3 Tips for Creating a Viral TikTok Campaign

Marketers from Chipotle and Simmons share what's worked for their brands on the platform

Screenshot from Brandweek 2020
Chipotle vp of digital marketing and off-premise Tressie Lieberman explained how the restaurant chain's 'how-to' video for white rice resonated with fans. Adweek/Chipotle

At Adweek’s Brandweek virtual event on Wednesday, marketers from TikTok, Chipotle and Simmons came together for a Brandweek Masterclass to discuss what works best on the platform—and what falls flat.

Sofia Hernandez, head of U.S. business marketing for TikTok, has worked with dozens of brands to put together content that engages the platform’s community of creators to build brand recognition and participation. During a short presentation to kick off the Masterclass, Hernandez highlighted the way that TikTok allows brands to do what they’ve been trying to do for decades: become part of the fabric of culture.

To demonstrate how that’s worked for Chipotle, Tressie Lieberman, the restaurant chain’s vp of digital marketing and off-premise, took the stage to describe the way it has partnered with fans and influencers to create wildly successful content and trends on the app.

Simmons, a new, lower price point mattress brand from Serta Simmons Bedding, used TikTok to introduce itself to its target audience: Gen Z.

Throughout the Masterclass presentations, though, there were some important takeaways for building campaigns that work well for TikTok:

Know who you are as a brand and bring it to the platform authentically

Hernandez stressed that TikTok is a lot more than the dancing and lip syncing that’s made the biggest headlines. There’s really something for everyone—and every brand—on the app. From serious and educational to silly and over-the-top videos, brands have to spend some time on the platform to figure out what works best for them.

For example, Chipotle made a TikTok that showed fans step by step how the restaurant chain’s white rice is made, and it was viewed 8.6 million times. It’s also invested in bigger stunts like an oversize branded claw machine—a video from influencer David Dobrik that generated more than 80 million views. Really, it all comes back to ensuring that each piece of content is authentic to the brand itself.

“Think about all of those stories that you want to share as a brand,” Lieberman said. “How do you put a spin on them that really gets people to pay attention?”

Find and engage with your superfans

For Chipotle, a brand that’s already got a significant fanbase on social media, engaging with superfans was just a matter of tapping into that community. To do that, it has invested in partnerships with TikTok creators and influencers like Dobrik. Working with Dobrik, the brand was able to continue to build that community through a #ChipotleSponsorMe challenge where fans submitted applications for a Chipotle celebrity card, good for free Chipotle for a year.

Chipotle also takes the time to pay attention to fans on the app, listen to what they’re saying and comment on other users’ content, which drives more engagement and fosters a strong loyalty to the brand.

“It’s not about likes, it’s about creating engaging and entertaining content,” Hernandez said. “That’s how you should think about your brand really playing and existing.”

When Simmons launched on TikTok early this summer, it didn’t have any fans yet, so it worked with TikTok and its agency, The Burns Group, to find a group of creators on the platform that would be a good fit for the brand. Simmons’ Snoozapolooza campaign went on to generate billions of views.

Long stressed the importance of finding a group that’s diverse—not only in gender and ethnicity, but also in approach. For example, they partnered with a comedian, dancer, entertainer and a wild card. “They all have their own audiences that they are going to be talking to,” Long said, which increases visibility for the campaign overall.

@klundster kathryn.lundstrom@adweek.com Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.