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With TikTok under fire, brands that rely on it are worried

Amid debate in Washington over whether TikTok should be banned If its Chinese owner doesn't sell it, one group is watching it with particular interest: the many brands – particularly in the beauty, skincare, fashion, health and wellness sectors – who used the video application to increase their sales.

Youthforia, a makeup brand with more than 185,000 followers on TikTok, is considering moving more of its marketing to other platforms, like YouTube and Instagram. Underlinings, which makes the popular Nailboo brand, planned to use TikTok to launch a product with a major retailer in August and is now wondering whether it will have to change course. And BeautyStat, which sells skincare products on TikTok Shop, can't even fathom the idea of ​​the platform disappearing.

TikTok is “just too big, especially in the beauty industry and in some industries, in my opinion, to go away,” said Yaso Murray, chief marketing officer of BeautyStat.

Companies and creators have known for years that TikTok could be in danger. But those fears seem more real now that the House has passed a bill that would ban TikTok in the United States unless its owner, ByteDance, sells it. (Since that vote last week, progress on the bill has slowed in the Senate.)

Some Washington lawmakers believe TikTok is a Chinese government spying platform. Parents are fuming that it's rotting their children's brains. But many businesses – big and small – thank TikTok and its band of influencers for introducing their products to potential customers, especially young people.

Retailers, whether Sephora, Walmart, Target or Amazon, have also been big beneficiaries of TikTok, said Razvan Romanescu, chief executive and co-founder of Underlinings and 10PM Curfew, a company that puts connecting content creators and brands.

“If something goes viral on TikTok, they sell,” Mr. Romanescu said. “So I feel like the whole ecosystem is driven by the discoverability that TikTok provides.”

For some brands, TikTok has become an essential part of marketing strategy and sales growth. This is partly because short videos are easily digestible by consumers and partly because marketing on the platform is relatively inexpensive for small brands. TikTok Shop, which begin last year and allows shoppers to purchase products directly on the app, has become particularly popular among beauty and fashion brands.

“Before Covid, the beauty category was pretty stable, growing maybe a few percentage points every year,” said Anna Mayo, vice president of beauty and personal care at NIQ, a research firm. But during the pandemic, when consumers had more time on their hands and Zoom calls became more popular, TikTok videos about beauty and skincare exploded.

“Since then, the beauty industry has been focused on growth and has not slowed down,” Ms Mayo said. “TikTok is an important driver of this growth.”

New products or clothing can be promoted by individuals who, unlike movie stars or models, feel closer to viewers. Quick how-to videos can show the best way to mix and match spring sweaters and jeans or the order in which to apply toner, serums, moisturizers and sunscreen in a morning skin care routine. skin. Some people say they go to TikTok before Google for shopping.

“The first video was a makeup tutorial, showing you how to perfectly cover acne using three products,” said Mikayla Nogueira, a 25-year-old influencer who started making TikTok videos four years ago . “In just 60 seconds, you learned a new skill.”

That's when Ms. Nogueira had some free time after her university shut down classes and Ulta Beauty, where she worked, closed its stores due to the pandemic. Today, she has 15.5 million followers on TikTok and regularly works with beauty and skincare brands.

While larger companies can spend money on marketing across a variety of sites, TikTok offers a more affordable advertising channel than platforms like Google and Meta, which owns Instagram.

“For a direct-to-consumer company like ours, the platform is very unique,” ​​said Nadya Okamoto, who began posting TikTok videos about her company's organic menstrual products in August, in the summer 2021.

First, TikTok's “For You” feed consistently presents August videos to new consumers, not those who have chosen to follow the brand on other social media platforms like Instagram. Second, the platform allows Ms. Okamoto to be a lead content creator in-house.

“Other brands spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every month on advertising, and we spend almost nothing,” she said.

When asked about a possible ban on TikTok, Fiona Co Chan, chief executive and co-founder of Youthforia, said: “I don't know if anything would fill the hole in the same way. »

TikTok allows Frida to talk about her baby and postpartum products in a way that other advertising and social media platforms may consider taboo, said Chelsea Hirschhorn, the company's founder. The brand came relatively late as an active user to the app – increasing its posts for about a year – but has around 123,000 followers and several videos have gone viral.

Still, Ms. Hirschhorn said, there are legitimate concerns that TikTok will disappear or change in some way, and Frida isn't too reliant on the app. He figured out how to advertise both on traditional forums (it's now sold in 4,000 Walmart stores in the U.S.) and more creatively (by sponsoring Jason Kelce's pregnant wife, Kylie, to the Super Bowl when his Philadelphia Eagles were playing in the game). Last year).

“I think it's really important that brands have a solid, foolproof marketing plan in a variety of media channels, both traditional and emerging, in order to meet any potential challenges,” Ms. Hirschhorn said.

While some companies are working on contingency plans for new products, others are watching and hoping that lawmakers don't ban the platform.

At BeautyStat, Ms. Murray said she was “trying not to worry too much about everything that's going on, because I think a lot of brands would suddenly have a big hole in their sales.” She added: “It would be very damaging. »

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