Screen Capture on TikTok of an ad
TikTok, an app aimed at young people with a total of 689 million users internationally, is full of people wanting to create fun, creative content. As a result of its large consumer pool, this makes it enviable for many brands wanting a platform to use for marketing as well as collecting customers. This desire for publicity has clouded the app with advertisements and marketing strategies aimed towards a younger generation, influencing the purchases of different products, including fashion.
Calvin Klien, MAC Cosmetics, Burberry, Crocs, even the NBA, all have TikTok platforms to connect and market to their target audiences. While social media is widely used by people of all ages, TikTok’s main set of users are pre-teen/ teenagers looking for some source of entertainment to escape hectic news and exhausting online school.
TikTok has a “For You Page”, or a fyp, which is a separate page of 30-60 second video clips that are customized to the users interests based on their liked videos or things they have interacted with throughout the app. While this is helpful to the consumer by narrowing down the millions of videos to the targeted audience, it also helps brands market to their specific clientele and promote their products.
One big trend from 2019 was the “VSCO girl” trend. VSCO is an app used for photo editing, and could be compared to Instagram just without the likes and comments. While this phrase may be unfamiliar to some, these two words can trigger a fight or flight instinct within many young people. This trend consisted of people wearing way too many hair scrunchies on their wrists, Hydro Flask water bottles completely covered with various colorful stickers, metal reusable straws, and many sayings like “save the turtles” or “sksksks” (yes people really said that). The second phrase was used when people dropped their metal water bottles, and it made quite an unpleasant sound when it crashed to the floor.
Though the VSCO girl phase might be mostly over, fashion trends have been taking over TikTok by storm in the last few months. Whether it be the Viviene Westwood pearl necklace, retailing at around 195 dollars, sweater vests, rings, Y2K fashion, corset tops, the list goes on and on. While these trends can be generated by teens expressing and trying out different styles, they are also a result of brands taking advantage of this social media platform and using the 30-60 second videos to promote fashion trends with “influencers” who claim to wear their brand.
One example of this is Emma Chamberlain, a YouTuber and social media influencer popular for her sense of style that has started many different fashion trends. Recently, she posted a TikTok in collaboration with the brand PacSun, a popular teenage clothing store. While this seems like a pretty normal collaboration, Chamberlain has gained her popularity due to the fact that her style is not just what is trendy, but what she genuinely likes and finds fashionable. In reality, Chamberlain probably rarely wears PacSun clothing. Since she is getting paid to promote their clothes, many people see this and associate the store with her so they can be more inclined to buy their brand of clothing.
While this is a popular marketing tactic many brands use, TikTok has such a young audience, who can be easily influenced into purchasing their products. Although this benefits the companies, it doesn’t seem entirely ethical considering social media should be a place where people can freely express themselves without feeling targeted into buying specific brands because they are “trendy.”
Though marketing has found its way into the walls of TikTok, that has not stopped many creators from creating their own original content which can inspire other people and bring out their creative side when it comes to fashion, allowing everyone to express their own styles and ideas.