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Branded Hashtag Challenge: Harness the power of participation

October 18, 2021
Turning audiences into active participants is a revolutionary approach to marketing—and we’re here to guide you through this brave new consumer landscape.
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TikTok is changing the marketing landscape with exciting new tools that businesses can use to engage their audiences, including the Branded Hashtag Challenge. Innovative and highly compelling, the Branded Hashtag Challenge amasses creative content from the TikTok community by harnessing fun trends that anyone can get involved in. But it’s rooted in an essential truth of human nature: that people learn best by doing, by being involved in the action.

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When the consumer actively participates with your brand’s message, you’re connecting with them on a deeper level—and that’s exactly what the Branded Hashtag Challenge provides.

What is a Branded Hashtag Challenge?

Hashtags play a major role on TikTok. Hashtags help users find videos they’re interested in, join conversations they care about, and build communities based around the things they love. More importantly, they increase a post’s visibility in the For You feed, where users spend most of their time, and that visibility can push it into viral status.

Hashtags become even more powerful when used in challenges, which prompt TikTok users to create videos showing themselves performing a specific action. Perhaps the user is challenged to reinvent an influencer’s video, show off an athletic feat, or dance to a funny song. Each participant then posts their video on TikTok along with the corresponding hashtag. Sometimes prizes are awarded, but usually it’s just for fun.

When brands sponsor a hashtag challenge, it’s called a Branded Hashtag Challenge—and it’s an incredibly effective way to boost awareness, drive engagement, and build a bigger fanbase.

Why do Branded Hashtag Challenges matter?

TikTok’s Branded Hashtag Challenge (we'll call it HTC for short) is revolutionizing the very nature of the ad space. By tapping into users’ desires to express themselves, the HTC is changing the way that businesses interact with their audiences. It’s transforming consumers from passive onlookers to active participants. The HTC has the power to put your brand at the center of cultural movements and turn your target market into co-creators, decision-makers, followers, buyers, and most importantly: ambassadors.

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Hashtag Challenges allow brands to go where their target audience already is, speak their language, and be part of the culture. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to amplify your brand voice and deliver deliver participation in an entirely new way.

Whether you want to grab attention or increase sales, a HTC offers unique benefits:

🗣  Ignite massive engagement. Equipped with our platform’s best-in-class sound and video editing tools, TikTok users become captivating storytellers. They can interpret your message and product from their ‘everyday user’ perspective, sharing your story in a way that resonates with their community. Participation is also easier on TikTok than other platforms because users don’t have to create from scratch: TikTok culture is built around remixing sounds and actions that other users post. This translates to an unparalleled 17.5% median engagement rate on Branded HTCs.

📈  Generate full-funnel impact. Every customer experiences your brand as a journey that progresses from awareness to interest to purchase. Marketers visualize it as a funnel with different levels. Customers enter the top of the funnel when they first learn about your brand, then proceed toward the lower funnel as they gain interest and decide to buy. Though HTCs are geared towards building awareness and engagement, research shows that they can deliver strong results at every stage of the funnel. Particularly when bundled with other solutions, a Branded Hashtag Challenge supercharges engagement with your brand, creating connections that drive real impact.

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💥  Spark organic visibility, which makes marketing efforts more effective. In fact, earned video views continue to drive value for HTCs for several months. A recent Marketing Mix Models (MMx) study by Nielsen found that more than half the return on ad spend driven by HTC campaigns was attributed to organic video views, spanning well beyond the campaign period. In other words, the creator content sparked by a HTC is able to double the return of the campaign.

What makes a great Branded Hashtag Challenge?

TikTok is all about inspiring joy and creativity, and so are the best HTCs. The most successful HTCs provide parameters and direction, but also leave plenty of room for the user to get creative and let their imagination fly.

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Think beyond the perspective of your brand and put yourself into the user’s shoes. What types of videos do they enjoy sharing? What activities would they want to participate in? Let them show off their skills, transformations, and passions—make it all about them. And don’t forget to prioritize the sound, which is an essential component on TikTok.

Dance-offs and product placement videos are common HTCs, but brands that break the mold can really reap the rewards. Let’s look at a few bright ideas from businesses who are doing just that:

Bright idea #1: #ReviveconPhotoSi

Italian company PhotoSi turns customers’ snapshots into prints, photo albums, calendars, and keepsake objects. They challenged TikTok users to recreate a photo from their childhood memories and share it—a clever idea that tapped into the warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia. More than 380,000 users submitted videos that racked up more than a billion views.

