoring the app some of this new attention.

One note, when looking at the Kroger and Walmart campaigns, it’s obvious that some users are tagging the campaigns and posting videos that have nothing to do with the themes just to get the views, but there’s still a lot of relevant engagement happening on the campaigns.

And I think there’s room here for store brands to leverage the app.

The first retailer to come to mind to partner with TikTok would be Trader Joe’s. The retailer already has a reputation of having fun, jovial staff, and they have loyal shoppers and excellent products. Running a search in the app does reveal TikTok users making plenty of videos shopping at the store, highlighting their favorite products and, of course, being silly in the aisles, so there’s an organic connection already happening. But perhaps TJ will launch some more coordinated efforts?

Another prime suspect to me could be Target’s Good & Gather store brand. The retailer currently doesn’t have a presence on the app, but Good & Gather does strike me as a brand with some youth appeal.

In the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago near where I live, there’s a small-format Target store that’s home to many younger, millennial shoppers. The store prominently features Good & Gather products throughout, particularly in the food, beverage and on-the-go meals section. The sleek packaging of some of the items, such as the Good & Gather sparkling water (the alternative to LaCroix and Bubly), has a clean, youthful vibe, so a lip-syncing sing-a-long TikTok video to celebrate Good & Gather doesn’t feel like a reach.

In another recent report, IRI worked with FMI on a three-part series called “The Power of Private Brands” and found that there’s an uptick in private brands using Instagram to promote products, so TikTok could tie in here. At any rate, it will be interesting to see how private brands explore more social opportunities and if TikTok plays a role.

For me, I have a hard enough time dancing at weddings, let alone on a mobile app for 2 billion people, so don’t ask me to start the dance.

But I would like to see some private brand dance moves.

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