Subcultures are the new demographics

July 29, 2021

When a brand is able to authentically speak to the direct interests of a subculture, they're able to gain credibility and build greater leverage in influencing conversions.

Subcultures on TikTok

In an increasingly crowded landscape, brands need to challenge their thinking from demographics (Who is the buyer?) to psychographics (Why are they buying?). The communities and aesthetics that a person identifies with transcend categories like age, gender and location, and can be a much stronger indicator of brand affinity and purchasing behaviour.

TikTok thrives on creative self-expression, which makes it a hotbed of subcultures. Subcultures are groups of people that have beliefs or ideas that differ from those of mainstream culture. These submersive worlds represent passionate communities that gather around similar interests, aesthetics, and values on the platform. These modern tribes have exploded across TikTok, drawn to the platform to celebrate their idiosyncrasies and share their passions with like-minded users. Here, they can openly express themselves and discover new ways to stoke their enthusiasm. In many cases, they also converge on products and can organically elevate brands to cult status. 

TikTok isn't reinventing the wheel when it comes to subcultures–– these communities actively exist across other platforms too. However, what makes subcultures different on TikTok is their accessibility and low barrier to entry, all thanks to the highly visual nature of the platform and the ultimate democratizer, the For You feed

It's also important to distinguish between subcultures and trends. Subcultures are much more long-lasting communities that can become part of a brand's long-term strategy, as opposed to fleeting trends that brands may find difficult to join in time.

Meet the subcultures on TikTok

Each group has a different character, aesthetic and vocabulary. They also have distinct values. When these values overlap with your brand’s values, you can connect through these shared ideals. Joining a TikTok tribe gives your brand a unique position:

🔥 Cultural currency. Alignment with subcultures can turn brands into the “it” brands. 🎯 Your marketing campaigns have greater personal appeal. It’s easier to identify a subculture’s interests; this helps you to better personalize your approach, resulting in a stronger connection with customers. 👩‍🎤 Your brand becomes part of their identity. TikTokers turn to subcultures to define their online and offline personas, which means they will actively seek out brands they can identify with and align to their true selves.

Where does your brand fit in?

Get to know a few of TikTok’s biggest tribes and discover new worlds where your business will feel right at home.

#CottageCore Have you ever longed for simpler times? A quiet home in the country, perhaps, where you can tend a small garden, pet fuzzy piglets, and nap in a field of wildflowers? You’re not alone. It’s a yearning that transcends time, from the ancient Greeks’ obsession with shepherds to Marie Antoinette’s pink, perfumed sheep. The fashion-forward French queen would have loved #cottagecore, an idyllic and romanticized daydream of a bygone pastoral era. It’s the antithesis of today’s highly complex, industrialized society—and a satisfying escape. Cozy #cottagecore is rustic and calm with a dose of whimsy: frilly floral dresses, home-baked pies, natural, dewy makeup, and braided hair with bows. Connected to its roots and respectful of nature, this wholesome subculture values femininity, sustainability, and DIY.

#Baddies Confident, outspoken, and beautiful, highly-styled #Baddies always look their best. Their eyebrows are flawless and their cheekbones are contoured. They’ve got that gorgeous dewy glow. Kylie Jenner could be their captain. Did #Baddies wake up like this? Probably not. But don’t let their glossy appearances fool you. At its core, this subculture is all about self-confidence—a magic elixir that most of us could use a swig of. Because of this confidence, #Baddies can start trends with ease.

#WitchTok Witches have always fascinated humans. Our long-standing obsession has merged with modern holistic philosophy and female empowerment (plus a dash of Hogwarts) to fuel the rise of #WitchTok. This fantasy-inspired subculture taps into our deep-seated need for a little control over our lives, a need that increased greatly in the COVID era. Empowerment is its key value, accomplished through tarot cards, astrology, herbal potions and spellcasting tutorials. #WitchTok has a Stevie Nicks-style aesthetic that’s big on crystals, candles, and Mother Earth energy—and don’t forget the faeries.

#MomsofTikTok We've said it before: parents are a growing community on TikTok, and moms especially are a force to be reckoned with. Motherhood gets real with these fun-loving moms, who aren’t afraid to share an authentic slice of parent life—and laugh about it. These aren’t the picture-perfect families you’ll see on other platforms. #MomsofTikTok is for playing, not posing. The community thrives on funny skits and hilarious conversations with knee-high humans. Family is their focus; they also share helpful parenting tips and hacks. It’s a welcoming world where moms are free to be themselves and to unleash their essential, one-of-a-kind momness. The aesthetic: corny-but-confident, messy ponytails, and adorable little tots.

#Egirl/#Eboy Perhaps the most salient of all subcultures on TikTok, the #egirl/eboy aesthetic has spread off the platform and trickled up to influence high fashion houses. Cosplay, anime, goth, hip hop and skateboard culture smash together in this rebellious crew. These anti-influencers eschew existing beauty standards for unusual makeup and fashion—and their own definition of cool. #Egirls often have candy-colored hair, cat-eye makeup and plenty of bright pink blush. Fake freckles and heart stamps complete the flirty, free-spirited style. #Eboys embrace androgyny with an edgy twist on the sensitive, soft boy aesthetic. Like #MomsofTikTok, this eye-rolling tribe is a counterforce to the charade of perfect-looking people splashed across other platforms. As an #Egirl or #Eboy, you don’t have to be polished—you just have to be yourself.

#FitTok TikTok’s short-form videos and come-as-you-are vibe makes fitness seem more accessible and more fun. Fitness lovers and the fitness curious will find action-packed posts that encourage participation through challenges and trends. Professionals and everyday users discuss elements of the active lifestyle, from gym etiquette to unusual new supersets. They post amazing athletic feats and give exercise tutorials—and they look good doing it, styled in body-conscious sportswear. Health and self-improvement are key values. Most of all, #FitnessTok inspires people to get out there and do something.

#DarkAcademia Welcome to a realm of tweed blazers and leather-bound books, brooding poets and handwritten letters. Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allen Poe would be members of this nostalgic subculture, which values learning and literature above all. #DarkAcademia’s romantic aesthetic touches on goth but trades all-black-everything for a little argyle and plaid (second-hand, please). Prep-school cardigans and turtlenecks abound. This gender-fluid fashion reflects the inclusive vibe of the community, which has a large LGBTQ+ following. #DarkAcademia drinks tea, listens to Wagner, and fills its bookshelves with beatniks and transcendentalists. Favorite movie: Dead Poets Society.


#LightAcademia #LightAcademia embraces many of the same fashions and inspirations as their dark cousins: classicism, androgyny and knowledge. But they skip the Greek tragedies in favor of happy endings, and they prefer gentle optimism to the macabre. Softer and much less intense, this group showcases its positive outlook with lighter fabrics and a color palette dominated by beige.

Finding your tribe on TikTok

TikTok’s diverse subcultures are all very different, but you’ll notice something similar about all of them: authenticity. From witches to moms to fitness gurus, they embrace their true selves—and they celebrate it with joy and creativity. This is what makes TikTok special, and it’s why the platform provides such powerful opportunities to connect with new audiences. TikTok allows businesses to authentically tap into existing community passion points and interests without disrupting the conversations happening on the platform. When a brand is able to authentically speak to the direct interests of a subculture, they're able to gain credibility from these native communities and build greater leverage in influencing conversions. There are hundreds of subcultures on the platform, waiting to be discovered and to discover your brand—all you need to do is to start scrolling.