TikTok — 2020 has been quite the year. We celebrated, cooked, listened, learned, supported, stayed at home together, and found creativity and joy throughout each twist and turn along the way. The TikTok community came together to share moments of inspiration and positivity, and we saw brands shift in real-time to embrace authenticity and genuine connection.
The creativity behind the brands of 2020 that moved us in all the best ways has become a central part of the entertaining, inspiring, and connected TikTok experience. Whether they were starting trends, connecting communities, or bringing awareness to critical public service initiatives – we’re thrilled to celebrate the unique brand campaigns that embody our creative ethos: “Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks.”
These US campaigns encouraged us to tap into our responsible side through mask-wearing and handwashing, celebrated the creative expression, diversity and individuality of the community, and empowered small businesses to grow their communities and find new consumers through TikTok.
“We’re thrilled to debut our first-ever Year on TikTok spotlighting brands that showed incredible perseverance and their ability to make an impact on culture and with the TikTok community in 2020. These campaigns brought much-needed joy and levity to TikTok and into our homes during a challenging year and truly exemplified the power of authenticity in marketing.” – Katie Puris, Managing Director, Global Business Marketing, TikTok
On TikTok, brands have a platform to create content that’s both entertaining and true to who they are and what they stand for. In 2020, we saw publishers, sports leagues and teams, nonprofit organizations, and so many more shape culture on the platform and engage the TikTok community every day, organically generating millions of video views and followers.
“People come to TikTok not just for entertainment, but for education, inspiration, and a sense of community. Meaningful connection was more important in 2020 than ever before, and looking back we’ve seen partner brands in nearly every vertical bring our community together through authentic, unforgettable, and inspiring TikTok videos.” – Bryan Thoensen, Head of Content Partnerships, TikTok
1) Top Hashtag Challenges that sparked creativity from our community
TikTok’s participatory nature has created an entirely new way for brands and the community to connect with each other through creative content. These creative Hashtag Challenges inspired the community to jump in to the conversation and create their own versions of the challenge at record numbers! Which challenge did you take on this year?
NYX Professional Makeup – #ButterGlossPop encouraged creators and beauty enthusiasts across the platform to show their creativity in how they “Pop Their Gloss” and apply the cult-favorite Butter Gloss Lip Gloss.
L’Oreal – #LetsFaceIt aimed to de-stigmatize mask-wearing by reminding the community that looking and feeling your most beautiful is never out of style, even while wearing a mask.
Pepsi – #ThatsWhatILike ushered in a new decade by encouraging consumers to unapologetically do what they enjoy, even in the face of others’ judgement – whether it’s clapping at the end of a movie, wearing an over-the-top costume for the fun of it, or simply enjoying a Pepsi.
Bomb Pop – #NotOneThing set out to highlight individuality – we’re not limited to just one thing, but rather we’re each a unique mashup of interests, feels, and surprises. The challenge asked people to celebrate the epic collabs and low-key dope contradictions that come from refusing to choose a lane.
EA Games – #PlayWithLife showcased how users dress up with The Sims, from everyday outfits to workwear, PJ’s, athleisure and more.
2) Top Hashtag Challenges that moved us through music
Music is at the heart and soul of the TikTok experience – from ‘The Renegade’ to ‘Dreams’ – and some of our favorite trends and memes started with a catchy tune. For these brands, the music they chose for the soundtracks of their Hashtag Challenges led the community to join in on the fun and create alongside their brand in record-breaking fashion!
EPIC – #InTheHouseParty brought the pregame to the TikTok community around the world who were getting ready to join a three day, celebrity-filled virtual event in the Houseparty app. Houseparty partnered with Curtis Roach, the Detroit rapper who found success on TikTok with his ‘Bored in the House’ sound, to create a Houseparty remix of his hit, and the TikTok community showed off their pre-party routines in preparation for joining their friends virtually.
Warner Bros. – #ScoobDance invited the original creator of the viral ‘Renegade’ dance, Jalaiah Harmon, to develop her own dance for the Hashtag Challenge set to “Slide to the Left (feat. Lil SCOOB)” by Mystery Gang all in celebration of their new ‘SCOOB’ movie.
Safeguard – #SafeguardSplash challenged the community during a peak time of the pandemic to show off their handwashing dance moves with Safeguard Hand Soap. Their custom song “Safeguard Splash” by Safeguard provided a fun tune for users to scrub-a-dub to.
NYX Professional Makeup – The original song #ButterGlossPop became an instant hit as the community shared how they “Pop Their Gloss”
Aldo – #StepIntoLove featured “Roses” by SAINt JHN andinvited the community to show off their dance moves in style for a chance to win $5,000.
3) Top eye-catching creatives from the ‘For You’ feed
On TikTok, brands are embracing the creative and authentic spirit of the community and giving users a new way to discover and engage with the products they love. In a research study conducted by Nielsen this year, they discovered 43% of heavy TikTok users feel that the “advertising” on TikTok seamlessly blends in with the organic content enjoyed by the community on the ‘For You’ feed. This reigns true for these brands which earned top slots in this category for their incredible rates of engagement they received across likes, comments and shares for their TopView campaigns.
