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TikTok Brands That are Winning at Marketing in 2022

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It’s getting difficult for marketers to ignore the popularity and influence of TikTok. Brands on TikTok are reaching younger audiences, increasing brand awareness, and going viral — all by leveraging the power of short-form video.

Of course, it also helps that TikTok has over 1 billion active users and a fantastic engagement rate — far exceeding any other social platform today.

In this post, we’ll discuss why you should leverage TikTok marketing in 2022 and how smaller companies can build a scalable, fun, and creative strategy on the platform. We’ll also cover eleven brands that have gone viral on TikTok.

Table of Contents

What is TikTok Marketing?

Why Brands Should Leverage TikTok Marketing in 2022

11 TikTok Brands That are Winning at Marketing

TikTok Marketing Tips

What is TikTok Marketing?

Although TikTok might feel like a hub of strange posts, its popularity and video-driven content provide a variety of unique marketing opportunities.

Marketers can leverage TikTok in three main areas:

1. Influencer Marketing

A great way to leverage TikTok is by engaging with the influencer community. Because influencers have a solid understanding of the platform, they can transform stiff brand messages into fun and creative videos. This type of marketing is particularly effective at opening your content to a new audience and boosting brand awareness.

2. Original Content

Although fans of TikTok love original content, you don’t need to spend hours coming up with the next viral trend. Often, the best performing TikToks are ones that replicate or recreate a current trend. Start by exploring the app, its trends, and where your brand can join the fun.

3. Paid Ads

TikTok ads are a relatively new addition to the platform. Powered by their own advertising platform, TikTok For Business, brands can run in-feed ads or create branded hashtags and video effects.

Although many of the first brands to join TikTok were large, well-known companies, it can still be helpful for small businesses to look at why brands of all sizes are joining the platform.

Why Brands Should Leverage TikTok Marketing in 2022

Short-form video is dominating the social media landscape — and TikTok is the leading platform for it. It’s no surprise that more than half of marketers (52%) who use TikTok plan to increase their investment in 2022, which is one of the highest jumps of any platform.

While TikTok is relatively new compared to other social giants like YouTube and Instagram, it’s seeing stellar growth year-over-year. In fact, it was the most downloaded app in 2019 and 2020, racking up over three billion downloads so far. It also boasts 1.2 billion monthly users which experts predict will reach 1.5 billion by the end of 2022.

Additionally, TikTok is the most engaging of all social media apps with an average user session of 10.85 minutes. Its viral nature also deserves a shout out. Unlike other social platforms, even accounts with a handful of followers can spark millions of views on a great video.

If you think TikTok is only for the Gen-Z crowd, think again. While over half of Gen-Z consumers are on TikTok, it’s picking up steam with other age groups. In 2021, 36% of TikTok users were between 35 and 54 years old, a 10% increase from the year before.

That said, since TikTok is quirky by nature, brands need to get creative to gain their audience’s attention. In other words, a simple ad or sponsored influencer endorsement might not cut it on this fast-paced app.

Let’s look at eleven brands who nail TikTok marketing with creative content that draws attention.

1. The NBA

Unlike its Instagram channel, which focuses purely on basketball games and highlights, the NBA’s TikTok posts show a lighter side of the organization. For example, they’ll often post videos of players working out to music, dancing on the court, or answering fan questions.

In this video, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors busts a move from the sidelines after his teammate scores:

And check out this funny montage of Chris Bosh photo-bombing his teammates (including LeBron James) throughout his career:

Making your brand feel more personal can have a great effect on TikTok. For example, if your restaurant’s TikTok account posts funny videos of waiters dancing, viewers might think the restaurant has pleasant and happy staff. This might make them want to eat there because they can picture themselves having a fun dining experience.

What we like:

While you might expect the NBA to focus more seriously on stats and games, it uses the app to lighten up the branding and make its athletes look more relatable. While the videos still promote basketball, they also fit with other funny posts on TikTok feeds.

