Welcome back to HotToks. This edition we report on Olipop as "TikTok's Soda," the recent Tarte influencer trip backlash, and more rapid-fire TikTok news and updates.
If you have been on TikTok, you’ve probably heard about Olipop. The story of Olipop goes like this: they launched in 2017, specializing in offering healthier alternatives to traditional, more sugary sodas by swapping sugar for fiber and prebiotics—but offered in traditional soda flavors like root beer and cola. They’re available online and in retailers like Target, Whole Foods, Kroger, and Walmart. Recently, they’ve been making headlines for debuting their first ‘big girl’ TV ad featuring Camila Cabello.
But by debut, we really mean debut. With the pandemic, Olipop switched gears and focused on e-commerce as well as reworking its marketing strategy, becoming more social-first to spread the word among a digitally native and mobile-first crowd.
Fast forward to now, TikTok is currently the only platform in Olipop’s social media budget. As Steven Vigilante, Olipop’s head of new business development, says, “We’ve turned off all of our ad spend across every other social platform, so we’re just running ads on TikTok, forming creator partnerships, and making content for our organic page.” Talk about ‘all or nothing.’ Steven Vigilante notes that since turning solely to TikTok, the company has experienced its best months ever from a business standpoint.
“We’ve turned off all of our ad spend across every other social platform, so we’re just running ads on TikTok, forming creator partnerships, and making content for our organic page.”
- Steven Vigilante, Head of Business Development, Olipop
Olipop’s start to influencer marketing was in the summer of 2020 when it turned to ‘traditional’ creator partnerships on Instagram, where the brand provided a fairly scripted brief about Olipop and discount codes. However, Vigilante quickly noticed they were less effective and came off as ‘very transactional and sales-focused.’
In the latter months of 2021, Vigilante turned to TikTok to look for a TikTok creator to help produce videos for the brand. It came organically; they stumbled upon Sara Crane’s video, commented on it, and contracted her. After working with Crane, Vigilante was impressed by her ideas for TikTok content, and soon she became one of Olipop’s in-house TikTok content strategists.
As Vigilante attributes it, the key to their success is never trying to get people to buy anything. They use the platform only to share entertaining content tied to the brand and never to push sales or promotional codes. To this day, Crane, along with Diana Rondi, another in-house content creator, has the creative reigns over Olipop’s TikTok channel. They film and edit all the videos on their phones, making it as lo-fi as possible, staying true to what works on the platform. An ad that you forgot was even an ad at all. That–and costumes.
Olipop has turned to more ‘product placement’ videos than ‘Olipop-dedicated videos.’ The brand simply asks 30-40 creators per month to feature one of the cans in their regular content. And it works incredibly well. Just look at this casual product placement. As one viewer puts it, “Now this is how you create genuine ads/partnerships that we want to watch,” and we’re here for it.
Grab a snack; we’re talking brand trips. Specifically, Tarte brand trips, which are historically nicknamed #TrippinWithTarte.
TL;DR: influencer Bria Jones (with almost 500K followers) made a TikTok video that has since been deleted (after getting 800,000 views) regarding the most recent Tarte influencer trip to Miami.
She used her platform to speak about the lavish trip, now being coined as the “Tarte F1 Drama”. Jones explained that she was supposed to go with Tarte to Miami for the Formula 1 (F1) Miami Grand Prix. She decided not to go on the trip when she found out that her itinerary for the weekend wasn’t the same as her fellow influencers attending; the other influencers were staying for the big F1 race on Sunday, while she was only slated to stay until Saturday.
In the video, she says that she felt like “a second-tier person,” which has caused shock waves in the beauty community and beyond, stating, “I will be damned as a Black creator if I accept anything other than equal treatment on these trips… I have more integrity than to get all the way to Miami and realize that… I’m being ranked.”
Tarte founder and CEO Maureen Kelly posted a TikTok video, citing that arrivals and departures were staggered, which may have caused “miscommunication.” Jones had deactivated her account, saying she had received “online bullying and death threats” after receiving backlash since Kelly’s video.
After Bria’s video was posted, to put a quick bandaid on the whole situation, Tarte reached out, last-minute, to Black content creators Fannita (who is self-proclaimed, not a beauty creator) and Niké to fly out for Sunday’s big race (in what creators are calling a “PR move”). Many creators have turned to TikTok in Tarte’s defense, even Niké, who was invited on the same trip. They also reached out to Bria to reconcile the matters, inviting her back to Miami, which Bria rejected. On May 7th, Bria posted a video apologizing, saying she’s hashed things out with Tarte and taking a break from TikTok for her mental health.
This comes as a second part of Tarte’s problematic influencer trips. Back in January, Tarte also caught fire for hosting an excessive influencer trip to Dubai, where they brought a group of 50, primarily white, influencers on a three-day trip. As influencers like Alix Earle and Monet McMichael flaunted their lavish villas and activities in the current financial climate, outlets like TIME Magazine called the trip “tone-deaf” since flights cost almost $20,000 each.
Not good news for Tarte: creators are now calling out the brand’s history with a lack of shade diversity in its products (called out in 2018 by Jackie Aina and Alissa Ashley) and a lack of inclusion of different body shapes and skin colors on their social media, which unfairly affects people of color in the beauty industry.
TikTok Ad Product for Publishers, Called Pulse Premiere
The social media platform said brands including BuzzFeed, DotDash Meredith, NBCUniversal, UFC, and WWE will be the first to join at the product launch. This product will let advertisers place ads alongside content produced by premium publishers, half of the ad revenue from which will be shared with those publishers. This extension of TikTok’s Pulse Program lets marketers place their brand next to the top 4% of content on the platform.
Amazon’s TikTok-Like Shopping Feed, Called Inspire
Amazon is taking its turn being inspired by TikTok. Its in-app TikTok-like shopping feed, nicknamed “Inspire,” is now available to all customers in the US, according to the company website. This new short-form video and photo feed let consumers explore products and shop from content created by creators, brands, and fellow consumers. There are also TikTok functionalities, like being able to “like” the content you see, and the engagement buttons are on the same right side of the screen as they appear on TikTok.
Unlike TikTok (for the most part), Amazon’s main goal for pushing this “Inspire” feed is to drive purchases. If you see something you like, you can directly shop by clicking on the “see all details” button leading you to the product page. Creators enrolled in the Amazon Influencer Program can post content to Inspire and are eligible for a commission when customers shop from their content. Consumers can’t post but can submit a product review that can show up on Inspire but won’t earn them any commission.
We’re already seeing it happen, but day by day, every app is beginning to look more and more like TikTok.
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