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Why TikTok Trends Are a Marketer’s Best Friend

By Marisa Rondinelli

Today's viral TikTok trends featuring unconventional hacks, secret-menu items and #challenges have led to the emergence of "TikTok products." Born from the real users rather than the boardroom, these trends are forcing brands to respond, wreaking havoc on supply chains and angering retail workers. Despite this disruption, here's why they're the best thing to happen to your business — and how to make the most of it.

As marketers, it's our job to be the voice of the consumer. We research and we listen, we plan and we predict. And yet, we often get it wrong.

Consumers are complicated and unpredictable. Their beliefs don't match their behaviors, and their preferences don't translate to purchases we think they will. So, when they tell us what they want, it's on us to listen — and respond.

Yes, these viral-born products, hacks and ideas can create a diversion from approved marketing plans and leave brand and product managers scrambling. Brands may even feel trapped — held hostage by the whims of TikTok trends. But if we look past the initial chaos that's created, we can see them for what they really are: a gift. Because at their core, they're built of the stuff marketers' dreams are made of.

First off, these are authentic endorsements of the brand from trusted voices. Organic exposure from influencers is valuable enough — couple that with the virality of a social media trend and you have grassroots marketing at its finest. Remember when nostalgic millennials discovered the magic that happens when you put ice cream in a Fruit Roll Up? These are moments that build both ownership and brand awareness for your business.

Second, these trends are novel solutions rooted in unmet needs. Social media has created a way for brands to connect with customers like never before and what once could only be obtained in listening sessions is now a dialogue that runs 24/7. When trends like the cottage cheese and mustard sensation that captivated the protein-craving community emerge, brands can know in almost real-time what their customers are wanting and how they'd prefer that need to be met.

Finally, these trends showcase sizable demand that equates to strong conversion. It's the kind of clear ROI signal you rarely get from other forms of marketing. Take the Peter Thomas Roth eye tightener that has repeatedly sold out since the original viral video gained over 50 million views in 2021. Trends pay off.

To capitalize on these moments, there are a few ways brands can ready themselves for maximum impact:

Listen Up

Top up social listening capabilities to get wind of trends sooner. Better yet, bring creators into the conversation early by creating influencer networks, hosting co-creation sessions, or offering product-previews in exchange for feedback and usage ideas.

Lean In

Lean into the trend to maximize the upswing in demand. This adoption means identifying the bottlenecks it may have created across your business and working rapidly to resolve them. Chipotle's Keithadilla frustrating workers because it's delaying prep times? Mix it in advance for them. Kewpie mayo sold out again? Direct customers to online channels or use store locators to find the next nearest product.

Leverage the Right Voice

Brands that go to all in on the trend run the risk of undermining the authenticity of the movement. Rather than run paid media with their own original content, they should look to amplify the voices of the digital creators who started the trend, such as sponsoring the viral video on TikTok and commenting on videos of those who participate.

With some active listening, a readiness to jump into action, and an attitude of opportunity, brands can realize the full momentum of these viral moments — making them not just a boon for business, but a chance to amplify genuine customer love.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Marisa Rondinelli is passionate about building powerful brand strategies rooted in an empathetic understanding of the customer. In her 10-year tenure at VSA Partners, she has led strategic initiatives for industry-leading clients, such as Nike wearables, AB InBev and Kimberly-Clark, and is currently enjoying a focus on creating meaningful employee experiences with Cricket Wireless. She is most recognized for her ability to translate complex inputs into meaningful brand ideas.