3 Takeaways From The Viral TikTok Brand Moment of Emily Zugay

A tale of TikTok marketing strategy…

Recently, TikTok creator Emily Zugay pretty much broke the internet by critiquing and redesigning iconic brand logos such as Starbucks, Apple and H&R Block, reworking them to introduce spoof, mock-worthy designs. Zugay, who “graduated college with a degree in design” started her first video as a joke with only a couple hundred thousand followers, but then something happened.

Brands like McDonald’s*, NFL, Adobe and NASCAR started begging her to redesign their logos. In a blink, Zugay’s following hit over 1 million in a matter of a week, her videos are generating 18 million views, and brands are changing their logos on social to Zugay’s redesigned “work.” She was national news.

Her equation for virality? The influence of TikTok, irreverent humor against beloved identities and the art of letting go. This is a classic masterclass in cultural brand relevance and highjacking influence. So, what can marketers take away from this defining moment and TikTok marketing strategy?

Timing is everything in social & TikTok marketing strategy

Zugay’s moment is over – and it happened fast. Brands must act swiftly when making a cultural grab on social. Due to the pace at which we move digitally, memes, challenges and content rise and die in a day. Brands need to have permission to throw things against the wall and see what happens, acting confidently and empowered to take risks without dozens of approvals. Trust your teams and get it out there.  

Brands are people, too

Part of why Zugay’s moment was so perfect is because these brands emerged as humans. Did McDonald’s sell more cheeseburgers because of it? Probably not. But, they pushed the brand’s personality and reminded customers why people love them. This type of appeal is something a paid ad can’t buy. Being human should be a core part of your brand strategy, which manifests in your company’s values, across the organization and trickles down into your brand identity.

Release control and let it go…seriously

While your number one responsibility is to always protect the brand, when working with influencers, let go of creative control and see where it takes you. Test and learn, then repeat. Set guardrails but let them control the narrative to preserve the message’s authenticity. A recent survey launched by SHIFT revealed 73 percent of consumers either scroll right past brands’ social post or only look if there is something highly relevant. Social and TikTok influencer marketing can help bridge that relevance gap offering a new sense of trust and engagement.

As we’re all knee deep — or almost wrapped — in 2022 planning, take this moment as an opportunity to reevaluate your brand response approach and social / TikTok marketing strategy. Are you setup to capitalize on social quickly? Does your brand tone and personality match what you’re putting out into your campaigns and via digital? Can you release control to drive more authenticity?

BTW, well done Zugay. You were my hero, for a minute.

*McDonald’s is a current SHIFT client

This article was authored by Megan GaffneyVP, Consumer Practice at partner company SHIFT Communications.

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