March 26, 2021
Welcome to another weekly marketing and advertising news update from The Radcast! In this episode, host Ryan Alford and co-host Reiley Clark, dissect this week's marketing and advertising headlines.
Welcome to another weekly marketing and advertising news update from The Radcast! In this episode, host Ryan Alford and co-host Reiley Clark, dissect this week's marketing and advertising headlines.
These are today's topics:
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Announcement [00:00:05] You're listening to The RADcast. If it's radical, we cover it. Here's your host, Ryan Alford.
Ryan Alford [00:00:14] Hey, guys, what's up? It’s Ryan Alford. Welcome to the latest edition of The RADcast. We're coming live, as always, from the RADcast studio in the beautiful Greenville, South Carolina office of Radical — home of the Southeast’s fastest, largest, baddest-ass digital agency in the country. I'm excited today because unless you've been living under a rock, you know about the topic we're going to talk about today, it's one of the hottest video platforms on the planet. That would be TikTok. And I'm here with the head of Client Solutions from Neuro-Insight. You might recognize that name from a guest we had a couple of weeks ago, but I have Samrat Saran. What's up, brother? Welcome to the show.
Samrat Saran [00:00:57] How's it going? Thanks for having me here.
Ryan Alford [00:00:59] Hey, man, excited to have you. I'm ready to talk some TikTok. TikTok, you don't stop.
Samrat Saran [00:01:06] Well, I tell you what, I woke up at 3:00 AM last night. Couldn’t go to sleep. What did I do? I went on TikTok — a good three hours before I decided to doze off again.
Ryan Alford [00:01:16] All right. My name for it is the vortex. The TikTok vortex. There might be another, probably like a technical term, maybe you'll set me straight, but I call it the vortex. I'll be sitting there and it's like the time-vortex, I thought it was three minutes. It was three hours!
Samrat Saran [00:01:34] You know, you're onto something because there are actual videos on TikTok which come in maybe when you get to the hundredth or the five hundredth where they basically say, stop, you've been here long enough. When you are there making content like that and you're like, oh, did you get the one with the green screen, or are you getting the guy on the sofa. That’s when you know that you're an expert?
Ryan Alford [00:01:57] Yes. You know, I remember, I think it was a commercial or something a few years ago, that you've come to the end of the Internet. I've yet to come to the end of the TikToks.
Samrat Saran [00:02:09] And that was my mission once, and now I've decided it's not, it's just to enjoy the ride.
Ryan Alford [00:02:14] Yes. Well, I'm excited to have you on. We're going to talk today about a study that Neuro-Insight sponsored and put together, given the growth and importance of TikTok, which is “How to advertise successfully on the world's hottest platform”. Hey, I love the title, it’s directed to the point. Who the hell wouldn't want to know how to do that?
Samrat Saran [00:02:37] Now perfect, yeah. And it started off right in September when there was talk of the platform getting banned, it was getting banned in a couple of other countries and people started to throw it right up and they were like, no, don't take TikTok away from me. I was like, why is it that people are so passionate about this? I don't know about other social media platforms, they would quite say the same thing. So, we decided on our own without anybody asking to actually study this. And we study it differently. We don't ask people, hey, I want you to go on TikTok and then let's have a conversation for about fifteen minutes and you tell me how great it is. We were actually calling people in, asking them to go on their TikTok, watch it, while we were actually studying what was going on inside their brains, and when I say study what's going inside their brains, they're different parts of their brains that light up when you're engaging with content, when you're engaging with the platform. The first one that we can all agree with and we see and we sense is I want to do this longer. And it's called approach or withdrawal. So when you're watching comedy and you want to continue to watch the movie, there's a part of your subconscious that tells you, let's spend some more time with this. And when somebody comes on the street and says, hey, you owe me five bucks, you're like, let's get out of this situation, and that's withdraw. The other part, it's our engagement, is this something that's personally relevant? Can I continue to engage with this? And we sense that all the time and we spend more time with that platform. The other part is an emotional intensity. Do I feel a strong sense of emotion when I'm on this platform? Then comes what actually ends up changing our behavior. That is memories, does this content platform actually create new memories for us? We have spent hours, especially during college, having Doritos and watching infomercials, and they never stuck. But on TikTok, what we were seeing was memories actually being created for people, for ads, for content. And two kinds of memories, one, for the actual narratives or themes or visuals which we call global, which are very important in developing equity associations and another one, which is detail — brands, call-to-action, messages. And the funny part is, it's not like TikTok was a leader by leaps and bounds over other platforms. When we look we've looked at Instagram, we've looked at Pinterest, we've looked at all the different social media sites. When you combine all those scores together, TikTok wasn't different, it wasn't the best. But what was different about TikTok was the speed at which it was doing it. So, if an average curve was, you know, every couple, or three, or four minutes, you're getting a high, from a platform. A subconscious high — TikTok was doing it almost four times faster. And when it's doing it that quick, you just spend more time, to your point of the vortex— that's basically it.
