Beyond TikTok: How to Predict the Future and Tell an Authentic Story

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As the fastest-growing social media platform in the world, TikTok has taken the digital world by storm. However, recent debates over whether TikTok will be banned in the United States have left many of us marketers anxiously awaiting the app's future potential. Whether a marketing director, brand manager, agency team member, or content creator, we're all wondering about the impact this could have on a marketing strategy and the high stake risks. In this article, we aim to shift the focus from anxiety to curiosity by exploring the fundamental values of this wave of video consumption TikTok has changed. Even if the app were to disappear, the demand for this type of entertainment is here to stay. The digital landscape and content marketing culture has already shifted significantly.

"Understanding the brand's role in this content landscape is crucial" text on purple arch on top of orange background

The point of the matter is the content must remain flexible, capable of swift adaptation to remain relevant and compelling while still providing value. In an anxious pursuit to stay current, brands often scramble to follow the latest fad. While this tactic can aid in engagement metrics, we need to consider a few pivotal factors to safeguard the longevity and effectiveness of the brand. How does this current trend relate to the overarching business objectives and brand story? Is it a chase for user engagement numbers while neglecting the brand narrative, mission, and involvement? On the same note, does the content creation process stem from a mindful and purposeful approach, or just churning out content for content's sake? Modern consumers are bombarded with media overconsumption. Understanding the brand's role in this content landscape is crucial.

How the Shift in Media Consumption Impacted Our Agency’s Content Creation

As an agency specializing in end-to-end digital media, with our highly skilled production team and our cutting-edge equipment, we needed to reevaluate the deliverables. The notion that anyone can create content with their smartphone doesn't pose a threat; instead, it excites us. As creative, strategy, and marketing experts, we are responsible for recognizing the importance of user-generated point-and-shoot content and collaborating with these creators to establish a more robust brand narrative. Together we provide a complete interpretation of content carefully crafted. This interpretation of entertainment enables meaningful connections that offer genuine and authentic value for our viewers.

So, what does that mean for our production? For example, we recently undertook a multi-day video shoot with an entire production and content development team onboard for one of our clients. We transformed our studio space into a double-sided set with a custom wall build that could rotate for two completely different scenes. We also enlisted a cast of talent based on our most recent audience insights. While our production team produced our action shot lists with varying expression ranges, our content development team manned the point-and-shoot content with an iPhone 14. Our photographer purposefully weaved their way in and out of sequences to mirror the video footage with high-quality stills. It was a 3-ring circus in all the right ways and only worked because everyone respected the craft of each creative outcome while aligning on the united vision. In the end, we provided a wealth of flexible content that supported the planned campaign content and made the most of the set we had built, utilizing our budget to significant effect. By being strategic and purposeful, this content is more adaptable, allowing us to tweak voiceover, music, or video segments to match users' preferences, while also allowing for substantial testing opportunities. This learning and adapting process helps us to create content that is more impactful and resonant with consumers.

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The Importance of Creating Audience-First Digital Content

All this talk boils back to being human-centered: our heart and soul at Helen + Gertrude. Creating content should be considerate, empathic, and audience-first. As advertisers, we need to go that extra mile to truly understand all our consumers. Gone are the days of clever sales-y ads. TikTok and the evolution of digital content has taught us one thing: be niche. Do you ever realize the content we think is trending on social media differs from our co-workers? This is the cultural entertainment shift. As humans, our general instinct is to be seen: we need to be honed in on, plucked from the crowd, our inner thoughts captured and interpreted into comedy, entertainment, or a narrative. What do we do? As marketers and people, this provides an excellent opportunity to find a brand's unique expression and authentic voice. Embrace the "weird" and create space for vulnerability and genuine storytelling. Virality always comes back to the deep emotional and psychological understanding of one human to another.

Our brand strategy team at Helen + Gertrude develops personas based on insights that define unique personalities with specific behaviors, which helps us create genuine stories that resonate with our viewers. By understanding current trends, future cultural predictions, and audience motivations, we aim to break through the algorithm and reach people with content that brings heart-stirred joy. Whether educational, entertaining, or simply uplifting, we recognize that humans seek acknowledgment and purpose in the content they consume.

Kirsten VandenBout
Director, Creative Services

As the Director of Creative Services, Kirsten focuses on cultivating a team that allows room to play and learn from experiences. When offline, you’ll catch this new mama outdoors hanging with her son, husband, and two dogs; or training for the Chicago Marathon this year.

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