2. Fenty Beauty

One of the most popular types of content on TikTok is tutorials. Some brands lend themselves to this more than others, but a great example is Fenty Beauty, which uses TikTok to show makeup tutorials, wear-tests, and product launches.

What we like:

Tutorial-based videos can fit a variety of brands. For example, a clothing store can show how to style certain pieces of clothing. A hardware store can show how to build, restore, or paint something using its tools. Even a gym can offer a demonstration on how to use different equipment.

Start by brainstorming all the ways someone could use your products or services. If you can break a task into steps that last no more than 60 seconds, it may make for a great TikTok video tutorial.

3. Dunkin’

Dunkin’ was one of the first brands to employ influencer marketing on the platform by partnering with TikTok megastar Charli D’Amelio.

Together, they launched new menu items at Dunkin and collaborated on several videos.

After posting content about the partnership, Dunkin saw a 57% spike in app downloads and a 20% sales boost for all cold brew coffees.

However, if you believe you need to partner with a famous TikToker for it to work, think again.

When it comes to influencer marketing, relevance is more important than reach. Rather than partnering with an influencer based solely on vanity metrics (such as follower count), look for micro-influencers who have a niche audience that aligns with your own. Research shows that influencers with less than 1,000 followers receive more engagement than their more popular counterparts.

What we like:

This example highlights the power of influencer marketing on TikTok. By partnering with influencers, Dunkin’ benefits from word-of-mouth marketing while building social proof.

4. Milk Bar

TikTok videos thrive with music, and Milk Bar knows this too well. The bakery chain does an exceptional job at capitalizing on popular TikTok memes, formats, and audio.

Here’s Milk Bar putting a spin on the “Have you ever been in love?” video trend:

 

TikTok makes it easy to add music to video clips, which could result from having made legal arrangements with major music companies. Maybe this is why it’s nearly impossible to scroll through TikTok without seeing users dancing or lip-syncing to music.

What we like:

Viewers like to see brands joining in on current trends or putting a unique spin on an existing one. When brands take the time to understand TikTok and keep a finger on the pulse of the platform, it becomes easier to join trending topics, challenges, and memes. And if you’re not sure where to start, check out TikTok’s Discovery Page for inspiration.

5. Chipotle

Since joining TikTok in 2018, Chipotle has set the standard for how brands can grow their brand presence while engaging the TikTok community in a fun and authentic way.

Chipotle opts for a more casual vibe, often posting dance challenges and fan-made content, such as videos of people sharing their favorite Chipotle recipes and hacks.

Chipotle also showcases behind-the-scenes footage from real crew members in real Chipotle kitchens. Check out this “vlog style” video of a former Chipotle employee revisiting her job and interviewing her coworkers:

What we like:

If you need a creative way to spread brand awareness quickly, taking a note from Chipotle and sharing personable behind-the-scenes footage might be a great experiment. Also, lean into your brand advocates who may be willing to share their experiences on social media.

6. Gymshark

Gymshark is one of the leading fitness brands on TikTok, reaching 2 million followers in only six months. Gymshark caters to fitness fanatics by posting workout challenges, inspirational health journeys, and relatable fitness humor that makes the gym feel less intimidating.

Here’s one of those relatable fitness videos:

One of the brand’s most notable TikTok campaigns was the 66 Days: Change Your Life challenge, which highlights the fact that it takes 66 days to form a habit. TikTokers submitted videos of their own workout journey in hopes of winning a Gymshark membership.

The campaign was an overwhelming success, with the hashtag #gymshark66 generating 193 million views.

What we like:

Gymshark leverages the power of challenges. Challenges are one of the biggest trends on TikTok, and innovative brands are using them to fast-track their growth and connect with millions of users on the app. Consider creating your own challenge or putting a unique spin on an already existing one.

7. The Washington Post

The Washington Post was one of TikTok’s earliest brand adopters. Those who haven’t seen their videos might be anticipating investigative or serious content. Surprisingly, the newspaper actually uses its account to post comedic skits about the latest breaking news.

