Anna Meyfarth: “TikTok isn’t like the picture perfect world of Instagram”

As younger generations spend increasingly more time online, one social
media platform has been catching the attention of everyone: TikTok. But
what do fashion brands have to do to grow their presence on the app?

The Chinese-owned short-video platform has such addictive qualities that
teenagers and young adults find themselves scrolling through hours of
fashion content, lip syncing videos, comedy skits and viral dances.
Recently, many fashion brands and retailers have noticed the platform’s
marketing potential, specifically to target the Gen Z group of under 25
year olds.

Collabary helps companies do exactly this: It advises brands and
retailers on their TikTok strategy and how best to make a name for
themselves on the digital playground of Gen Z. The Berlin-based marketing
platform belongs to the marketing unit of online fashion retailer Zalando
and has been on the market for over four years. It currently oversees over
500,000 well-known and small influencers in its database across Europe.
Having worked with brands like Nike, Zalando and Levi’s, Collabary offers
its clients three products: influencer discovery, campaign management and a
social media insights tool. Over the years, the company has connected
brands with well-known influencers, including German personalities Caro
Daur and Bonnie Strange.

Anna Meyfarth: “TikTok isn’t like the picture perfect world of Instagram”

Luana Genevieve for Calvin Klein via Collabary Instagram

Interested in the potential of TikTok for fashion brands and retailers,
FashionUnited spoke to Collabary’s chief brand and marketing communication
manager Anna Meyfarth about what sets TikTok apart, the demographic of the
platform and what strategies fashion brands can apply to make a name for
themselves on the app.

How does influencer marketing work on TikTok in comparison to other
social media platforms?

If we compare it directly to Instagram, you definitely give more
creative freedom to your creators on TikTok. You usually work more with
open briefs, so you don’t have very strict guidelines of what content
should look like. It focuses more on the creativity of the creators that
are active on TikTok.

Do you think fashion brands and retailers should make the switch to
TikTok? What potential does the platform have for the fashion industry, in
your opinion?

I wouldn’t actually say that you have to switch because it’s not really
an either or question. You should rather see TikTok as an addition to your
existing marketing channel or marketing mix. If we then look specifically
at the potential of TikTok, there are three aspects.

The first aspect is of course the audience. You have an audience on
TikTok that you can’t reach on other social media platforms. Almost 25
percent of TikTok users actually don’t have a Facebook or an Instagram
account, which is a huge group that you would not be reaching. These people
are mostly part of Generation Z and also one of the biggest potentials of

The second point is creativity. You have more potential for the creative
positioning of your brand and can experiment a little, because it’s not as
straightforward as Instagram. TikTok is really a place where you can try
things out and play with the raw look and feel of content that isn’t
picture perfect. Also, what I saw recently on TikTok is that you should
trust in the creative skills of TikTok creators and go with what they come
up with. There was for example a challenge about a JW Anderson cardigan,
this very high premium piece. A lot of TikTokers started to knit their own
version of it.

The third point is the opportunity of TikTok to shift brand perception.
If you are a modern, clean brand, you have to be aware that you could use
TikTok to go in a more playful, fun direction by working with TikTokers who
find their own ideas and interpret your brand. It’s more authentic and
doesn’t look that polished.

In a broad sense, what aspects of TikTok make it different from other
social media platforms, for example, Instagram?

If we really start with the basics, the format of TikTok is obviously
only video and you can’t put any stills. For example, there are hundreds
and hundreds of features and filters that you could add to your videos, so
there’s a really huge range. The second difference is also the content.
TikTok puts a lot of focus on content and, on its website, calls it a
‘content first’ approach, really emphasizing fun and playfulness. It’s not
the high resolution picture perfect world of Instagram.

TikTok creators or TikTokers also have a very unique style. When they do
a certain challenge, they have their visuals that they use. Another factor
is also, if you look at the user behavior, people really go to TikTok to
engage with each other, like, comment or reshare content and jump onto
duets. Duet is this function of TikTok videos where you can see one
TikToker and yourself on one screen.

Is it possible to quickly grow your reach on TikTok?

TikTok is quite rewarding on an engagement level. The more engagement
you get on your content, the more likely it is that it will be put on the
ForYou page and be explored by others, whereas, on Instagram, you might go
to get inspiration or to scroll down your feed. On TikTok, it’s a different
world: You can get likes more quickly and engagement is just huge.

The ForYou page is basically the homepage? When you open TikTok, it’s
the first thing you see?

