The TikTok logo inside a shopping cart
Image by rvlsoft /

Brands are keen to invest in TikTok, given the potential for organic engagement with a young demographic. Dean Rojas, president and co-founder of TikTok agency, Gassed, told Econsultancy that “we have seen a ramp up in brands getting activated on the platform. FOMO maybe?”

This does appear to be the case, even if over the past two years, as Duolingo’s Global Social Media Manager told Rex Woodbury, it’s been “harder to go viral” on a platform “has become more saturated”.

This saturation may be one factor explaining why a Capterra survey from March found that three in four marketers expect to increase spending on TikTok in the next 12 months.

For the FMCG industry – where competition is indeed extremely high as a whole – TikTok presents an opportunity to break through the noise on social, driving both awareness, and sales.

So, how can FMCG brands succeed on TikTok? Let’s consider some key elements of an effective strategy along with some brand examples.  

Tapping into TikTok trends for product development

TikTok is known for viral trends, particularly when it comes to food and groceries. One example is a recipe for vodka pasta sauce, which started when Gigi Hadid posted a video in 2020, and resurfaced earlier this year in a viral TikTok from Sofia Coppola’s daughter, Romy Mars.

While FMCG brands are often quick to jump on trends with their own videos – Chipotle, for example, consistently posts content based on trending hashtags, songs, or creators – other brands are using TikTok trends as inspiration for product development.  

Take Heinz, which recently partnered with Absolut Vodka in March to launch a limited-edition version of the now famous vodka pasta sauce, to be sold in Waitrose and via Heinz New Ventures director Caio Fontenele said that the product is part of Heinz’s determination to “continue innovating and delighting consumers with delicious flavours, at the speed of social media trends.”  

heinz absolut vodka tomato pasta sauce
Image: Absolut

Of course, a single limited-edition product line is unlikely to have much of an impact on revenue, but Heinz’ ability to tap into and respond to trends is likely to positively impact consumer awareness, perhaps in new categories, and brand favour. It’s also the influence on young people that is key, too; a 2019 study found that 87% of parents say their Gen Z children have at least some influence over family spending.   

Enabling users to checkout in-app with TikTok Shop 

A large percentage of brand activity on TikTok tends to focus on organic content, but FMCG brands are increasingly exploring the platform’s social commerce capabilities to allow users to buy in-app.  

“Commerce on TikTok is growing and is an important part of our business,” Cassandra Russell, head of retail brand partnerships EMEA at TikTok, told The Grocer. “We’re focused on developing a shopping experience and proposition that will help businesses and brands reach new audiences, drive awareness and increase revenue,” she stated. 

Russell is referring to TikTok Shop – a commerce feature that allows merchants, brands, and creators to sell products directly in TikTok by including products within in-feed videos, live videos, and the product showcase tab. 

With TikTok introducing new categories such as fresh food and pet care, and with more categories reportedly set to come in 2023, Gassed’s Dean Rojas agrees that TikTok Shop is a worthy investment for FMCG brands. The main reason, he suggests, is how it naturally aligns with user behaviour. “People don’t want to leave the app, plain and simple, so why wouldn’t you implement your checkout experience within the app?” he asked.  

One FMCG brand showcased by TikTok for successfully driving sales is Unicorn Cosmetics. By using Video Shopping Ads, which are ads that are directly linked to TikTok Shop, the brand was able to increase its conversion rate by 18%, while decreasing its cost-per action by 17%, and increasing ROAS by 4%. 


We have a delivery arriving todayyy ????????????✨ Bear brows is constantly selling out so grab it quickly before it sells out again ???????? #bearbrows #viralmakeup #viralproducts

♬ squirrels – <3

Reaching new audiences through influencer content

Influencers remain one of the biggest reasons brands invest in TikTok, with creator content continuously driving brand campaigns. TikTok can also be a good starting point for brands that have yet to invest in this area, too, particularly when it comes to refreshing brand reputation and connecting with younger consumers.  

We’ve previously cited M&S as a good example of this in action – the brand has successfully cut through on TikTok with viral videos that resonate with younger audiences, also turning its own employees into influencers in their own right. This approach has also helped M&S to generate sales; M&S’ promotion for its ‘Valentine’s Dine In’ deal saw a 15% click-through rate from TikTok, driving significant traffic to the M&S website.  

Finding a community and creating a content niche

When asked about the type of content that resonates in the FMCG category, Gassed co-founder Dean Rojas said that it’s imperative to have “native feeling content,” with “nothing overproduced”.

“Scroll on TikTok and start to analyze the organic pieces of content, what does their font look like? What does video pacing look like? What does the video quality look like? What music genre are they using?” he suggested. 

One way to create native-style content is to find out what is resonating within specific or niche communities, which is also how brands can connect with target demographics. Unilever has recently done this with a partnership with TikTok, whereby the two brands will create content for #CleanTok – a community interested in cleaning hacks, tips, and tricks. Over a 40-week period, Unilever’s content will include a “Sunday Reset” series, which will see creators refreshing their homes, as well as “Cleaning Conundrum” videos for creator-hosted cleaning tips. 

Jacinta Faul, managing director of Gravity Road – an agency producing the campaign alongside Mindshare, said: “The exciting thing here is how the scale and diversity of a TikTok trend can become a platform for an entire global marketing category. #CleanTok is a diverse community of joyful, useful and entertaining voices.” 

Being consistent over time

One mistake that marketers make on TikTok is assuming that a one-off ad or activation will generate success. However, as Rojas advises, FMCG brands need to think longer-term. 

“The most common thing we hear is ‘We tried TikTok and it didn’t work.’ But I think brands forget that new platforms require a learning phase before you can reach profit,” he said. “Every time we launch a new TikTok it takes three months to start shifting to a positive ROAS. This platform needs to be seen as an investment and not a quick cash grab.” 

But this doesn’t necessarily mean investing huge amounts of time or effort into creating videos. Nadya Okamoto, the founder of personal care brand, August, told ThingTesting that she aims to post between 20 and 50 videos a day across both her personal and branded accounts. “It’s quantity, not quality… On Instagram, you see a lot of brands who have a content calendar for the next three weeks. You can’t do that on TikTok where the trends are changing so quickly,” she explained. 

The nature of TikTok – where low-production videos can go viral – means that for FMCG brands, luck can play a part, but commitment to the platform is also a key part of success. 

Econsultancy offers 25+ elearning courses in ecommerce, and many more across the fundamentals of digital marketing, including an elearning plan for FMCGs, Driving Sales Performance with Omnichannel Retailers.