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“It is about listening” – how brands use TikTok as a billion-person focus group

Posted on 3rd July 2023

TikTok is becoming a huge influence on major brands, with savvy businesses increasingly making product and marketing decisions by keeping a close eye on the platform’s latest trends and viral videos.

Photo by Kate Asplin on Unsplash

Photo by Kate Asplin on Unsplash

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported on food brands and fashion retailers moving fast to launch new products or fix existing ones based on spotting what people are doing and saying on TikTok.

It quoted an executive at Abercrombie & Fitch saying: “Every single merchant and designer is looking at TikTok.”

Abercrombie describe TikTok as “a billion-person focus group”.

Megan Brophy, Vice-President of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Abercrombie & Fitch, says brands should view platforms like TikTok as an opportunity to listen and learn.

In an interview with Insider Intelligence, she said: “It is about listening. Brands used to be the ones to tell consumers how to live, how to dress, what they needed, and that's not the way of marketing and branding anymore.

“The social space has evolved. TikTok has taken that to a whole other level where brands need to listen, as TikTok is like a billion-person focus group.”

In the TikTok space and social media, she said, “it is in the people's hands to create culture … TikTok creates culture and we're there to learn from and respond to that”.

The WSJ article points to the example of Chipotle Mexican Grill, who introduced a version of the Fajita Quesadilla dubbed the “Keithadilla” in response to the popularity of a hack posted by food influencer Keith Lee, who has more than 13 million followers on TikTok.

The tactical move was hugely popular but as it was a custom order staff became overwhelmed and some refused to make it. Chipotle picked up on bad reviews posted online by angry customers and moved quickly to make the Keithadilla a permanent menu item.

“We want to be at the pulse of culture,” said Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketing office. He said: “TikTok has not only changed the way we communicate with Gen Z, but it’s proven it can identify areas of opportunity within our business.”

Box of cards about Keithadilla on Shooglebox

While some brands are well ahead of the curve in readjusting their approach to TikTok and social media – prioritising listening over pushing their own messages – others struggle to put in place effective listening strategies and processes.

Major UK brands are using Shooglebox to spot, explore and act on insights and opportunities inspired by what people are doing and saying on TikTok every day. Get in touch with our team to find out about our trend-tracking subscription service Buzz and how to use Shooglebox to put listening and insight discovery at the heart of your own social strategy.


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