Exactly. This is also one of the biggest differences between Instagram
and TikTok. When you open TikTok, you’re directly on the ForYou page. It’s
not a curated feed as it is on Instagram where you see the people you
follow. But it’s really what’s trending and what people have who have
similar behavior to you are watching. For a lot of influencers, from what
I’ve heard, it’s their goal to get on the ForYou page because you get more

What is the general demographic of TikTok? Who are the fashion
companies you work with trying to target specifically?

The core target group is definitely Generation Z. Close to 60 percent of
users on TikTok are between 13 and 24 years old. Interestingly enough, also
the majority are female. 60 percent are female and 40 percent are male and
you also very much see that when you open the app, at least for me. This is
then also the main point of why brands go to TikTok to really try to reach
this target group. And as I mentioned before, 25 percent of users are just
on TikTok and don’t have any other social media. This is interesting for
all kinds of brands who are looking into going into new demographics or
trying to target the younger audience. We also hear this from a lot of
brands who we worked with, one being Zalando.

What characteristics of the app and its content appeal to these young
audience groups?

One aspect is that Generation Z has a rather low attention span, which
is on average just around eight seconds. So short-form videos are the thing
they are most likely to still consume. The shorter the video, the more
likely they are to consume it or to watch it. It’s also really about this
fun factor. You go on TikTok and you see a lot of funny comedy style
videos. You also don’t feel the pressure as you do on Instagram to build a
huge following, but you can rather show how creative you are, get
engagement and stay in touch with other like minded people.

What strategy can fashion brands and retailers apply in order to grow
their presence, following and reach on TikTok? What type of content is the
most successful at achieving this?

There’s no one size fits all approach. It heavily depends on what a
brand is focusing on, their goals and brand messaging. What I would
recommend to new brands on TikTok is to learn from the users. Just go
there, open an account, have a look around, understand how the dynamic
works and maybe even invite some TikTokers to come to the office for a
workshop. Be close to the user base and learn from them firsthand to find
out what’s working and what isn’t. It also requires a lot of monitoring
from a brand’s side by going there every day to check what the latest
hashtags and songs are. It’s not just about going on TikTok, putting your
brand there and seeing what happens. It’s really an interactive process
that you have to go through as a brand.

What has worked well for fashion on TikTok? Could you provide some
recent examples?

Working together with TikTokers and letting them create content for your
own TikTok account. So it’s definitely advisable for a brand to have an
account before starting any kind of advertising or collaborations with
influencers because you need a point of reference to where you can lead
your traffic and also to gain brand visibility in the end. Especially for
smaller brands, I wouldn’t recommend starting your own challenge or trend.
This might work, but it will take a lot of time. It’s easier to pick up
what people are already using in terms of challenges, hashtags and songs.
This way you can keep it as authentic as possible and don’t come up with
something which doesn’t fit the medium.

When looking at fashion brands especially, there are a lot of different
topics at the moment. There is #mondaytofriday where TikTokers show five
different outfits in one video using transitions or jump filters. There’s
also another challenge of what people would wear if they were a Disney
character, for example. So it’s really about picking this up and saying:
let’s see what hashtag trends are already out there and how we can connect
them to our brand.

So TikTok is very trend based? Are there a lot of things that go in and
out of style very quickly?

In the sense of video trends, yes. It can really be that if you enter
TikTok today, you might see a new challenge or hashtag that you haven’t
seen the week before. You have to check the app each and every day. I’ve
seen this #whatIwouldwear trend for two weeks now, so it’s really picking
up and a lot of creators are using it. But then again, if you scroll down
your ForYou page, you might find new trends picking up. It’s all about
being there, monitoring and not jumping on something that’s outdated
already. So yeah, TikTok is definitely about keeping up with what’s

Anna Meyfarth: “TikTok isn’t like the picture perfect world of Instagram”

#whatIwouldIwear challenge on TikTok via thehardins

What advice would you give fashion brands or retailers who want to
build a presence on TikTok?

To sum it up, it’s three things: First of all, trust TikTok creators and
their skills because they know best what their audience likes and how to do
videos that are engaging. That’s why having strict guidelines of what they
should do makes no sense. Second, with TikTok’s freedom, it’s advisable to
be bold and try to let go of your typical content style or brand style.
Just be aware that TikTok creators may interpret the brand in their own
way. And third, especially when you just start off with TikTok, see what’s
out there, what the themes and trends are and combine those into your
campaign, rather than picking out your own trend.

Photo Credit: one: Collabary, two: Collabary via Instagram,
three: screenshots via thehardins on TikTok


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