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Letter from Gen Z: brands need to stop taking themselves so seriously on TikTok

By Sofia Baracskai | Columnist

August 2, 2022 | 5 min read

In our ‘Letter from Gen Z’ series, we ask younger consumers to share their candid opinions. Here high schooler Sofia Baracskai explains why brands need to be more fun on TikTok.


TikTok has become an important marketing tool for many brands / Adobe Stock

Marketers already know that TikTok is popular. Still, many miss the mark when trying to advertise to – and create connections with – gen Z on the platform. While many businesses find it impossible to crack the code of advertising on TikTok, it’s much simpler than it may seem. All it takes is a willingness to have a little lighthearted fun.

Many companies believe that gen Zers are looking to find a product that’s new and innovative. But really the opposite is true. We look at TikTok as a means of entertainment. We look for things we can relate to and laugh at, without being weighed down by the demanding realities of life. Many people use social media as an escape from reality. Laughing at funny videos on TikTok can sometimes help us forget about our responsibilities for a short amount of time.

Real-life problems such as the war in Ukraine, the pandemic and the overturning of Roe v Wade can overwhelm people’s hearts and brains. But some of us can often find temporary relief in TikTok. Gen Z TikTok users don’t want to be overburdened with new information and seriousness in a place where they go to laugh and be entertained. Companies should aim to keep the same cheerfulness that’s associated with the app. They can do this by generating content that is light and funny in order to appeal to their gen Z audience.

Without taking themselves too seriously, companies should take part in trends on TikTok. They can be seen as ‘cool’ by TikTok users for partaking in trends on the app, no matter how silly they might be. In some cases, the sillier the trend, the better the companies will look when they join in. Doing so helps companies seem in touch with gen Z. Being able to laugh together creates even stronger relationships between big businesses and their audience of gen Zers. Finally, companies are able to stand out and easily make a name for themselves on TikTok. Applebee’s nailed it by taking the popular TikTok song Fancy Like, which referenced the brand, and utilizing it in an ad.

Consistency is also key

Companies should also post consistently. Doing so demonstrates that they’re committed to having an understanding of TikTok trends and the platform’s gen Z users, which can in turn grow their popularity both on TikTok and IRL. When users see a company with a strong TikTok presence, they’ll often be motivated to interact with it outside of social media and purchase its products. A strong TikTok presence can also inspire pride among a brand’s existing users.

Some companies that serve as a good example of having fun on TikTok include Ryanair, Slim Jim, Scrub Daddy and Glossier. They have, in my view, mastered the art of putting their brands out there without taking themselves too seriously, and it has worked well for them. They have garnered mass amounts of TikTok admirers along with an avid new userbase. A wide variety of brands have grown their fanbase by having a laidback and fun presence on TikTok. The majority of those brands boast over 1 million followers on TikTok, but they all share in having at least 5m likes, with many of them extending far past that number. That’s because it’s easy to reach gen Z when you act like one of us. Companies should look to follow those brands’ example in order to foster a community of gen Z followers who admire their social media presence and are more likely to interact with them in the future.

Sofia Baracskai is a senior at Notre Dame School in Manhattan. She aspires to obtain a degree in marketing.

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