• Casey Roeder

18 Top Brands That Are Crushing It on TikTok in 2021

Popular TikTok Influencers

TikTok isn’t just for lip-syncing teenagers anymore. Even before the recent shutdown, TikTok was the #1 growing app in the United States, and brands are starting to take notice. We previously did a deep dive into high-level TikTok marketing strategy, and more recently we compiled a plethora of case studies ranging from small business to large enterprise accounts we covered on TikTok. Now let’s take a look at some brands using the platform to its fullest capability and launching the most popular viral campaigns to date.

1. Chipotle

The popular Mexican chain has amassed over 350K followers, and also has one of the best bios on TikTok – “Less Tok, More Guac.” Chipotle first found success encouraging users to partake in the #ChipotleLidFlip Challenge, seemingly originated by a Chipotle employee, and later imitated by over 100K trying to replicate the stunt.

The brand has shown they weren’t a one-hit-wonder either. In July, they started the #GuacDance challenge, resulting in over 250K video submissions, and 430M video starts in just six days. The stunt didn’t just live on the internet either, as Chipotle reported over 800K sales of guac on National Guacamole Day. Chipotle followed up this effort in Halloween 2019 with the #Boorito campaign, offering a $4 burrito to anyone that came to Chipotle in a costume on 10/31, levering influencers @zachking and @dreaknowsbest (among others).

2. Guess

While it takes some brands a bit of time and practice to figure out how to best create content and drive engagement in a new platform, Guess nailed it from the start. Their first post promoted their #InMyDenim campaign, where creators quickly changed from old, ratty clothes into stylish Guess outfits. Boosted by influencers such as @ourfire and @madison_willow, videos using the hashtag have been viewed over 42 million times.

They later followed up with #LoveGUESS to drive another 5.4 million views. Guess seems to be as good as any brand on TikTok at finding the right influencers for their campaigns. Their #LoveGUESS post on their own channel featured popular influencers @brentrivera and @mylifeaseva. That video alone was viewed over 1 million times, with hundreds of comments about how much their viewers liked the influencers.

3. NBA

The NBA is already a massively popular brand across social media, with over 117 million followers across their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, so it should come as no surprise that they’re among the most popular brand accounts on TikTok as well. They currently have over 10.6 million followers, which is among, if not the largest branded account on TikTok at the time of this article.

The brilliance of the NBA’s social media strategy is the way they specialize content for each platform. If you want NBA news and updates, follow them on Twitter. If you want game highlights, follow them on Instagram. For TikTok however, they know people are looking for short-form content that engages them quickly, so the NBA mostly uses the platform for comedy and memes.

4. The Washington Post

The Washington Post is another example of a brand having a good understanding of the TikTok platform, and catering their content specifically to the TikTok audience. While you might expect they’d use it for short-form news videos, the channel is filled with funny, engaging videos, often “behind the scenes” type skits to let viewers get a feel for the personalities behind the articles.

This strategy has resulted in over 445K followers and has undoubtedly bought WP some goodwill and credibility among TikTok’s younger demographic.

5. Gymshark

Gymshark is another example of a brand that fully understood TikTok, built a content strategy around it, and are seeing the results to the tune of 1.7 million followers on their account – one of the highest we’ve seen that didn’t previously have the backing of a large media company.

They understand the value of consistent updates and are sure to post something at least once a day. Their content is engaging, but also motivational at the same time. And they do a great job at seeing what’s popular on the platform and adapting it to their brand, partaking in many of the popular hashtags and challenges.

6. San Diego Zoo

If there is a cheat code to making engaging social content, it’s cute animal videos. The San Diego Zoo takes full advantage of this, creating short videos that people can’t help but like and share, resulting in over 1.2 million followers.

The San Diego Zoo has also done a phenomenal job of using their account to build partnerships with other animal-friendly brands and causes. Taking advantage of specific national animal days is an easy, low hanging fruit, but they’ve also done cross-promotions with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

7. Red Bull

Red Bull has been a pioneer in creating viral digital content for years, so it should come as no surprise that they’re among the most popular and successful brands on TikTok as well. Their account has over 4.1 million followers, putting them among the highest branded accounts on the platform, and videos with the #givesyouwings hashtag have been viewed over 417 million times.

While they do an excellent job of participating in trending hashtags and challenges, a good amount of their content isn’t explicitly made for TikTok. While this is something that most brands should avoid, Red Bull succeeds by excelling at another critical aspect of TikTok – hook people quickly with engaging content. Whether it’s an extreme stunt or someone with next-level skills, Red Bull’s videos are undeniably thumb-stopping – something all brands should consider when planning their content.

8. Spikeball

To those unfamiliar with the game, Spikeball describes itself on TikTok as “if volleyball and foursquare had a baby.” Their channel videos have generated over 3.4M likes, and the #spikeball videos have over 37M views.

The secret to their success starts from the fact that the game’s target audience skews younger, which aligns with the demographics of TikTok. But perhaps more importantly, a large part of TikTok’s appeal comes from people wanting to show off a bit (often ironically). Spikeball leans into this within TikTok by showcasing “highlights” of people playing the game and encouraging others to do the same.

9. United Nations IFAD

When you think of viral TikTok brands, the International Fund for Agricultural Development might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Still, they’re a fascinating example of an organization finding success on the platform without using the traditional tactics. The goal of the IFAD is to fight world hunger by promoting rural agriculture. Since the topic doesn’t exactly lend itself well to humor and memes, the IFAD content is more centered around informative posts and motivational videos, often encourage viewers to change the world.

