25th of October 2023

By Jarod Walter Marketing Scientist Ehrenberg-Bass Institute

We all want to be “TikTok famous”! Or do we?

Brands are often encouraged to message their point of difference in the market. This goes back to the old marketing tenet that a brand should differentiate itself by offering something competitors don’t.

You may want to be the fashion brand that comes to mind when someone thinks ‘cutting edge’. Or the snack brand that is eaten when someone wants to be a bit healthier. These messages are examples of Category Entry Points (CEPs), which are the thoughts people have as they become category buyers. Or, in TikTok’s case, category users.

A large part of the messaging used by TikTok places the platform as the home for creators looking to film viral videos, build an online following, and ‘become famous’. This is physically supported with their extensive creator tools and the algorithmic For You Feed.

Because of their investment into this messaging, surely if any social media brand were to “own” the CEP of ‘to become famous’ it would be TikTok, right?

However, research presented by Senior Marketing Scientist Alicia Barker at the Ehrenberg Bass Institute’s 2023 Mental and Physical Availability Summit shows evidence to the contrary.

Examining brand associations with ‘to be famous’ reveals that only a third of social media users link a single social media platform to this CEP. Furthermore, this proportion is split between a number of different brands, with TikTok receiving just a 9% share of consumers exclusively linking them with ‘to be famous’! Instead more than half of social media users (53%) link multiple platforms with “to be famous.” And 20% of consumers link no platforms to this message.

So, while the juggernaut TikTok positions itself as the place to be for creators, it has not been able to exclusively own this message. And if a large brand like TikTok can fail to position itself strongly on a specific CEP, then what hope do smaller brands in other industries have?


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