These videos fit in perfectly with the platform because they’re funny, timely, and embrace some of TikTok’s weirdest special effects. Check out this skit about Delta Airlines’ PR department struggling to write a press release about the COVID-19 delta variant:

The Washington Post displays how brands can succeed on TikTok by talking directly to its specific audience — young viewers who want to laugh.

Because The Post has a long history of groundbreaking, award-winning, and intellectual journalism, this comedic approach might also attract young readers who want to follow the news but used to worry that content from a newspaper would be too advanced or out of touch for them.

What we like:

Despite its reputation for “serious journalism,” the Washington Post did not shy away from TikTok. If your brand is in publishing, academia, or similar industries, testing out a video strategy that shows off your lighter side could be an interesting experiment. It might make your content and brand feel less intimidating and help you gain attention from newer audiences.

8. San Diego Zoo

Everyone loves a cute animal video. The San Diego Zoo’s TikTok account pleasantly takes advantage of this well-known fact.

The zoo’s strategy is simple: Post videos of cute animals with fun music. And with over 2 million fans, it seems to be working. How could anyone not want to follow them after seeing this video of an adorable red panda?

If that cuteness wasn’t enough, the zoo has also dueted with other animal-friendly accounts, like the Monterey Aquarium:

What we like:

This is a great example of how two similar brands can cross-promote using TikTok features. Because of the zoo’s tagging strategy, this video might be seen by fans of the aquarium and the zoo. This way, zoo followers might gain more interest in the aquarium and vice versa.

9. Duolingo

TikTok is known for its quirky “unhinged” content, and Duolingo has effectively carved out a space in this landscape.

The brand continues to go viral for its funny, trendy, and often chaotic videos featuring its mascot, Duo the owl. Duo can be seen dancing to popular audio, adding sassy commentary to pop culture news, and jumping on the latest trends.

Duo’s antics have successfully humanized the brand and epitomizes their witty brand voice — which also comes in handy when responding to TikTok comments.

What we like:

Your brand voice shapes every interaction you have online — from the videos you create to how you respond to comments. Duolingo has molded a strong brand voice which it uses to tell memorable and entertaining stories.

10. Crocs

While the love-hate relationship with crocs is very real, it’s all love for the brand on TikTok. Its winning strategy includes original music, brand-specific hashtags (like #CrocTok), and colorful, entertaining content.

That said, Crocs really shines at poking fun of itself and the perceived “ugliness” of their shoes. They lean into this by posting outfit of the day (OOTD) videos and tutorials on how to style their shoes with accessories and a great sense of humor.

What we like:

No one likes a brand that takes itself too seriously. At the end of the day, your buyers are people — not robots with credit cards. Humility and humor are two ingredients that can humanize your brand, cut through the noise, and build a connection with your audience.

11. Planet Money

Planet Money is a podcast by the National Public Radio (NPR) with the tagline — “The economy explained.”

It’s hard to imagine a brand covering such a serious (and complex) topic on a platform that’s synonymous with silly, snackable content. But Planet Money manages to infuse educational videos with an entertaining spin.

From inflation to rent control, no topic is too challenging for Planet Money to chip away at in an innovative and humorous way. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at this skit explaining how banks make billions from overdraft fees, which starts with a man trying to buy a burrito:

 

What we like:

If you feel your brand is too “serious” for TikTok, take a note from Planet Money and approach your brand — or your content — from a different angle. You may find that adding a dash of humor is just what you need to skyrocket on the platform.

TikTok Marketing Tips

While it might be challenging to get your content to go viral like the bigger brands, TikTok could be a great tool for getting in sync with younger audiences.

If you think TikTok might be part of your marketing strategy soon or in the future, now would be a great time to get ahead of your competitors by downloading the app and investigating what similar brands or potential audiences are doing there.

If you’re raring to go on a TikTok strategy, here are a few tips and takeaways that we’ve gained from looking at the brands that have already done well on the app.

