At Marketing Trends, we are discovering what drives Australia’s top marketers. With over 1 billion monthly active users and over 3 billion downloads since launched in 2016, TikTok is the most popular app of the year worldwide. Thomas Grainger joins us in this interview to tell us about being Community Marketing Manager at TikTok, creating incredible experiences for the communities of content creators and the challenges and opportunities that arise from the democratisation of the marketing landscape.
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Career & professional background
Thomas, how did your career in marketing start?
I actually started my career in film and television production. From a very young age I wanted to be a producer. I love to be creative, but also enjoyed the business side of the production world. Great producers are excellent marketers, and I found that as my career progressed, I was taking on roles more heavily involved in both sales and marketing. As someone who loves to talk, this really suited me!
My first position was a production and marketing assistant at a creative agency called The Conscious Organisation, but I would say my career really started at a much younger age. As a kid, I was constantly putting on little shows for family and friends, and would devise a promotional plan to entice the neighbourhood to come along. This included everything from what to name the show to the colour of the tickets to the seating plan.
If you hadn’t pursued a career in marketing, in which other industry do you think you might be?
I would probably be a lawyer. I love a good debate. My parents always made light of the fact that I loved a good argument and defending mine or someone else's opinion. I was the closer in the debating team at school and the debating competition was the height of the social season in my eyes!
On the flip side, I considered a career in archeology, as I have always been fascinated with Ancient History, and more specifically Ancient Egyptian civilisation.
Could you tell us about your role as Community Marketing Manager at TikTok?
At the heart of TikTok are our incredible communities of content creators. My role is all about creating incredible experiences for these communities that not only showcase the power of TikTok to bring diverse voices together, but providing a platform to be your whole authentic self.
This includes such initiatives as our creator merchandise program, providing education on how to make amazing content and developing fabulous opportunities for our creators, all focused on supporting the growth of our creator communities and their careers as content creators. These experiences may be on an intimate scale, such as a small cooking class with celebrity chef Shane Delia, all the way to a big cross function initiative, like partnering with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to celebrate with our LGBTQ+ communities at scale.
Marketing & Industry Trends
What type of impact has COVID- 19 had on your industry?
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the channels marketers use to reach consumers during a time of continual uncertainty and a lack of consumer confidence.
To me, the most noteworthy byproduct of the pandemic has been the scale and speed of innovation that has occurred across brand marketing. Technology has been at the forefront of changing the way we reach businesses and consumers, and the way both brands and agencies pivot their marketing strategy.
During the pandemic, brands have been more experimental in less traditional forms of marketing to reach a targeted audience on often smaller budgets. This includes digital mediums like voice (podcasting, voice search) and social media.
In my previous role at The Works Agency, I was the Social and Content Account Lead, managing a few clients significantly impacted by Covid, namely, Destination NSW and Business Australia. Social was at the epicentre of how brands like these managed to adjust their communications to both consumers and business owners at lighting speed, where messaging needed to be adjusted sometimes every few hours. This made traditional above the line campaigns challenging and risky.
Most importantly, I believe, more traditional brands were willing to experiment with social as a low cost investment to a brand's marketing strategy, where in most cases, budgets were slashed and brand messaging needed to shift to accommodate a less aggressive promotional approach and focus more on maintaining brand love when sales were down, or in some cases, non-existent.
What is the most exciting trend or innovation happening in your field in terms of growth?
I am really interested to see the impact NFTs (non-fungible tokens) has on the marketing landscape. We have been hearing about the rise of a virtual world for quite some time, but I am more intrigued by the middle ground - an augmented world.
Many social platforms and other digital applications are already offering augmented versions of one's reality through creative tools and filters that change your surroundings. With the growth of NFTs and digital ownership, this is going to completely turn the way products and services will be designed, communicated, bought and sold. I have no idea where this will head and this uncertainty thrills me.
As a marketer, what do you believe is the biggest challenge facing your industry in the future?
The biggest challenge, but also the greatest opportunity, is the democratisation of the marketing landscape. As we move more and more into a digital world, brands are working directly with everyday consumers to market their products. Those who love a brand are selling the product for them - in both an authentic and personal way.
Brands that adapt to their model and embrace newer forms of promotion, like influencer marketing, will thrive in the ever changing consumer landscape. TikTok has fast become a destination for people discovering the biggest trending beauty and tech products, with popular hashtags #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt and #AsSeenOnnTikTok showcasing the power of the platform to drive consumer choice, led by other content creators.
Our creative community has facilitated a digital version of try before you buy through #beautyhacks and #techreviews, creating a new virtual shopping experience right from your mobile device. Word of mouth has always been a powerful tool for brand promotion, and this is just the evolution of this format.
Tools, recommendations & sources of inspiration
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you structure your week?
I wouldn't say I have ever had a typical day. Working for a tech company like TikTok, we are constantly evolving and growing, and that means being able to adapt quickly. I love working in a fast paced environment where no two days are the same.
Having said this, structure is important, and I endeavour to conquer the largest or most challenging tasks in the morning whilst my mind is fresh and I am alert. I will leave more creative pursuits to the evening, often after dinner, where the right side of my brain is in full swing.
I am a lists person, and I find a sense of accomplishment by writing out a daily to do list that is achievable and realistic, and ticking them off one by one. During the day, I might be working on any set of tasks, and I tend to jump from one thing to another to keep myself stimulated and attentive.
This might include anything from updating a strategy for community engagement across one of our key verticals, such as comedy to writing interview questions for one of our creator Q & A sessions.
What brands do you take inspiration from?
I love brands who are inclusive, innovative and daring. My favourite time of the year to look at as case studies in this space is during Mardi Gras and Pride season, where brands need to really focus on demonstrating a sense of authenticity, empathy and support to a number of different communities.
This is not an easy feat. Particular examples that come to mind include Absolut's Show Us Your Colours Campaign and Qanta's involvement in the Yes Campaign for Marriage Equality. Brands undeniably influence consumer opinion and play a decisive role in shaping our cultural landscape. Brands that take a social stance are those that consumers value and trust.
Software and tools recommendations: what is the one software you can’t work without and why?
At TikTok, we use productivity software called Lark - an all-in-one communications platform. It manages everything from documents to calendars to video conferencing, and includes a robust CRM integration with hundreds of other platforms, and best of all, works across both desktop and mobile. I don't think I could live without Lark now. There's nothing on the market quite like it.