How to use TikTok for brand building (and get millions of likes)

New consumer research shows TikTok is a hotbed for brand discovery - find out how your brand can get in on the act.

During lockdown, TikTok skyrocketed in popularity reaching an eye watering 800+ million monthly active users. But the big question is, with people returning to normal life, will usage of the video platform drop off? According to our research, it’s only going to get stronger. 

In a survey of 500 UK TikTok users, 54% of people said they will maintain their usage of the platform over the next six months, while 33% will increase it. Only 13% of people who currently use TikTok think their usage will reduce (check out the results in Attest’s interactive dashboard).

What’s more, TikTok has become an important place for consumers to discover brands; 79% of respondents to our survey agree they have discovered new brands through TikTok, while 54% have purchased a brand after seeing it on the platform. 

The power of TikTok to drive purchasing was seen earlier this year, when users went wild for Little Moons Japanese mochi ice cream balls. Going to ‘big Tesco in search of Little Moons’ became such a craze that it pushed sales up by more than 1000%. 

So, should more brands be getting in on the TikTok act? And how can they go about doing it in a way that will resonate with this unique audience? Let’s take a look…

Which demographics can brands reach on TikTok?

TikTok is often thought of as a Gen Z platform but it’s not exclusively youngsters; 43% of respondents to our survey were aged over 25. And what’s interesting is that this is the audience showing the biggest growth potential. 

Nearly 92% of people in the older age group plan to maintain or increase their usage of the platform in the next six months (including 39% who’ll use it more). This is in comparison to 84% of users aged 18-25 (29% of whom intend to increase their usage). 

Both demographics largely believe the platform helps them discover brands but it is the younger users who claim to be more engaged with brands there. Just over 59% of TikTok users aged 18-25 say they follow brands on the platform and the same amount say they’ve gone on to buy brands after seeing them in videos. A lesser 54% of users aged 26+ follow brands on TikTok and 46% have made a purchase. 

We see a similar difference in engagement when we split the data by gender – women are more interested in brands on TikTok than men are. Nearly 62% of women follow brands on the platform versus 52% of men. And there’s a huge gap when we look at who’s being driven to make purchases; 65.5% of women say they’ve purchased a brand they’ve seen on TikTok versus 41% of men.

What content do TikTok users want from brands?

Brands wanting to make a mark on TikTok need to put effort into creating suitable content. TikTok comes with its own distinctive filters, stickers and music that render videos made for the platform easily identifiable. It’s also known for its homemade, authentic style, which even the slickest of brands need to get on board with in order to fit in. 

We asked respondents to our survey what type of content they most like to see from brands on TikTok. The top answer by a big margin was ‘funny content’’; 74% of Gen Z and 72% of those aged 26+ agreed. Ryanair is one example of a brand that’s found success by leaning into the weird side of TikTok with humorous content often centered around trending memes and formats (the brand’s content has chalked up 11 million likes).

The second-most liked type of content are tutorials (46% Gen Z, 44% 26+). Some brands lend themselves to this more than others, but a great example is MAC Cosmetics, which uses TikTok to show how its products can be used on “all ages, all races, all genders”.


We love the #throwback energy of MACCrew’s @isaiah_nyc first ever #makeup look!  #MUA #beauty #maccosmetics #beautytok #makeuptok

♬ Countless – Official Sound Studio

TikTok is also well known for its dances and lip syncing – and users like it when brands either join in with what’s trending or start their own challenges, although this content is a bit more popular with older users. 41% of those aged 26+ like to see dancing and singing from brands, compared with 36.5% of those aged 18-25. 

The beauty of starting a lip sync or dancing challenge is that, if it takes off, brands can bag themselves masses of user generated content. This is exactly what happened for e.l.f. Cosmetics; their viral dance challenge #EyesLipsFace resulted in 3 million user generated videos with literally billions of views.

Beyond the top three content types, our survey found that educational and topical content is welcomed from brands (38% of the older age group like this content, as do 35% of the younger demographic). Collaborations with influencers are fifth most popular, although this content type is notably more popular with Gen Z (33% versus 25%). Meanwhile, 29% of both age groups say they like it when brands run hashtag challenges.

The least popular content that brands can run are live broadcasts. Gen Z especially are not in favour, with only 16.5% saying they like to watch live content, for example interviews or Q&A sessions. The older age group remain more open to this type of content, with 25% saying they like.

Which brands are smashing it on TikTok?

Nike, which has 1.4 million followers on TikTok, was the brand most likely to be named as one creating good content on the platform. So what’s special about Nike’s content? It mostly centres around challenges led by sports stars, like #TheReplay, where users are encouraged to post and tag their skills. Then there are humorous spots like #MagicBoots, where footballers get impressively upgraded capabilities thanks to Nike football boots (and a little bit of CGI). 

Overall, Nike’s content contains a good mix of all the elements (comedy, skills, challenges) that users like to see on TikTok. Other brands to enjoy notable mentions included Ryanair and PrettyLittleThing. 

What could TikTok do for your brand?

With a growing user base – and one that’s open to discovering new brands – TikTok holds potential for all sorts of brands. Our data shows the platform is not only useful for brands targeting Gen Z, but can also be used to reach other demographics – even if this is done indirectly, as in the case of Little Moons. 

To learn how Little Moons expanded its TikTok success into the mainstream media using consumer profiling, watch our on-demand webinar produced in partnership with The Grocer…

On-demand webinar: TikTok, Gen Z & going viral

Discover what went on behind the scenes that allowed Little Moons to turn social media hype into sales.

Watch now

Bel Booker

Senior Content Writer 

Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 125 million global consumers. She also likes cake.

See all articles by Bel