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[All on TikTok] Cristiana Pană & Marius Marin: TikTok is simply another universe, separate from all other social platforms

TikTok is the kind of platform you either love or run away from and say the apocalypse is here. Reactions are at the extremes: it’s either “really cool” or it’s “a total freak show where everyone does whatever they want”. It’s not a platform for everyone and not for all brands, say Cristiana Pană, Head of Strategy & Growth, and Marius Marin, Reputation Manager @ Minio Studio.

Brands don’t take the platform seriously and don’t follow it. There aren’t many successful campaigns to relate to, so they are reluctant to test the platform. In addition, they are afraid, and rightly so, to experiment in an unstable socio-economic context, says Cristiana.

People are here, though. And the content is plentiful and honest, from all walks of life. Baby videos, popularity-seeking teenagers, sometimes silly pensioners, and manele memes. Cristiana and Marius talk about it all, without prejudice, in the interview below.


How your perspective on TikTok has changed

Cristiana: Although globally, TikTok has become the home of viral challenges, memes, and being popular, especially among Generation Z, it was only early last year that I started to take it seriously. At first, it seemed to me that it would have the same fate as Snapchat in Romania: that it was superficial and all the content would end up on Facebook and Instagram.

In the meantime, I realized that TikTok is simply another universe, separate from all other social platforms. It’s as if, for the first time, people have opened a social network of their own. With personal, authentic content, and opinions that either please or annoy people. Maybe that’s why you either love it or run away and say the apocalypse is here. “Woow, look what’s on TikTok!”

What’s TikTok to me, nowadays?

  • the place for different kinds of content creators, not necessarily celebrities/influencers.
  • a light-hearted universe where people come to make fun and have an appetite for absurd, easily digestible humor.
  • a place where authenticity and realism are the new monetization.
  • an aspirational place based on connection, co-creation, and entertainment.

I think it has huge growth potential both from a user perspective and what content they can make, but also from a brand perspective. That is, of course, if brands look at it from the right angle. TikTok is not about advertising or commercial messages. But, it can be a place where people and brands interact through new and fresh content or contributing to existing hashtags.


When you started taking TikTok seriously

Marius: Since last year, I’ve been looking to see what the potential of the platform is and where it’s going, I’ve also looked at the stats, and I’ve seen that we’ve become among the fastest-growing countries which use the platform and people have started to watch more and more content, but also to make their content.

Since the beginning of the year, I started to log in more and more often and it seems like every day when I open TikTok, I discover “a catch-all dish”. You find everything from baby videos, teenagers doing a challenge to go viral, occasionally goofy retirees, and even manele memes. 😀

Later, I also saw the first campaigns of some brands and I said that, slowly, advertising is starting to break the ice.


What’s special about this platform

Cristiana: It’s a personal platform. Where ordinary people, not celebrities or influencers, make content that is consumed on the fly. With videos between five and 60 seconds long, content creators have access to an assortment of filters and effects, as well as a generous music library.

TikTok is the newest platform that turns ordinary people into stars. The most famous account on TikTok belongs to Charli D’Amelio, a 16-year-old girl who rose to the top in less than a year. Maybe that’s precisely why she doesn’t get traction with brands, especially brands that want a near-perfect online image.

TikTok is like one last breath of fresh air where you don’t know exactly what you’re going to find. New, authentic content made by simple people like you can surprise you at every turn. Maybe that’s why it’s caught on so quickly. Few things surprise you anymore on Facebook or Instagram. You’ve seen an outfit, a plating, a workout, a few cats, you’ve pretty much seen it all. The content on other platforms has become so standardized, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.


How would you describe TikTok to someone who’s never been on the app

Marius: I would describe it as a fun place where you can’t help but be entertained, and not boring at all.


Brand communication

Cristiana: TikTok is not a platform for everyone and not for all brands. At least not now, until we understand in extenso how it works. Depending on the type of brand we’re talking about (how rigid, how globally standardized), several disadvantages could arise.

One disadvantage would be that you have no control. You can’t guarantee that video content or thread doesn’t take an unexpected turn.

Another disadvantage is that you have to be creative. You don’t have the luxury of doing it all just with great copywriting or inviting only celebrities to create content. It’s a pretty cutthroat platform that may cost you something expensive. You’re not from the scene, you’re not authentic, it all looks forced, or your advertising is too obvious? It’s simple, they don’t follow you.

In counterpoint to the above, the main advantage is the range of opportunities for brands to experiment. TikTok’s unique ecosystem, the reach it offers and its ability to attract more and more users, not just GenZ, is an open invitation for brands to be more creative. Another opportunity is that you can do all of this with 0 budget.

