IKEA Malls' playbook for TikTok: 7 tips to getting it right

The rapid rise of social media platform TikTok over the past couple of years has been phenomenal. According to multiple media reports, TikTok reported two billion global downloads and nearly 700 million monthly active users in July this year, when it only had 55 million global users back in 2018. TikTok’s global reach, coupled with the fact that it isn’t as saturated as other platforms such as Facebook, then presents brands with very good advertising opportunities as they are able to gain “disproportionate” attention with their efforts.

One such brand that took up the opportunity is the shopping centre arm of IKEA Southeast Asia, Ikano Centres. In fact, Andrew Yeoh, regional head of marketing and innovation (shopping centre), IKEA Southeast Asia cited the "disproportionate" attention as one of the reasons why the furniture retailer got into the TikTok scene. Speaking at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Digital Marketing Asia virtual conference, Yeoh revealed the brand wanted to utilise the TikTok while it was still in its "underpriced" phase, before it moves to being "overpriced" due to advertiser demand. The company has since used TikTok to not only boost the launch of its Toppen Shopping Centre, but also making it the central theme of the mall by transforming the shopping centre into the "most TikTok-able mall in Malaysia".

With his experience working on various TikTok-centred projects, Yeoh shares with us the seven tips on how brands can use TikTok to boost both ends of the brand funnel- the top end of the funnel being the long-term metrics such as brand awareness, perception and visitation, and the bottom of the funnel being more short-term metrics such as sales, engagement and loyalty.

Make strategic sacrifices

Brands should not try to do everything at once. Instead, they should have clear single-minded objectives, decide on the trade-off on certain things, and over-invest in the spaces they want to be involved in. The strategy has to come before the choice of platform, Yeoh added. Brands should be clear on what tactics they want to use, and how the platform ties in with their overall marketing campaign strategy.

For IKEA, Yeoh said the company was very certain it wanted to target 20 to 30 years old consumers for the mall launch, on a platform less saturated than Facebook or Instagram. Hence, TikTok was the appropriate choice of platform as it has not yet been widely used by advertisers. Additionally, the company wanted to create something newsworthy, and so it came up with the idea of turning Toppen shopping centre into a “TikTok-able mall”.

Measure what matters

When it comes to effectiveness of marketing efforts, measurement is always key. Yeoh advised brands to set its non-negotiable, one metric to measure from the very start of the campaign. It is crucial for brands to differentiate and prioritise their KPIs.

For one of its rewards campaign, it set its metric as the number of redemption of cash vouchers from the shopping centre. That was a bottom-of-funnel priority for the company. The campaign was an online-to-offline one where users can perform certain actions online (such as watching a video, sharing content or a branded hashtag challenge), and they get points. The points can then be exchanged with cash vouchers at its physical stores. Thus, the redemption of cash vouchers is vital in determining the effectiveness of the campaign.

If brands are unable to get direct attribution from its campaigns, they should look for proxies and weaker signals such as engagement in the form of likes, comments and shares. At the end of the day, brands just have to be very clear what it wants to measure, and what is important to them.  

As important as it is for brands to experiment, it is also vital for them to manage stakeholders’ expectations. Yeoh advised brands to be honest with stakeholders if the effort is experimental in nature or if they think they cannot deliver. With experimental efforts, it would also help to be clear to stakeholders that it is a long-term plan to set expectations. Yeog added that brands should try as best to demonstrate growth with business metrics. Brands can have exemplary results in terms of vanity metrics such as engagement, views, and likes, but that ultimately does not mean much to the business and stakeholders.

“Always go beyond vanity metrics, pilot something, be honest about KPIs, and then trial at scale three to six months later,” Yeoh said.

Collaborate to accelerate

Yeoh also mentioned the importance working directly with the platform owners, and not just utilise the platform itself. By working with the owners, it fosters a collaborative nature of the partnership, instead of a supplier-vendor nature where brands are just purchasing something from the platform.

The is also how brands can create something different that cuts through the clutter, and rise above its competitors. IKEA tapped on this collaborative nature by working with TikTok’s headquarters in Beijing, China, and then leveraged its direct relationship to create one of Malaysia’s very first branded artificial reality (AR) filter on the platform.

With this collaborative nature, Yeoh added that it is important to set mutual expectations and objectives so that both parties can drive mutually-beneficial outcomes. While IKEA was able to reach to younger audience as it set out to do so, TikTok was also able to leverage on IKEA’s target audience to drive app installations in the older age groups, breaking away from its perception of being an app only for 16 to 21 years old.