Ryan Alford [00:05:55] So, what you're saying is TikTok is the cocaine of social media. Is that what we're saying?
Samrat Saran [00:06:05] I’m saying TikTok is the Gatorade that allows you to keep playing the game.
Ryan Alford [00:06:08] All right. OK, sorry. My, you know, my head goes down the wrong bunny hole there. Yes. So, it's Gatorade – it's replenishing in real time, the electrolytes that you need.
Samrat Saran [00:06:27] Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's funny, my story with TikTok, I haven't been a big social media nerd in the past. I've never, like, my wife kept bothering me to get on Facebook, so I did, but that was pretty much it. When it came to Instagram and Pinterest, it felt daunting to get on the platform. As soon as I got on TikTok, it was just amusing how intuitive the algorithms are, and how quickly it starts to pick up what you want, and how quickly it changes based on when you get tired of something. Yes, and I think TikTok just hits different.
Ryan Alford [00:07:07] It does hit different. You know what, one thing it is about TikTok, ‘platform’ is the right word because it's the combination of the content that's put there combined with the swiping and the navigation UI of the platform, combined with the content creation tools. It is the mix. It's the mixology of all that that makes it hit different. Is that fair?
Samrat Saran [00:07:37] Absolutely, and I'd say even beyond the Discover page, beyond the content creation page, the comment section…
Ryan Alford [00:07:36]: Yeah.
Samrat Saran [00:07:48]....man, it is so fun! You spend a minute watching the video and then you spend two minutes reading the comments. And I think TikTok has also come in at the perfect time, because you think about it, you have now a generation of veteran content creators. From the guys who sort of started building it out of YouTube, learnt it off, snap, learnt it off Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, and now, they've come here, and they've sort of understood how to do it right, and TikTok has given them that space. So, I think it was a perfect storm that worked for TikTok.
Ryan Alford [00:08:25] Yeah, because like we talked about pre-episode, you've had a lot of tries at this, whether it's Vine, whether it's Triller, and that's still around, and others that are trying to, you know, grab hold of the magic and they just haven't gotten it bottled all that up, the way TikTok has. And, I don't know that it's hard to put your finger on exactly one thing, because I don't think it is one thing. It's a lot of things.
Samrat Saran [00:08:56] It's a lot of things. And I think when we were doing our research, you know, and I think the numbers have completely blown up now, we were looking at about 52 minutes average time spent with the platform. And this is when with Instagram, it was about 53. Hmmm, I think those numbers are way over, but why is it that somebody can actually spend so much time with a platform and still want to go back? And the truth is in the way it engages the brain. It is starting to basically engage you visually, engage you with text, and closed captioning is a big part now of our people to TikTok. It gives you the emotional highs and it's constantly relevant. And that keeps you in, keeps you wanting to stay longer. And I think the content also is very diverse. I mean, from the duetting to the filters, to how creative people have gotten. I don't know if you follow Happy Kelli, I do. Man, her dance moves, and just what she does is insane.
Ryan Alford [00:10:05] It has created and magnified content creators on a whole another level. And it's, I mean, it's staggering. I just saw, like, I was reading an article yesterday, or the day before that, like, it's creating billionaires out of content creators. And that might be the small percentage, but just the fact that you're talking about billions, not millions, for content creators. But it is, it’s like it’s stimulating this amount of creativity in people that maybe they had it in them all the time but maybe it's opening up certain channels, whether that's influencers, whether that's just other outlets for people to express themselves, I mean, it's just, it's kind of endless. I mean, I kind of get lost in the vortex on a tip, not Tik, TipTok, you know, all the tips and stuff, you know, and there's all. But I will say there's this kind of, it's played off the ADD that is in all of us, I think, or our culture, because everything is pretty much it feels like it's chop chop in a good way, choppily edited, chop editing, you know, like quick to the point, whatever. And it's like, I think that's why I like it. Like my brain enjoys it because it's like, “OK, we got to the point, like, you know, whatever it is. But it's fascinating.
