Flicker, Flash & Flare: IMO By Lotty Walpole

TikTok is one of today’s fastest growing apps. It dominates the social media sphere.

For anyone over the age of 30 (just kidding), it’s an innovative and free-to-use app which lets users produce bite-sized content. Its latest genius feature, the ‘For You’ Page (FYP), curates a stream of content based on what its users have previously engaged with... from dances, livestreamed sports and court cases, to cooking and lifestyle videos.

As a platform, TikTok allows brands to communicate with users at a speed like no other. It reflects today’s current climate where brands don’t have long to engage with consumers. TikTok generates and satisfies a need for more. More content. More often. Rather than amplifying quality, it’s often quantity that wins out. And having overtaken Google’s 15-year reign as the world’s most popular web domain, TikTok is showing that the way we find information is changing too.

‘Flicker, Flash & Flare’ is a tactic TikTok advises brands, marketers, and strategists to adopt when creating content for its platform. ‘Flicker’ is intended to stimulate the reactive nature of marketing, such as participation in trends. ‘Flash’ is part of a series of proactive and planned content, and ‘Flare’ is interactive content, like large-scale campaigns.

The app’s algorithm means that content can be shared with anyone. Due to this unknown and broad visibility, viral-ability can happen instantly, with brand awareness skyrocketing almost immediately. Little Moons, the now-famous mochi brand, sold out globally and went viral within two months of joining TikTok. Applying the Flicker method, they inspired 15,000 Little Moons-themed TikTok videos from fans, reaching over 500 million views and increasing Little Moons’ sales by a whopping 2,000%.

McCain’s ‘Shake Shake Fries’ campaign, is another excellent example of well-executed content. Unlike Little Moons, it used the Flare strategy, a tactic which embodies the products’ strategic purpose of escaping the mundane and having fun in the moment through a series of videos. It empowers users to contribute to the campaign by sharing their own ‘fun moment’, and shows people shaking their fries under the McCain hashtags. So far, it’s accumulated views of over 350k per TikTok (single post).

But despite some killer campaigns, is TikTok right for every brand?

Well... it depends.

Often, some brands are too quick to jump on the next craze in order to stay ‘current’. They don’t consider how the craze ties into their bigger picture. Because TikTok puts an emphasis on authentic content, whether a brand sinks or swims on the platform comes down to whether the jumped-on trend ultimately ties in with the brand’s DNA (or what we like to call the ‘creative brand idea’). Without a clear brand strategy in place, the execution of TikTok campaigns can fall short, feeling meaningless and... a little random.

At BrandOpus, we recently teamed up with the American icon Oscar Mayer, whose purpose to spark smiles helped us develop our ‘Never Square’ brand idea that we thread everywhere the brand shows up from logo to packaging to the famous hotdogger outfits.

On TikTok, Oscar Mayer has since rolled out this idea across a campaign which plays into the Flicker, Flash & Flare tactic... and it looks to have paid off. Every element of the campaign stays true to the brand, tapping into the ‘Never Square’ ethos, from picking people up in the Wienermobile to creating Bologna face masks. It continues to sparks smiles.

Elsewhere, Buzzfeed’s debut on TikTok was more of a buzz kill. Lacking a connection with the brand’s DNA, it felt lazy, and it looked lazy too. Having chosen to repurpose their longer-form YouTube content, they ignored the golden rules of the platform: be authentic and quick. Instead, it looked like getting a presence on TikTok was an immediate priority, made without thoroughly thinking it through.

Brands, pay attention.

Remember, digital trends move pretty quickly, so it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to tactics. We’re living in a world full of digital-obsessed marketers who are chasing short-term financial gain at the expense of long-term brand building. TikTok can be a great tool, but it works best when it’s part of a multi-channel campaign and one that isn’t purely digital.

Duolingo understood the assignment. From changing their content to suit, being unpredictable, and the famous sassy mascot, right through to the quick Taylor Swift trending videos, all elements of the multi-channel campaign laddered up to their strategy.

All in all, TikTok is a great tool for brands to promote themselves, but it’s important they truly understand the platform before they start churning out content. ‘Flicker, Flash & Flare’ is a good place to start, but ultimately a brand shouldn’t lose sight of its overall strategy and tie all activity back to it.

The next couple of years will be interesting to watch how brands play in this space.

Will the Flicker, Flash & Flare method still work?