Hulu – Using creative assets from their popular Hulu Original comedy series, “Pen15,” Hulu promoted the show’s Season 2 release in a hilarious way that caught the attention of users in their For You feeds.
NFL – NFL Kickoff 2020 was an opportunity to energize the country around the return of football after an unprecedented offseason that affected fans, players, and the world. On TikTok, NFL welcomed back their fans with excitement and joy and rang in the start of a one-of-a-kind 2020-21 NFL season.
Amazon Prime Video – To promote the much-anticipated second season of The Boys, Amazon Prime Video shared a hilarious and empowering clip from the show.
Spotify – Featuring the smash hit “Mood” by 24k Goldn Feat. iann dior, Spotify partnered with creators Jena Frumes, JaNina, and Vienna Skye to showcase their range of music and podcast offerings that match any mood.
Tenet – Warner Bros. offered fans a preview of the action-thriller and encouraged them to join the action through the #TimeforTENET hashtag.
4) Top branded effects that brought the joy of our community to life
Creative effects are one of the many fun and unique ways our community expresses themselves on the platform, and brands have the opportunity to create their own branded creative effects to bring an interactive element to their campaigns. These top Branded Effects emulated TikTok’s participatory nature with fun, engaging effects that brought out the joy and laughter of our user community.
Fruit by the Foot – #DJByTheFoot turned users into actual DJs with a virtual turntable and headset that appeared on screen alongside a Fruit by the Foot branded logo.
EA Games – #PlayWithLife let the community see what they would like as a character in The Sims simulation game by giving people an opportunity to virtually try on their own personal “Plumbob.”
Cheetos – #CantTouchThisChallenge gave users a creative outlet to showcase their best “Cheetle” covered fingers rendition to the TikTok community.
WHO –#ProtectYourHero showed how even the most seemingly pointless acts performed by people staying at home had heroic consequences. It encouraged a ‘one-up’ culture among creators who filmed themselves performing more humorous, more mundane, or more unexpected acts at home to protect someone they cared for.
Lysol – #HealthyHabits6Step encouraged the community to stay committed to healthy habits while putting their dance skills to the test. Using the Lysol Branded Effect, users were able to match their moves to Twista’s custom ‘Healthy Habits 6 Step’ song, which made for a fun and engaging way to bring awareness to a critical public service initiative.
5) “Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks” – TikTok For Business editor’s choice
TikTok as a platform is designed to inspire — with authentic, creative content that could only be on TikTok. For brands, this opens an entirely new window of opportunity to create content that speaks to people, to invite the community to join in the conversation, and…to Make TikToks. These brands took “Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks” to heart and achieved incredible results.
Simmons – The 150-year-old mattress brand saw massive community engagement when it launched the #Snoozzzapalooza Hashtag Challenge inviting people to live out their stage-diving festival dreams right from their beds.
Bumble – Working closely with TikTok, Bumble created an entirely new, always-on acquisition channel with significant scale, using clever TikTok-style direct response ads. The brand also worked with notable Creators, such as David Dobrik and Brittany Broski, to build native video content that seamlessly blended into For You feeds.
JanSport – The brand’s inspiring and engaging #LightenTheLoad campaign was a mission to provide real tools and resources to help tackle the mental health crisis for Gen Z.
6) Top viral videos from brands
From behind-the-scenes moments to oh-so-satisfying ASMR, some of the most shareable moments on TikTok in 2020 came from brands that leaned into trends and culture on the platform. Here are some of the most-viewed videos from brands that our community had on loop.
@blue (Sports) – Just another day at the office with the Indianapolis Colts mascot.
@90dayofficial (Entertainment) – “I like the view.” One of the biggest and most viral moments from your favorite pop culture obsession, 90 Day Fiance!
@kajabeauty (Fashion & Beauty) – Cute, colorful, and oddly satisfying K-beauty.
@sosatisfying (Lifestyle) This colorful thread cutting video perfectly captures tension and release as each layer fans out with a satisfying ASMR sound.
@nba2K (Gaming) – A behind-the-scenes look at a Mocap shoot teased new dunk animations featured in NBA 2K21.
@sandiegozoo (Nonprofit) – The community fell in love with Otis the 4,100 lb. hippo (or is he a river puppy?)
7) Brands that built a community in 2020
Just like creators, brands on TikTok can grow their audience by creating engaging videos and meaningfully interacting with users. In 2020, these brands attracted millions of followers by embracing what makes our platform and community unique. Here are some of the brands that built the biggest followings in 2020.
@espn (Sports) – A collection of the best sports moments all in one place. ESPN has more than quadrupled its following in the past year alone and serves up the wildest fan clips, heartwarming videos, incredible highlights and pregame/postgame footage you won’t find anywhere else.