Samrat Saran [00:11:24] Yeah, and what's funny is that what started off, as you know, just minute long clips now, you can actually see I don't know whether the movie producers would like to hear this, but you can basically see all of John Wick on TikTok, there’s like 600 parts to it.
Ryan Alford [00:11:44] How do you make that happen? It just goes?
Samrat Saran [00:11:51] So, what people have done, and I don't know how much of this is driven by the studios, because if it is, it's a very smart move. But what people do is they'll put snippets of a movie and some key scenes, and then it just starts to build from there. And then, in fact, that's how, that was one of the other things that I started noticing about TikTok was how quickly it influences behavior. So, I was on TikTok, I was watching randomly, scrolling, and a Brooklyn Nine Nine montage came on where a couple of the characters were, it was just all the different episodes in which they're sort of talking and bantering with each other. I was like, oh, this is pretty smart comedy. I like it. And then, after watching it over three or four days, I was like, I actually want to go and see the show. So, I get on Hulu and I start watching Brooklyn Nine Nine, and finished a season's episodes. But I've seen Brooklyn Nine Nine ads on TV all the time when they were on, never went to watch it. But these Quick Hits were like these little invitations you get — Hey, why don't you come in for a happy hour? Hey, we're having this special now — and it just gets you to want to, you know, spend a little bit more time with the main content. So, yeah, I think it's super interesting what they've got.
Ryan Alford [00:13:08] It is interesting. I do want to talk some more about the study. So, you know, maybe some key takeaways or key things that maybe were enlightening, you know, that that you found, or what ultimately does create successful advertising on the platform. Obviously, advertising on the platform is very early. You know, the platform as a whole is early. Everybody thinks these things are, you know, you're on the bell curve. We're still riding up this bell curve, with TikTok, as far as, you know, the masses of the US, you know, certainly what, age 12 to 22 is probably well at the top, if not on the other side of it, but like everybody else is still going up that bell curve. But I am curious, you know, like some of those key takeaways that you could share.
Samrat Saran [00:14:01] Sure. So, the first one, what makes a good content, or what makes a good platform for content doesn't necessarily translate always to a great platform for advertisers. But TikTok, like we said, hits differently. What we've found is, and just a preface with the way that we did the study, so people came in, they watched about eight minutes of content, and this is September, mind you, that, you know, you could have been scrolling for two hours before you saw an ad. So, we did eight minutes of that and then we did about 12 minutes of getting people watch a TikTok reel that we had created with ads, about 12 ads interspersed between them. Now, when you put such a high content load or ad load on some platform that's technically not supposed to have so much at the time, you will see dips in how effective branding is or how effective advertising engagement is. We weren't actually seeing that. We were actually seeing it pretty damn stable. And, not just stable, we were seeing it at the thresholds where people actually store the information into their subconscious. So when you walk into a store and you decide to buy something, it could be for many reasons, it could be because you, you know, this is something that you've bought always out of habit, it could be because a friend or a family member told you that, “hey, this is a great product, you should go for it”, or it could be an ad that you watched, but it's not any ad that you watched, but it was an ad that had created a story and showed the brand in a way that made your subconscious feel like, man, that's important information, I should remember that. Sometimes it can be as nauseating as the ShamWoW guy, or something can be as subtle as an ad that just for a brief moment said, you know, ‘milk for humans’, and it sold me, where the brain’s actually like, “ man, this is important information, let me save that”, and that causes people to change behavior. Now, some worked better than others, driven by creative differences, but what we were seeing was it wasn't ads that try to be too native to TikTok that were working, it was ads that were being like, hey, we're an ad but we're entertaining in this scenario and we're getting it out to you. And people were like “that's fine, like, I appreciate that”. When they tried to go on trends, and tried to go too far down a trend, so those, when people tried to be too authentic to the content and tried to be too authentic to the influencer, people were able to call bullshit right away, and those weren't working. But, from an advertising perspective, it was working really strongly.