  • Show a different side of your company. The app is a hub for creativity and humor. Embracing a more personal tone or a behind-the-scenes approach could make your company appear more relatable or trustworthy to potential customers.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. Unlike platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, there aren’t as many norms, best practices, or rules about what works and what doesn’t. If you think something might be interesting or funny, try it and see if it gets any likes, comments, or shares.
  • Engage with your audience. Between challenges, duets, likes, comments, and shares, there are plenty of ways to engage with other TikTok users — even if you don’t know them. Try to come up with videos, challenges, or duets that aim to interact with others. As with other platforms, the more you engage with people, the more your fan base could grow.
  • Don’t shy away from marketing your products, but make sure you do it in a creative way. Try your hand at tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to content that showcase the best parts of your products or services.
  • Tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing with influencers. But remember that relevance is more important than reach, so partner with niche micro-influencers who share a similar audience.

For brands, joining TikTok offers an opportunity to reach younger audiences and increase brand awareness in a highly playful environment. But succeeding on the platform relies on creating exciting content — so prepare to put your creative hat on and experiment with new formats.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector

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Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector

The bar has been set by the industry leaders in UX and Merchandising, and our customers have stated their claim clearly – “to grow our market share, we must have an enterprise search experience that drives conversions.

Optimizely offers baseline search experiences within our commerce platform, which are designed to help companies get started with organizing and delivering SKUs to customers. These experiences utilize out-of-the-box algorithms and methods for sorting, categorizing, and customizing.

While Optimizely provides a foundation for search experiences, we knew there were users ready to take their search capabilities to the next level. This is where the Xngage and HawkSearch partnership promises to redefine how you approach search-driven experiences within Optimizely Configured Commerce. Our highly experienced partner Xngage has developed a seamless integration connector, a best-in-class accelerator for harnessing the power of HawkSearch.

The powerful partner in search

HawkSearch is known for its expertise in search-driven engagement, AI-powered product discovery, and no-code customizations. With a strong history of serving B2B customers with enterprise-level search solutions, it was a perfect choice to make HawkSearch directly available within Optimizely’s platform.

The expertise of Xngage made this connector a reality enabling Optimizely’s Configured Commerce customers to:

  • Easily plug directly into the HawkSearch service to share your products and their relevant data.
  • Utilize powerful unit of measure conversions, ensuring your customers can find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Customize sorting and facets to deliver highly relevant results to customers.
  • Craft a personalized user experience with features like auto-complete and the new ‘instant engage’.

Customers can further explore HawkSearch’s capabilities in this on demand webinar and recap, which highlights the benefits and use cases of the Xngage connector for HawkSearch.

A powerful partner in digital growth

Xngage complements Optimizely perfectly, as they deliver robust solutions in the realm of digital content and commerce experiences. The development of the Xngage connector to HawkSearch is a part of their broader mission to empower manufacturers and distributors to serve their customers digitally. This alignment seamlessly fits with Optimizely, making our partnership with Xngage an ideal choice. 

Furthering their goal of digital growth, Xngage offers a range of holistic and complementary professional services, including:

  • User research & user experience design (UX)
  • Enterprise architecture & ERP integration
  • Product information management (PIM)
  • Ecommerce Implementations, and digital growth services.

To learn more about this highly experienced digital commerce partner visit Xngage.com.

The future of the partnership

This partnership is just the beginning. Xngage and HawkSearch are committed to working hand in hand to empower you with the tools and insights you need to elevate your ecommerce site. Stay tuned for future blogs, webinars, and resources that will help you make the most of this transformative alliance.

The future of ecommerce search has never looked more promising, and we’re excited to have you on this journey with us.

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Top 3 Strategies for Success

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Top 3 Strategies for Success

With the advent of e-commerce, manufacturers have unprecedented opportunities to expand their reach, streamline their operations, and enhance profitability. Amidst this digital revolution, adopting Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is pivotal in optimizing production processes, quality control, and resource management.