However, this isn’t to say they ignore the best practices of TikTok. Knowing how popular dance and music are on TikTok, they launched the #danceforchange challenge. Led by influencers @mreazi and @sherriesilver, the challenge went viral, with over 104 million views.

10. Nickelodeon

With the TikTok audience skewing so much younger than most social networks, Nickelodeon’s programming is a natural fit on the platform. Their 7 million followers span both that more youthful audience, as well as the older, more adult audience that follows for the nostalgia.

While Nickelodeon has the advantage of an enormous content library and talent pool to pull from, they’re smart enough to not just repurpose existing content. Instead, they stay on top of current trending hashtags, overlay new music, and shoot special behind the scenes clips to keep content fresh and unique to the platform.

11. Kaja Beauty

TikTok is dominated by fashion and cosmetic brands but Kaja beauty has really been able to game the platform with its Korean beauty products seemingly made for TikTok. They’ve seen steady growth through the year and great consistency in their posts with an impressive average of 150k likes per post a number rivaled only by accounts followed by significantly more people. Kaja also plays into the unboxing trend that’s been gaining steam over the past couple of years with many of their TikToks – effective doesn’t always have to be complex when you have a beautiful product.

12. Aldrich Landscape

A small landscaping business operating in rural Ohio is probably one of the last brands you’d expect to excel on TikTok but Aldrich Landscaping stands out as one of the most impressive brands of 2020 for its impressive growth to over half a million followers.

TikTok is known for harboring communities surrounding every niche and interest that exists and Aldrich dominates in suburban dad-tok and “grasstok”. Going viral on TikTok doesn’t always require a lot of effort, sometimes just creating visually pleasing videos with good camera work is enough. For Aldrich it’s surely shown to be enough with their average post amassing an average of 78k likes

13. Kool-Aid

Kool-Aid is another brand that can take advantage of its popularity among younger audiences and combine it with the nostalgia of the older adult audience to create fun and engaging content.

For Christmas, they created the #OhYEAHchristmas contest, incentivizing users with a $10K prize. They partnered with rapper Lil Jon, creating a Christmas themed Kool-Aid jingle, and encouraged others to dance and show their holiday spirit. Led in large part by a number of influencer partnerships, the campaign generated over 1.9 billion views.

14. e.l.f. Cosmetics

With the popularity of transformation-style videos on TikTok, cosmetics are a natural fit on the platform, so e.l.f. knew they had to go big in order to stand out. First, they commissioned a song called “Eyes Lips Face” (the brand name’s acronym). e.l.f. then enlisted a team of influencers, both men and women, to launch #EyesLipsFace, a viral dance challenge where creators would show their eyes, lips, and faces to the tune of the song.

From a branding standpoint, it was brilliant. The song is catchy enough to get stuck in your head, and the lyrics of it ensure that you know (and never forget) what the e.l.f. in their brand name stands for. The challenge itself was also fun, and because it didn’t require the use of cosmetics, it was more open for both men and women to participate. The result – 5 billion views and counting.

15. Gushers

Gushers are one of many snack foods that took to TikTok in the most absurd fashion possible and the result has been incredibly high and consistent engagement with an average of 120k likes per post despite having only 275k followers. Gushers is a great example of an account that values quality over quantity with just 20 posts but a total of 2.5M+ likes. Gushers really leans into weird TikTok with hilarious content often centered around trending memes and formats. Gushers is just one of many food CPG brands thriving on the platform along with Bugles, Nutter Butters, Oreo, and more.

16. We’re Not Really Strangers

With an impressive 125k average likes per post and an impressive 23 likes per follower, WNRS has both incredibly engaged followers and some standout viral posts that hit the ‘For You’ page and got tons of likes. Although 2020 has been a bad year for most, it has also been a great time for many to take a break and think about life. Koreen, the creator of the WNRS card game, created WNRS to empower meaningful connections with others. Their TikTok account is different from others; they not only repost their question cards but also encourage their viewers to answer them in the comments. The TikTok algorithm uses engagement like comments as a signal of quality so for brands looking to grow and reach a greater audience this tactic can be quite effective.

17. Starface

A brand that’s only improved over 2020 with the number of likes outpacing growth in followers by 30% over the last 4 months of the past year. As an up and coming skincare brand, Starface definitely knows how to utilize social media (both Instagram and TikTok). Starface makes unique “acne stickers” in the shape of stars that fit perfectly with beauty and skincare TikTok. Their TikTok videos primarily consist of customers using the products to help with their skin problems and they do a great job of engaging with followers by making video responses to questions they get in the comment section.

18. Crocs

While a brand doesn’t necessarily strive to be the butt of jokes and memes, Crocs deserve a lot of credit for using this to their advantage. Their account itself is mostly used to showcase products and announce new releases, but they’ve been smart about strategic partnerships.

The biggest of which by far was the #ThousandDollarCrocs challenge, where users were encouraged to “class up” their crocs as fancy as possible. In partnership with singer Post Malone, YouTuber Adam W, and others, the campaign generated over 2.9 billion video starts. With TikTok being such an outlet for fun and creativity, being a brand that doesn’t take itself so seriously can be a tremendous advantage.

At Skylab Media, we are dedicated to helping clients just like you integrate brand awareness campaigns into their other marketing endeavors, ensuring that your time and money are focused exactly where they need to be. Contact us for a 90 day marketing proposal with one of our digital marketing strategists to better understand how to take your brand awareness campaigns to the next level.

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