Ryan Alford [00:16:52] Yeah, that's interesting because it's contrary, I think, to what you've seen on other platforms. It also makes it that much harder to do, you know, and to become because you're constantly having to ideate around creating fresh content, fresh ideas. And, you know, unless you stay at home all day like some of these guys, it’s hard to do.
Samrat Saran [00:17:16] I think this is where if you're going to be a content creator for TikTok, you have to realize that, yeah, you probably may be able to write the wave of the algorithm for the first few months and you might be able to get your followers really quickly, but that doesn't guarantee you that you're going to sustain. And you have to think of TikTok, literally, I believe, as a cable network, or a full spectrum of channels, and you have to keep building content to get people to continue to want to watch your channel. And you can't just keep one thing going because the competition is just too high.
Ryan Alford [00:17:57] So when I think of reasons that people buy, this is the Ryan Alford made-up acronym, but I call it the N, C or T. You have a ‘need’, it's ‘convenient’, or you're ‘trialing’ something. Those are my three. Those are the hierarchy of purchases in Ryan Alford's world, and usually for me —so I'm the focus group of one on that — is there one of those three that you saw maybe that TikTok advertising fulfilled? Like, you know, in selling better or responding better, either something, like, and when I say need, I think they're pretty basic, but to give you time to think about it while also kind of explaining more, a need is like toilet paper or batteries, you know. You need that stuff to live and to go, you know. Conveniences, you know, right place, right time, and a lot of that is point-of-sale type stuff, but even digitally, there's point-of-sale things. And then, of course, trial is, you know, an influencer shows a new pair of shoes I've never had, but I'll try that, you know. So, is there a certain category of product or service, or can all three fit within this platform from an advertising standpoint?
Samrat Saran [00:19:19] I think that's the cool part about this platform, that all three can stand on it because in our world, while I get the, you know, the three that you're talking about. For us, it's all about stories. If I tell you a story and I make it super interesting, and if I say that at the end of this story, this is the product that helped get me here, your perception of that product will change now. And then, depending on whether you have a need or whether you want to try it, that depends on you. But most mediums don't allow you to tell stories that way. But TikTok does.
Ryan Alford [00:20:05] Yeah.
Samrat Saran [00:20:06]So, I think if it’s your toilet paper, you can make some amazing stories on TikTok that people will watch. And if you are a brand of, and again, I don't know how much of this is sponsored and how much of this is original content, but there's this woman on TikTok who basically shows new recipes of mudhole cakes or things like that, and she's using things like Smucker’s jams. It's such a basic product but, I have a Smucker’s jam because of that, because I want to try it. When she’ll use that I'm going to use that. I don't remember the last time I saw Smucker’s jam commercial on TV that made me want to go and buy it. And I think that's the key, it’s the storytelling piece, and the diversity in storytelling that you're allowed on TikTok, That, and then also being smart enough to be able to leverage as an influencer how you are doing. And when Charli D'Amelio did the partnership with Dunkin, I thought that was spectacular, because she's become such a lifestyle brand to have people to partner with. Dunkin was so much smarter, smarter than to have a drink of hers in Dunkin versus have her with a Dunkin coffee inside TikTok. That's the part that I think people really need more help on, that is what kind of stories do I tell on TikTok that will get people to either think of me as a need or think of me to try. And if you try to do what you've traditionally done on Instagram, it won't work, or if you're trying to do what you've done on Pinterest, it won't work, or what you're trying to do on Facebook, it won't work. It is something that you have to learn and it will constantly evolve with TikTok, the best story that I think I can give you on this is that if you ask a bunch of fish how's the water, they're probably going to run away. And if you keep asking them the question, one day one of the fish is going to come up to you and basically be like, what are you talking about? What is water? That's the same thing with TikTok. In a few years time. People won't understand what this platform is. They'll know how it feels, it makes them feel, but they will not understand it. But this is where storytellers need to basically carve their niches out. And then brands need to figure out how to tell their stories.