As the lines between traditional brick-and-mortar sales and online commerce continue to blur, manufacturers increasingly realize the need to adapt and thrive in this new digital landscape. This article explores the top 3 strategies manufacturers can employ to succeed in e-commerce.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

MES (Manufacturing Execution System) is specialized application software designed to solve the tasks of synchronization, coordination, analysis, and optimization of production output within any production. MES systems belong to the class of shop floor-level management systems but can also be used for integrated production management at the enterprise as a whole.

MES collects and analyzes production processes, product demand, and inventory data. This allows manufacturers to adapt more quickly to changes in the market, reconfigure production to meet current requirements, and closely monitor trends. As a result, manufacturers can more easily predict and meet customer needs, which helps increase online sales.

MES helps in maintaining accurate inventory records and managing inventory turnover. This avoids overstock or shortages, which can affect a company’s ability to meet online demand and maintain customer service levels.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) enhance transparency and automate operations, reducing human errors and operational costs. Integrating Manufacturing CRM streamlines customer data, allowing manufacturers to tailor products, respond to market changes, and offer competitive prices in online stores. The synergy between MES and CRM creates an agile manufacturing environment, optimizing efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Content Marketing

Kapost’s research shows that companies in the B2B segment that blog get 67% more leads on average than companies that don’t. However, it’s worth remembering that content marketing requires a lot of resources to prepare and regularity in publishing it. This content can be, for example, brand identity and E-commerce logo, articles and videos, webinars, research, and interviews.

The content should help solve a specific problem to create the image of an expert and thus influence the decisions of potential customers. The topics discussed should not be chosen randomly. A little research in Google Trends will help select the main topic, discussion areas in the video, phrases, and words that should be included in the article. Publishing content based on such a prepared analysis allows you to achieve high positions in search engines. It provides a good user experience for customers looking for answers to product/service questions, comprehensively covering the subject matter.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are free traffic, increased user confidence, and the creation of an expert image.

Content marketing is a form of promotion that requires patience and time. Its effects will also depend on the quality of thecontent itself, its optimization, and promotion methods. No specific terms can be specified here.

YouTube channels as a form of content marketing

You can discuss your production process and show and test products on your YouTube channel. If someone is looking for information about a product and is unsure which brand to choose, they will likely find your video and maybe make a purchase. Remember to choose a title that matches the search query and prepare a video description with product links. You can send out an email to announce when new videos are released. Whenever you have particularly compelling videos, you could also promote them via texting notifications to drive even more traffic.

Utilize user-generated content and social media

Not utilizing the content that your users generate is a huge issue. This is because it’s not easy to refresh an e-commerce website and keep it alive. But photos and videos taken by real customers are great for this purpose.

Adding a “widget” that connects your online store’s website to its official social media accounts brings significant benefits. These include revitalizing your social media accounts, increasing your credibility as a manufacturer, inspiring other customers to buy, and encouraging repeat purchases.

Snapchat Planets

Snapchat’s “Planets” feature provides a unique and interactive way to engage with your e-commerce store’s audience. Here are some creative ideas on how to leverage Snapchat Planets to create engaging content:

  • Virtual Store Tours: Use the AR feature to create a virtual tour of your store. Each planet can represent different sections or categories of your store. For instance, one planet could showcase your latest collection, another could highlight bestsellers, and another could offer exclusive deals.
  • Product Launches: Announce new product launches by creating a cosmic journey. Users can travel from one planet to another, each unveiling a new product with engaging visuals and detailed descriptions. This creates a sense of excitement and discovery around new arrivals.
  • Interactive Shopping Experience: Create interactive shopping experiences where users can explore products in a fun and engaging way. For example, users can navigate through different planets to find hidden discounts or special offers, making shopping more interactive and rewarding.
  • Customer Rewards and Loyalty Programs: Develop a loyalty program where users earn points or rewards by exploring different planets. Each planet can offer unique rewards, such as discounts, free samples, or exclusive access to new collections. This gamifies the shopping experience and encourages repeat visits.
  • Themed Campaigns: Align your marketing campaigns with planetary themes. For instance, during holiday seasons, you can create a holiday-themed planet where users can find special holiday deals, gift ideas, and festive content.