The piece de resistance is also the algorithm behind it, which uses artificial intelligence to make personalized recommendations for viewers. TikTok makes the content discovery so fast, across such a large scale of users, allowing videos to go viral extraordinarily quickly. And that’s the opportunity brands should be taking advantage of.



Marius: I’ve heard people’s opinions about the content on TikTok and the reactions are at the extremes: it’s either “very cool” or “a total freak show, where everyone does what they want”.

I also hear a lot that it’s just for kids. Interestingly, lately, we’ve seen a lot of elder users – besides our famous Enat group.

As for what we see in Romania, there are also a few characters from the local landscape that have started to dominate the content on the platform and it happens that out of 4-5 videos you get 2-3 memes with Dana Budeanu, Dorian Popa, videos of users with a new song by Abi or other similar people.

I’ve noticed that the moment a new song gets trending on YouTube, you find it in a lot of videos on TikTok afterward.

Where does the bias come from? From the society we live in. We end up wondering if we are watching content similar to tabloid or scandal TV shows, but also in their case, hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions were watching them.

But TikTok is a generous source of content and I like that, against the platform’s authentic backdrop – of fun and good vibes, I’m starting to see socially-directed movements and challenges that also address more sensitive topics. Just the other day, I saw one called #MoveForMentalHealth and I thought it was interesting that TikTok users took the message further with unique videos urging movement.


What brands (and creatives) need to know before venturing onto TikTok

Cristiana: One problem, at least in Romania, is that brands don’t take the platform seriously or follow it. There aren’t many successful campaigns to relate to, so they are reluctant to test the platform. In addition, they are afraid, and rightly so, to experiment in an unstable socio-economic context.

TikTok is still a relatively young channel. There is no quick and reliable way for brands to successfully grow on the platform.

However, there are a few things brands can do/take into consideration before getting on TikTok:

Notice. The most important thing before you jump into it is to see how far are others taking it. It’s important to understand exactly what type of content catches on, to understand how users interact with that type of content and with each other.

Be authentic, not unique. Of course uniqueness matters on TikTok. It matters everywhere else. But what’s different here is that the lack of authenticity in a post can cost you a lot more. One more thing, the important aspect would be to identify content creators that are relevant to their brand.

Be patient. Being a fairly new channel, especially in Romania, I would advise brands not to aim for immediate success. Experimentation is the keyword. I’d say you should get it wrong and get it wrong fast, instead of beating yourself up too much about what content didn’t work and why. Rather, I’d say try as many approaches as you can, until you find the winning one.


Do you have requests from clients?

Cristiana: Not yet. We know that, in general, brands in Romania have traction compared to what is happening abroad.  Although we are seeing more and more brands abroad starting TikTok campaigns, the demand for it in Romanian briefs is stalling.

Jokes are being made on GenZ and content for this group is being branded more as nice to have or optional. What is not yet known in Romania is that TikTok is not just a platform for GenZ and early adopter Millenials. TikTok is for GenZ, but also new generations of parents, especially moms. It’s for fun, for lifehacks, for music, for social issues.


Why TikTok exploded this year

Cristiana: We can easily correlate it with the start of the pandemic and the state of emergency, where many people were isolated at home. Of course, the platform had already started catching on before, but it’s part of the same wave. It was a very difficult time for everyone. Many people went from fear to boredom, to agony. That’s how we came face to face with this platform where people dared to do funny things to pass the time faster, to feel like they had a purpose.


Campaigns that caught your eye here

Marius: The campaigns that caught my attention here: from the first one – the one Mirinda did, and then Lipton, Pepsi, and Lay’s, because I wanted to take a closer look at what the locally implemented campaigns would look like. These were pretty big campaigns that involved influencers, then users became content creators for brands, and it showed an openness to the platform at the company level because all the brands are Pepsico.

And there would be one more, which is more a series of memes than a campaign, but I think it could be done as a country branding campaign. It’s the #InRomaniaWeDontSay videos, where we saw how creative Romanians are. This type of content started to appear more and more on Instagram, as well.


In 10-15 years

Cristiana: I’ll keep the long-term predictions about the platform to myself, especially since there are global implications that make the future of the platform uncertain. For example, the Trump administration just banned the app, along with WeChat, citing national security risks.

Most likely, if things go smoothly in the US market, TikTok will gain momentum in the Romanian market. We will see more and more initiatives, not just from the big players like Pepsi and Lay’s. As long as the brads dare to co-create with ordinary people and not just push content, the future of TikTok looks good.

Marius: It’s pretty unpredictable. We live in an ever-evolving world and it may overtake Facebook or Instagram in terms of interest. We may start to see more campaigns, including our own, or maybe yet another platform will emerge and attract more interest.

Nevertheless, I see the next few years more as a period of people discovering the platform, “playing” with it, and having a good time, because, beyond the music, dancing, and fun, the content out there makes you laugh a lot.