Ryan Alford [00:22:44] Yeah, it's definitely the most authentic platform going right now, just by the nature of what works with the algorithm. And again, back to understanding the world that we live in with attention spans and everything else, I feel like the entire platform is built with that premise in mind, you know. From the way you, you know, move from video to video, how you skim and the UI of it, to the type of content that's on there. And, you know, it's both a wonderful thing and a terrible thing for brands in the fact that they can't just mail it in, you know. Like, it's an unbelievable opportunity because you still have organic reach, you have all these things. Yes, you know, we're moving quickly towards the pay to play. But, you know, you can't just phone it in by doing the auto share of your post, like you just said, like their Facebook, Instagram, and I think, you know, the large brands are starting to understand that, but unfortunately, the small to medium brands kind of get left behind a little bit unless they really focus on a strategy and get behind it, or have an owner that understands and appreciates marketing.
Samrat Saran [00:23:58] Absolutely. And I think this is, I was just thinking about this the other day that we've been through it. We are actually going through a paradigm shift where the world was all about TV advertising, and then you had this little thing called social on the site, right? I think with TikTok, it's just completely shifted now. I think now the thinking needs to be I need to invest my dollars the way that I invest on TV, on these platforms”, because these are the platforms that are going to drive my actual sales. And TV will give me some awareness, but it's no longer about 80-20 or 70-30. This is a 50-50, if not more, in terms of investing. And to your point, the smaller brands, if you're trying to advertise on TikTok, you have to really start thinking about it in terms of : you can do it as a brand if you decide to be completely authentic and make your own crazy stories.
And it could work. But at the same time, there's a bunch of content creators and influencers that you would not have even thought about. From moms in kitchens to, you know, to there's this college student who gives legal advice, not really, but she provides an analysis of all the legal proceedings that are happening in the court systems. She's just a college student but, as a voice, she's very authentic, somebody that you can partner with. There are people across the board in terms of entertainment that can help you build your brand and do it in a very authentic way. And then I think this is the time when actually an influencer stops becoming that little appendix at the end of your creative review and starts becoming: these are the influencers we will use, these are the stories we will tell, and this is how our brand will integrate.
It doesn't start with ‘here's a 30 second spot’.
Ryan Alford [00:26:03] That's right. And back to what you said. The influencers slashed their pages, or kind of like the channels on TV, you know, I mean yes, they're the celebrities that tell the story and they are the, you know, sponsors but, more than anything, it's, you know, what channel do you want to be on? You know, no different than you're doing cable by, you know, for television, you know, you're going to be on ESPN? Are you going to be on CNN? Are you going to be on FOX News? And, you know, when you choose the influencers you're going to see that same chart, you know, the flow chart that was TV stations — it's the influencer chart—and instead of, like you said, page 77 of the deck, it's suddenly page 7.
Samrat Saran [00:26:51] And that's what's amazing, that these guys have become sitcoms and episodes in their own right. Like TikTok also tells you when they're going on live. So, I get buzzes like saying, “Oh, this person is Live. Do you want to go and see what they're doing”, and like you go, because if it's something that interests you, you go.
Ryan Alford [00:27:15] Yeah, I love it. I definitely want to follow back up on this. This is going to be a fascinating topic to cover. Where can everybody keep up with everything, you know, Neuro-Insight and Samrat, like we're going to keep up with you. Where's a good place to kind of learn more, so to speak?
Samrat Saran [00:27:35] So, you can always come to our website, Neuro-Insight Dotcom, and we have a bunch of case studies that are published. But yeah, follow me on LinkedIn and I keep sharing little bits of tidbits on what I think is happening within the marketing world. You had Tyler on, the other day, who was talking about the Super Bowl, and we've got a bunch of more fascinating stuff coming over the rest of the year that we'd love to, you know, people can keep reading up.
Ryan Alford [00:28:04] All right. Well, I know we're going to have you back on again if you'll do us that favor and continue talking, all things the latest and greatest in neuro. And of course, with mediums like TikTok, I can talk about it all day but, really appreciate Samrat Saran coming on today. If you aren't on the TikTok bus, it's time to get on, ladies and gentlemen, because it's here, it's rolling and it's not stopping. So, keep up with everything. Neuro-Insight, you know where to find them. And of course, you know where to find us @the.rad.cast on Instagram and the RADcast dot com for all our past, present, current episodes, snippets, highlights, everything is there, and you know where to find me @RyanAlford on Instagram. We appreciate Samrat, and we hope everyone has a blessed day. We'll see you next time on the RADcast.
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