Has Bytedance joined the illustrious ranks of the BAT with Douyin in China?

Looking to fuel its growth, Douyin continues to evolve at an unprecedented rate.

First launched by parent company ByteDance in 2016, Douyin sought to fill the gap in China’s rapidly changing media landscape for user-generated short video content. Originally developed as a lip-sync platform, the app’s user base has skyrocketed to over 390 million monthly active users.

With 86% growth YOY, the platform continues to outgrow even its fastest rivals, including Kuaishou and the more established WeChat and Weibo. Outside of China, it has gained popularity under the name ‘TikTok’ since its global launch in 2017, reportedly achieving 500 million global monthly active users in mid-2018 with presence in over 150 countries.

Looking to fuel its growth, Douyin continues to evolve at an unprecedented rate. Tapping into its large influencer base, the platform has recently popularized ‘Douyin Challenges’. Similar in nature to the ice bucket challenge, Douyin Challenges allow brands to invite users to create and share specific content, driving user-generated videos and conversations.

Marketing campaigns by Nike, which saw users show off their trendiest sports stunts for China’s Children’s Day, or Lay’s, which asked users to lip-sync to a comical music video accompanied by the crispy sound of potato chips, continue to push the boundaries of Douyin’s latest craze. Both micro and mainstream influencers have taken part in these challenges, attracting users to join in with their partner brands.

ByteDance has also been looking to strengthen partnerships with intellectual property holders (e.g. cultural institutions, films, pop culture trademarks, etc.), and develop activities around all that’s hot with young Chinese consumers.

As a recent example, Douyin initiated a series of on-ground events – ‘Dou in City’. Starting out in Hangzhou, a city known for its rich culture and heritage, Douyin activated a series of pop-up activities with local partners that focused on the city’s traditional printing and crafts. The event was so successful that the campaign was rolled out to other cities including Guangzhou, where the focus turned to the city’s famous cuisine and restaurant scene. Efforts are currently aimed at establishing Dou in City as a platform for commercial cooperation.

As with any new platform, there are always teething issues for marketers to be aware of. Recently, the app has attracted attention around inappropriate content for minors, user addiction, as well as unqualified products in its e-commerce functions. ByteDance has gradually tried to address these concerns with underage restrictions, usage time limits and better customer service support for online purchases.

As the Chinese media landscape continues to grow and evolve, so too will Douyin. ByteDance continues to invest heavily, utilizing its vast capital as China’s most funded content and media start-up – with total investments valued at $4.3 billion USD - leading many to re-coin BAT as ‘BBAT’.

Marketers the world over continue to keep a close eye on what ByteDance does next, they can no longer afford not to.

Jerry Perez and Doris Xu is the strategy director and senior strategic planning executive respectively at Mindshare in China. To receive a copy of Mindshare's Douyin Primer report, please contact Nicholas Short.

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