Do your homework

“With every kind of new platform, it's really, really important to study, understand and implement it,” Yeoh said. Brands which are thinking of using TikTok in its marketing strategies need to first put in effort to comprehend it and be native to the platform. One essential feature of TikTok that brands should keep in mind when curating content, is that it is a vertical platform. With that, a big no-no for brands would be to fit content that is horizontally-viewed. 

By being native to the platform and understanding how it works, brands are better able to engage with TikTok users. This would increase the likelihood of them interacting with the brands’ content as well, rather than ignoring it.

When it comes to its TikTok marketing efforts, IKEA makes sure that the content fit the platform and what it is usually used for by users. For the launch of Toppen shopping centre, it engaged influencers Joe Flizzow and Joyce Chu to engage TikTok users in a branded challenge, where they have to dance while lip-syncing to a rap song. The nature of the challenge itself is what TikTok’s content is known for, and is hence a good fit.

Choosing influencers can be tricky as well, and Yeoh said the most important thing when it comes to influencer marketer is the kind of content the influencers create. Brands should take into consideration if the content is of good quality, if it gets engagement, and if it's a fit for the brand. “If you have a family friendly brand, you don't want bikini-clad girls,” he explained. Additionally, he said it is important to look past reach numbers. There's a lot of users on TikTok paying for followers and likes, so it is imperative to first look at the quality of content, before brands look at audience reach.

Understanding the platform also includes finding out if TikTok is a good fit for the brand’s marketing strategy. When asked about the multiple security issues surrounding TikTok concerning censorship and brand protection, Yeoh’s advice is for brands to investigate these threats themselves and not just listen to hearsay. “Do your homework, if it's a fit for your brand then definitely pursue it. If your brand's audience is there, go ahead. Otherwise you invest in something else. I wouldn't worry too much about security issues,” he said.

The medium is the message

It is vital for brands not to adopt the one-size-fit-all mentality when it comes to creating content on TikTok. According to Yeoh, brands should not think they can just create one creative video or brand film, and slap it onto TikTok. They have to always think about how to integrate their creative assets seamlessly across different platforms. Additionally, it is important for brands to use TikTok as part of the narrative or idea of the campaign, and not just simply a tag-on or an afterthought.

For IKEA, following its campaign launch for Toppen, it came up with a follow-up activation in line with Hari Raya. Titled “#TipTokRaya”, IKEA created a video featuring grandparents communicating with one another during the lockdown period in Malaysia. Since the restrictions did not allow their family members to travel back, the grandparents took to creating TikTok dances to communicate some Hari Raya traditions such as cleaning the house or cooking traditional meals. IKEA placed TikTok at the centre of the creative idea, giving it a reason for being in its campaign, rather than just being just a tag-on.  

Online to offline to online strategy

With TikTok, brands can leverage on the platform to create a “virtuous cycle”, bringing its online audiences to offline, and then online again. With IKEA’s Toppen launch, the company did so by using online content to attract Malaysians to visit the shopping centre for physical purchases and visits. It then also used on-ground activations such as treasure hunts and physical frames to engage with consumers, and incentivise them to continue with online engagement by getting them to post on social media platforms (in this case TikTok) with curated hashtags.

When executing this online to offline to online strategy, Yeoh added that it is important for brands to have a branded TikTok account. Just like with other social media platforms, having a branded TikTok account can increase engagement with consumers. Brands will not only be able to create their own content, but also distribute amplified content and increase interactions with the tag and reply functions.

Be experimental

It is very important for brands to be experimental on the platform to find out what works for them. Brands should not be afraid of failing. “You fail fast, you learn faster,” Yeoh said. He added that if the execution does not work, brands should quickly move on and try something else, and not get caught up with the sunk-cost mentality.

Brands should also put aside their own biases when it comes to experimenting. “You may think it might work, because you believe very strongly in the idea. But at the end of the day, the market or the consumer decides. So if it doesn't work, it's all right,” Yeoh said.

IKEA has met with its fair share of failed experiments on TikTok. It had tried to build excitement for its Toppen launch campaign by sending gift packs to influencers, and got them to do an unboxing video on their TikTok account. The team quickly found out that the marketing stunt didn’t work very well, and it did not see as much interaction with the influencers’ videos. Yeoh attributed it to the disconnect in content, where unboxing videos are usually done on platforms that host longer-form videos such as YouTube and Facebook. The team then quickly pivoted to try other things.

Need some help or insight when it comes to marketing on TikTok? Join our masterclass where we share an ultimate guide to best practices in TikTok and Douyin short video campaigns. Sign up for our Mastering TikTok Marketing classes here.

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