TikTok has created an ecosystem of consumption – and it has no idea it’s done that.
TikTok has created an ecosystem of consumption for products used to shoot and create user generated content – and it has no idea it’s done that. The products themselves are manufactured by a third party seller in China that the shopkeepers don’t know by name. Yet, on the box, Aawez Darbar - a TikTok celebrity with over 20 million followers on the platform - grins back.
An interesting trend has cropped up in stores that sell mobile accessories. Young customers who want to shoot TikTok videos are asking for products, naming the app, hence creating an association in shopkeepers’ minds. When a customer walks into one of these stores and asks for a ‘TikTok light’, it’s likely that the shopkeeper hands them a ring light that illuminates the face uniformly while shooting content. Now, the association has gone beyond just being verbal. A short trip to an electronics market in Mumbai revealed different products being sold with the TikTok branding on it.
The three products bearing TikTok branding that we chanced upon include pop sockets (which can be used to prop up and hold phones while shooting), ring lights (used to illuminate the face while shooting) and airpods case (Airpods are Apple’s wireless Bluetooth earphones). When shopkeepers were asked for a ‘TikTok’ stand (tripod) to shoot videos, we were handed tripods, but none of them bore official TikTok branding on the box.
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance. The shopkeepers say the app has nothing to do with these products – and that they were all sold by third party sellers to visually attract Tier II and III audiences. A simple search on Amazon or Flipkart for ‘TikTok light’ or ‘TikTok stand’ throws up results for ring lights and tripods too. This indicates that sellers of these products are also factoring the app’s popularity while entering potential search terms that can help locate their product. Previously in India, these items were typically purchased by YouTubers or videographers – both are niche audiences in the country. Putting Aawez Darbar’s photograph on the box appears to be an attempt by the manufacturers to make their product more massy in its appeal to audiences.
Opining on the trend, Karthik Srinivasan, a communications consultant, feels that this is on the same lines of Tier II men’s saloons having Justin’s Bieber’s photograph on their sign board. “TikTok is, for many users in Tier II and III towns and in rural areas, their first taste of social stardom. Many urban users may have seen these numbers while using Facebook or Instagram, but you need to keep in mind that FB and Instagram users are largely an English-speaking audience. A big reason for TikTok’s popularity is its ability to really reach the grassroots and appeal to those audiences there,” he says.
“You would really need to sell those products to these audiences and convince them to buy it, if they didn’t have the TikTok branding on it. It’s much harder to get a user to buy a tripod or a ring light because they might not understand what it’s used for – but if they make the association with TikTok, they relate to it,” he says.
Apps like Facebook and TikTok host and power a variety of industry events these days. TikTok spends money on placing its brand name on different kinds of merchandise in that sense. The app has officially placed its branding on pop sockets, official diaries, cloth tote bags, and headphones.