Bright idea #2: #improvisewithJUKE

Nissan Australia needed to raise awareness for the launch of their sporty new crossover car, the JUKE. They provided users with music and challenged them to make their own car commercial voiceover, with a prize of actually being featured in a JUKE commercial on TV. The results were impressive: more than 34,000 video creations meant the campaign sped past 129 million video views.

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Bright idea #3: #Snoozzzapalooza

Longstanding mattress maker Simmons wanted to connect their rebrand with a new generation of young consumers. Stay-home orders were in effect, but the company saw this as an opportunity to spark joy with a silly challenge: stage diving into your bed. Music festivals may have been canceled, but #Snoozzzapalooza inspired people to make their own fun without leaving their bedrooms. More than 1.1 million TikTok users took the plunge. Learn more.

Bright idea #4: Purpose-driven marketing

With its ability to spread word-of-mouth awareness through high-impact engagement, an HTC is also the perfect platform to inspire action for a worthy cause. Last year, TikTok and Shopify teamed up to launch the #ShopBlack campaign, designed to celebrate and amplify Black-owned businesses across TikTok. Through the #ShopBlack HTC we rallied the TikTok community to make video content that showcased their favorite Black-owned businesses, as well as encouraging Black entrepreneurs to share their unique stories across the platform. To date, the hashtag has amassed over 70M views, while the "Find Black-owned businesses" section within the challenge page saw a 23% clickthrough rate, showing our audience's excitement for discovering and supporting new Black-owned businesses. 

Need more inspiration? Brands have challenged TikTok users to get creative with a Pringles can in#PlayWithPringles, flaunt their bubble-themed style with#MonclerBubbleUp, and dress up in lollipop-inspired Halloween costumes with Chupa Chups'#Chupalloween.

▶️  WATCH: Tips to make your Branded Hashtag Challenge a success

Add-ons can turbocharge your HTC

Now that you understand the basics of HTCs and have a few bright ideas for motivation, you’re ready to take your game to the next level. One easy way to expand the possibilities of your HTC is by using add-ons, which give your campaign extra zing:

  • HTC + Branded Effect: Generate more relevant and on-brand videos with a unique 2D or 3D effect, like an

     animated background or responsive mask.

  • HTC + Hashtag Emoji: Stand out with a customized brand emoji that appears alongside the hashtag anywhere it shows up--from the official hashtag page, to the search box, to any video using the hashtag. In a recent analysis of 270 HTC campaigns, including 13 with Hashtag Emoji, we found that the emoji correlated with a 43% increase in clicks on the hashtag, which in turn inspired more organic participation.

  • HTC + Contest: Kick off the party by challenging users to a creative contest with a sweet prize. Your HTC landing page will display the official rules to keep participants on track and UGC on point.

  • HTC + Explore Page: Adds an “Explore” tab to your official challenge page, which leads to a customizable landing page within the TikTok app. This is perfect for gaining added exposure for your products, brand or offline store. You can even set up a user survey here to collect feedback from your customers.

6 pro tips to maximize the impact of your campaign

We want your Branded Hashtag Challenge to succeed, and that’s why we’ve gathered the five best tips based on 100 viral HTCs:

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  1. Collaborate with TikTok Creators to scale up engagement and strengthen your connection to the community. Choose multiple Creators to further increase your appeal and resonate with several niches at once.

  2. Enhance your presence with Branded Effect, which embeds your brand message in TikTok users' imaginations while they play around, create and have fun.

  3. Maximize visibility by leveraging open-screen products like TopView, which appear full-screen when users first open the TikTok app. Bundling a Branded HTC with TopView has been shown to make it 5x more likely that users will post a relevant video.

  4. Boost offline traffic by sharing your HTC’s unique QR code everywhere you can.

  5. Include your brand name in the hashtag to lend an added layer of brand recognition to the views on videos generated through the challenge, allowing the TikTok community to more closely rally behind your brand and build a connection.

  6. Re-target engaged audiences with Auction Ads to keep the party going.

We’re here to help with step-by-step support

Hashtag Challenges present bold new opportunities for businesses to harness the creative energy of the TikTok community and generate on-trend content. Turning passive onlookers into active participants is a revolutionary approach to marketing—and we’re here to guide you through this brave new consumer landscape.

From fresh ideas to campaign management to post-campaign analysis, we’ve got your back every step of the way with end-to-end support. Your campaign’s success is our goal. We want to help you tap into the unparalleled engagement and organic visibility that HTCs offer, from the top of the marketing funnel to the bottom. With Branded Hashtag Challenges, you can unlock new pathways to spread your message, reach a global audience, and exceed your business goals.

💌  Contact us to find out whether a HTC is right for your brand.

👉  For more inspiration, take a look through our Branded Hashtag Challenge case studies

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