Philippa (Pip) has been obsessed with internet culture since she first heard a dial up tone. She has mined the internet for insight, data and memes and turned them into springboards for great creative work that influenced culture. As Head of Strategy at TikTok Creative Lab EU, she got to do the same cultural creative work from inside one of the most exciting entertainment platforms around, working on top global clients like Nike, Apple, Burberry and Disney.

Before TikTok, Philippa worked at some of the best advertising agencies in London: Albion, McCann, Karmarama (Accenture Song), ACNE (Deloitte) and has also spent many years steering big brand accounts – Nestle Cereals, first direct bank, L’Oreal and Ornua Foods. With 13+ years of experience, she operates as head of strategy with a specialisation in digital and social. She is also a recipient of the Women in Advertising and Communications (WACL), Future Leaders Award.

Presentation Synopsis:

Philippa will explore the makings of a cultural idea, what it consists of beyond a short lived trend or moment and what enables it to spread between cultures globally. She will demonstrate how Tik Tok enables the spread of ideas even further – from language to movement to popular Creators and how a cultural idea can last.

Main Points:

  • How a cultural idea can travel around the world
  • How Tik Tok has enabled ideas to spread between countries
  • How a trend spreads and grows online

Philippa Dunjay: Mastering Cultural Branding on TikTok

Cultural branding should tap into authentic human insights that span beyond borders and countries. The globalised nature of the internet has begun to flatten our shared experiences. The rise of social media with its trending songs, language and memes begin to merge it. While many memes begin in English language countries, it’s important to nuance and investigate local language trends. For instance, we see in Germany that ‘Denglish’ – merging English words with German language – is the way trends are communicated. And we see that TikTok videos with an Australian accent do better for local Australian viewers.

TikTok is a uniquely participatory platform – where ordinary people can shoot a video and a sound and hope of going viral, waking up to millions of views. The algorithm prioritises a content graph, not a social graph, so your experience is shaped by the content you view, not by who you’re connected to. This makes TikTok more of an entertainment platform and less of a social media platform. We’d always encourage brands to play and entertain on TikTok. Brands can find trends for their country very easily on the TikTok Creative Centre, including trends of the week, hashtags, videos and Creators.

TikTok can be extremely tricky for brands to understand and grasp as a new platform. Firstly, I would recommend looking at your brand to understand what appeals to consumers. Users come to TikTok with four mindsets – for entertainment, discovery (learning), uplift (emotional effects) and participation. Your brand needs to think in a content-first way, centred around what appeals to users, rather than thinking about blasting out brand messaging. This is because most of the advertising units on TikTok are skippable – so people have to choose to spend time with your brand – which means delivering interesting content to them. Culturally diverse regions should draw in perspectives from those who understand each of those regions and which messages and themes appeal to those cultures. 

I would always encourage brands to look into their unique local trends and analyse them carefully. We break trends down into the trend message, the narrative shape, the sonic identity and the hashtags associated with it. Brands should check if these trends are brand safe for them and if they could have any drawbacks. Brands should also not use copyrighted music. For brands to then own these trends in a consistent way, we analysed 100s of TikTok organic accounts to create what we called ‘brand lens.’ These are ownable distinctive viewpoints on the world that shapes a brand’s TikTok account, divided into four types. Product (with a hero product at centre stage); Character (using a human, Creator or mascot); Tonal (a distinctive visual aesthetic); and Category (making comments, tips and jokes around a high interest category.). 

Creators are the life blood of TikTok, originating the platform’s content and trends, but they work differently to influencers from other platforms. Rather than just picking someone with a big following, a brand needs to look at the kinds of content this Creator makes and how it aligns with their brand lens, tone of voice and business goals. So, you could pick a stand up comedian Creator to bring entertainment to your product, or pick the beloved Francis Bourgeois (a train spotter) to bring brand love. Francis has worked with brands from the obvious (Great Western Railways) to the less obvious (a Gucci x North Face collaboration), so Creators aren’t restricted to playing in their own lane and category. Creator Marketplace is a great place to start looking for Creators to work with.

Looking to the future of TikTok, we see some new themes emerging. TikTok functioning as a search engine (as Google continues to struggle and AI is on the rise) will mean brands can place content along key search terms to capture organic traffic along keywords. The future is content. E-commerce will also certainly boom on TikTok, and brands need to work out if they wish to invest into a Shop strategy or not. I would encourage brands to think about their marketing efforts as content-first; to create a sonic brand identity; and to keep abreast of the platform and algorithm changes.