By leveraging Snapchat Planets, you can transform your e-commerce store’s content into a captivating and interactive experience that keeps your audience engaged, entertained, and coming back for more.

Use newsletters to captivate your target audience

Newsletters can strengthen the connection with the consumer and demonstrate that shopping with you is safe and profitable. Remember that the more personalized the message, the more effective it will be. It should contain a call to action (CTA), such as a button that redirects to products.

Don’t forget to put a box to check for consent to process personal data when subscribing to the newsletter. Also, add an option to unsubscribe from the newsletter in each email.

A regular email account is not adapted for the newsletter, so do not use your everyday email address. This way, you risk being blacklisted by spam filters. The benefits of newsletters are optimizing advertising costs, increasing loyal audiences from different channels, and building mutually beneficial relationships with partners.

Print and PDF Channel

1716522964 432 Top 3 Strategies for Success

In the digital landscape, the significance of Print and PDF channels cannot be underestimated for manufacturers engaging in e- commerce. The tactile experience of print offers unique psychological advantages, enhancing comprehension and retention, which are vital for technical manuals and complex product details. PDFs merge this benefit with digital accessibility, ensuring wide reach while maintaining format integrity. This dual-channel approach not only caters to diverse consumer preferences but also bolsters marketing efforts, making technical content more engaging and understandable. Utilizing catalog software further streamlines the integration of Print and PDF channels into e-commerce strategies, enhancing product presentation and distribution efficiency.

Contextual advertising: Google Ads

1716522964 713 Top 3 Strategies for Success

If you want the advertising you invest in to have an immediate effect, it’s worth turning to Google Ads. Google displays paid ads in search results and on Google’s network of partners (on-site ads in the form of banners).

You bid when you search for a keyword for which advertisers have set up a campaign. The search engine determines who will appear in the search results and at what position. When assigning bids, the quality of the landing page, the quality of the ads, and the stated maximum bid per click are all considered.

To start setting up your campaign, simply login to your Google Ads account. Using the service is free, and you’ll find plenty of online tutorials on creating a campaign. However, you may find that it won’t generate valuable traffic if you don’t set it up optimally. Your budget will be wasted on clicks that won’t lead to conversions. This is why most companies resort to the help of agencies, including specialized agencies.

There is probably no industry in which Google Ads campaigns cannot be used. However, advertising can be moderately profitable if there is a lot of competition in the industry and margins are low.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are large audience reach, the ability to get the target audience as accurately as possible, and very detailed statistics on results.

The effect of launching a campaign should appear almost immediately. A properly set up campaign will increase traffic to the website. By systematically optimizing the campaign, you can achieve much better results.

You also can use paid Facebook Ads post promotion. It is important to pinpoint your target group, but how do you do it? A popular way is to draw up a customer portrait, that is, to make a collective image of your customer.

This considers age, gender, income level, location, interests and hobbies, and online behavior. Such a person will display a group interested in your services or goods.

Implement personalized product selections

Recommended product block and cross-selling are very powerful internet marketing strategies. In addition to the recommended product block, which shows the analogs of the product being viewed, it is worth paying attention to the website’s functionality.

As a rule, the products in the “You may also like” block are selected based on the pages previously viewed by the customer, his previous purchases on the website, as well as what was purchased by other customers with similar tastes. If this functionality is implemented technically sound, it can lead to additional items added to the shopping cart. “You may also like” block partly acts as an alternative to the advice of a specialist or consultant.

With blocks for cross-selling related products is a similar situation. Usually, in them are placed products from the same product line, collection, or simply those that perfectly match the product being viewed. You can use AI-powered live chats to proactively engage in customer conversations and suggest products based on their behavior.

Conclusion

E-commerce for manufacturers is a vast field, and in this article, we have presented the most popular and most effective forms of selling online. Remember, no effective e-commerce strategy exists. Each industry and business will have specifics. Try combining the above mentioned e-commerce strategies to maximize your chances of success and increase your profits.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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