@netflix (Entertainment) – Through a blend of entertaining highlights, content custom-tailored to the community, and fun talent appearances, Netflix has grown a following of more than 11 million by leaning into trends on TikTok while staying true to their brand and mission.
@girls (Fashion & Beauty) – Connecting the next generation of girls through relatable, diverse content that covers it all.
@5.minute.crafts (Lifestyle) – Helpful ideas for craft projects that empower viewers to solve everyday problems with simple, creative solutions.
@xbox (Gaming) – Making genuine connections with fans by focusing on entertaining and educational content that inspires people to play. Their channel is a celebration of gaming, the internet, and the culture in between.
@sandiegozoo (Nonprofit) – A go-to channel for weird, funny, and awe-inspiring animal and conservation videos. As a #LearnOnTikTok partner, you might also learn a thing or two.
8) Editor’s choice: innovative brand accounts
We see brands create incredible TikTok videos every day, but some have consistently innovated, shaped culture and broken boundaries. These brands stood out to us in 2020, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.
@itgetsbetter – A digital safe space for queer youth and their allies, the It Gets Better TikTok account shares educational and inspirational videos to uplift, empower and connect LGBTQ+ young people around the globe.
@nascar – From hilarious mic’d up moments with drivers to showcasing Ryan Vargas’s Number 6 car fully wrapped in TikTok branding, NASCAR authentically engages the community inside and outside the app.
@hbomax – Five college-aged interns helped define the brand’s “For Gen Z, By Gen Z” audience strategy. Preeti, Conor, Paravi, Gray and Ashley work together to select movies and series from the HBO Max library as inspiration to create TikTok native content. From a direct-to-camera cosplay of Wonder Woman doing a Naruto run to a creepy hour-long livestream supporting Annabelle Comes Home, their innovative content has set a new bar for brands on TikTok.
@puma – PUMA has continuously supported and amplified the Black community on TikTok through an exclusive Fashion Month collaboration with creators including Dominic Toliver and Jufu, their “Black History Moments” series with Taylor Cassidy, and more.
@werenotreallystrangers – A purpose-driven card game that uses TikTok to spark important, heartfelt conversations and self-reflection around mental health, relationships, and much more. Warning: Feelings May Arise.
9) The small businesses that stole the show (and our hearts) in 2020
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and now, more than ever, they’re finding their own unique communities on TikTok. Not only does the platform let them show the fun and passion they bring to their work, but it helps their businesses see incredible engagement from the TikTok community. We’ve enjoyed following along on their journeys this year and are excited to highlight five (out of many!) that have stolen the hearts of the TikTok community!
Pounce Cat Cafe – @pouncecatcafe, located in Charleston SC & Savannah GA, offers coffee and adoptable cats at their cozy cafe and has successfully found furrever homes for over 1,700 cats and kittens in Georgia.
Designs by Donnie – @designs.by.donnie in Destin, Florida is run by Donnie Galli who found himself unemployed and in need of work during a tough holiday season. He sparked creativity in his garage as he began taking apart old furniture and making new creations. Today, Donnie and his wife are working full-time together giving “new life to old wood” and sharing a behind-the-scenes look at their work that frequently draws millions of views to their TikTok videos.
Lucky to Live Here Real Estate – @luckytolivehere is a boutique real estate in New York that sets itself apart by spotlighting what makes Long Island living special. Through TikTok home tours, they’ve racked up millions of views despite the pandemic, highlighting flawless kitchens, fun things to do in the town, and showcasing exclusive beaches.
Fay-Ark Lawn Co. – @fayarklawnco, located in Fayatteville, Arkansas, is owned by Eric Hill who created the lawn care company on the foundation of helping others while enjoying the outdoors. Eric has been part of the growing “Lawn-Tok” community since April and often racks up TikTok views by showing the community various lawncare tasks such as hedge trimming and leafblowing.
Queen City Alchemy – @queencityalchemy is a small boutique and apothecary owned by entrepreneur and founder Emily Little in Cincinnati, Ohio. She uses TikTok to promote the small-batch products she makes in the heart of the vibrant Over-the-Rhine community, while educating her 25K followers on special herbs and plants.
10) Top #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt picks
Need a little shopping inspo? Look no further than #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, our community’s go-to hashtag to explore an endless range of products from dog glasses to roller sneakers. Here are some products that our community discovered and loved through #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt.
@duckytheyorkie – These glasses from the Paw Wag Company make this pup look adorable and distinguished.
@courtschaos – Believe it or not, these Harry Potter Magical Capsules from Amazon don’t require magic to open.
@its_me_bri__ – The community couldn’t wait to get to their local Michaels for a $5 grab bag.
@katherinezepedaa – Users were mesmerized by this mini ATM machine, which comes complete with a toy debit card.
@incrediblyartsy – If roller sneakers are wrong, we don’t want to be right.