- Brands are taking over TikTok, making appearances in sponsored posts and organic (unpaid) videos.
- Because products are showing up in both paid and user-generated videos, it can be difficult for viewers to tell the difference between sponsored content and an unpaid shout-out to a company.
- One of TikTok’s biggest stars, 15-year-old Charli D’Amelio, has posted at least a dozen videos this year about the coffee and doughnut brand Dunkin’, a company she doesn’t work with as a sponsor.
- D’Amelio’s recent posts that include the brand have generated 294 million video views, 41,200 likes, and 439,117 shares.
- While Dunkin’ doesn’t pay D’Amelio for sponsored posts, the company did send her Dunkin’ merchandise and a cold-brew tap for her house.
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Charli D’Amelio loves Dunkin’ and the feeling is mutual.
The dancer and TikTok star has already posted a dozen videos about the brand this year, including visits to Dunkin’, a montage showcasing how much she drinks its products, and posts of her holding a Dunkin’ coffee before breaking into a dance.
With over 28 million followers on TikTok, D’Amelio’s recent posts have generated 294 million video views, 41,200 likes, and 439,117 shares for Dunkin’, which didn’t pay her to promote its brand.
The 15-year-old creator has drawn so much attention to the coffee and doughnut company that some opportunistic internet users have begun selling “Charli and Dunkin'” cobranded merchandise.
“It’s been incredible to see the enthusiasm across TikTok for Dunkin’, specifically Charli D’Amelio who has been one of our biggest fans on the platform,” Dunkin’ said in a statement. “We have not financially compensated Charli for any of her posts that showcase or mention Dunkin’.”
can i- someone marry the @dunkindonuts corporation? asking for a friend…
— charli d’amelio (@charlidamelio) January 10, 2020
Dunkin’ is one of several brands benefiting from a wave of free mentions and video impressions on TikTok. The milkshake company F’real Foods began posting sponsored content on TikTok after it discovered its users were already talking about its brand organically. It has since gained 460,000 followers, 8.9 million likes, and tens of millions of views on TikTok.
“Our president mentioned that his daughter had seen people posting about F’real on TikTok,” Alec Ledbetter, an associate consumer-marketing manager at the company, told Business Insider. “That was a marketer’s dream. We needed to have our own TikTok for the F’real brand and essentially amplify this wave of virality that they’re already engaging in.”
The difference between an unpaid mention and a sponsored post can be confusing for TikTok users
Because brands appear on TikTok in both influencer marketing and user-generated videos, the difference between sponsored content and an unpaid nod to a brand can be blurred for the app’s Generation Z audience. Brands regularly pay influencers to post sponsored content across social media, but disclosures aren’t standardized, and the language and hashtags that creators use to designate paid ads are variable.
One TikTok user who viewed a D’Amelio post about her love of Dunkin’ assumed it was an ad:
The Federal Trade Commission advises influencers to clearly and conspicuously disclose that they are being compensated for a sponsored post.
“It doesn’t need to be written, exactly, it could be something that is stated,” said Sandy Lynskey, a lawyer who works in the advertising and marketing practice at the law firm Mac Murray & Shuster. “Oftentimes, what is clear and conspicuous can become subjective.”
The FTC may be taking steps to increase its enforcement against improper ad disclosures in influencer marketing. The regulator announced last week that it was considering new “requirements for technology platforms (e.g. Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok)” and focusing on reviewing the behavior of advertisers rather than targeting “small influencers.”
D’Amelio isn’t being paid by Dunkin’, but the brand sent her merch and a cold-brew tap
While Dunkin’ isn’t paying D’Amelio to post about its products, she has worked on sponsorships with other large brands on TikTok. The TikTok star, who is represented by United Talent Agency along with her sister Dixie and parents, Marc and Heidi, did paid promotions with Paramount Pictures for its “Sonic the Hedgehog” film and Sabra for its Super Bowl ad.
She did propose the idea of a sponsorship with Dunkin’ in a tweet last year that received a humorous response from the brand. The company may not be paying D’Amelio for her Dunkin’-friendly posts, but it did send her merchandise and a cold-brew tap earlier this month.
NO WAY! @dunkindonuts pic.twitter.com/0mjxtgpUYy
— charli d’amelio (@charlidamelio) February 3, 2020
“We did recently surprise her with Dunkin’ merchandise and a cold brew tap for her house, after she had joked about wanting one and we wanted to do something special to celebrate her Dunkin’ love,” the company said. “We are always looking for unique ways to engage new audiences and will continue to explore these opportunities as they arise.”
D’Amelio and her team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
For more on how brands and influencers are interacting on TikTok, check out these other Business Insider Prime posts:
- Leaked campaign brief shows the video ideas Cash App pitched to TikTok influencers, including ‘when you win a bet by doing something dope’: Cash App paid dozens of influencers to promote its app on TikTok. Here are the content ideas the company shared with creators for sponsored posts.
- CASE STUDY: TikTok ads have been 300% more efficient than Instagram ones in getting new users for fintech startup Tally: As more adults sign up for TikTok, fintech brands are using influencer videos and its self-serve ad platform to advertise on the platform.
- A milkshake brand blew up on TikTok, and its 460,000 followers have changed how it approaches marketing and its target audience: With 460,000 TikTok followers, the milkshake maker F’real has built a larger following than national brands like Chipotle, Walmart, and Burger King.
- How TalentX plans to rule TikTok, starting with 32 influencers and a Los Angeles mansion: TalentX Entertainment is eyeing brand partnerships, merchandising, live events, and television and film development for its roster of TikTok stars.
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