Accelerated by the pandemic, technology has enabled a transformation in consumer behavior and a shift in the power dynamics between brands and people. What has emerged is an individual-centric economy in which everyday people hold the power. We call this the “me-conomy.”
In order to survive in the me-conomy, brands, influencers, artists, content, and events need to be:
- Relevant - I want content and products tailored just for me
- Captivating - Gets and keeps my attention
- Convenient - I don’t have to dig for it, it comes to me
- Abundant – I can go as far down the rabbit hole as I want
- Compelling - Makes me want to do something differently (buy a product, binge for hours, sign up for more)
POV: You open TikTok for a quick brain break. The next thing you know, it’s three hours later and you’ve migrated from BookTok to CleanTok, took an unexpected detour into TombstoneTok, and then somehow ended up on FrogTok.
From an ever-improving, personalized video feed (known as the “for you page” or “fyp”) to flourishing, hobby-specific communities, TikTok has all of the elements needed to thrive in the me-conomy. The app simultaneously appeals to our need for individualism while nurturing our desire to belong.
Relevant: While TikTok has little control over what kind of content is created and uploaded, the algorithm that determines which videos show up on your “for you page” knows exactly what kind of content you are interested in—maybe even better than you know yourself. Even if you don’t interact with a video by liking or commenting, TikTok tracks how long you spend watching that video and how many times you re-watch it. This allows TikTok to deliver a steady stream of personalized content tailored to your interests—even the ones you don’t admit.
Captivating: Every time you skip a video, hide a creator, or report content, the algorithm learns more about what content you are not interested in - which is just as important in curating your fyp as knowing what you do watch. TikTok continually improves the personalization of your feed in the hopes that they will only serve you content that is likely to capture your attention.
Convenient: When you do find something that captures your attention, you can swipe left for more from that creator… or tap a hashtag for similar videos from other creators… or tap into the sound to find other videos using the same music—and when you’re done, you can easily swipe and tap your way right back to where you were on your fyp. Unlike linear television—or even streaming options—users can get lost in hours of content using a single thumb.
Abundant: As of December 2020, there were nearly 9 billion videos available on TikTok according to the company’s Transparency Report. Even with users spending on average a whopping 24.5 hours per month on the app, the steady stream of content uploaded by TikTok creators ensures that you can go as far as you want down the rabbit hole.
Compelling: TikTok has always had the goal of being a global music powerhouse, and the app’s ability to bring people together with music while at the same time celebrating individuality has propelled them to the center of influence, both in the music industry and in marketing with music. Songs that trend on TikTok see an increase in streams and sales and brands that incorporate music that is popular on TikTok enjoy a stronger connection with their target.
Trends that start on TikTok reach out into the world, impacting culture and consumer behavior. Even brands that don’t use TikTok directly need to pay attention to the app in order to stay culturally relevant. Some things for brands to watch include:
- Creative Strategy: TikTok is unlike any other platform and content creation requires a dedicated, deliberate approach. Successful content creators lean into the creativity, diversity, and authenticity at the heart of the TikTok experience.
- Emerging Music Artists: New artists are launching their careers via TikTok by finding an audience with major label execs through the app. In 2020, more than 70 artists who first shared their music on TikTok were signed by major labels.
- Music (Catalogue) Discovery: TikTok is also helping younger generations discover older music. A viral video in 2020 prompted a return to the Billboard charts—and a resurgence in sales—for a 1977 Fleetwood Mac song.
- Brand Affinity: The same 23 second viral video that launched Stevie Nicks back into the spotlight also gave cranberry juice maker Ocean Spray 15B media impressions and a boom in sales—not to mention earning the 91 year old brand a boatload of cultural relevance and a resurgence in brand affinity.
The Future of the Me-conomy
B2C marketing has largely been transactional—and muddied by complicated distribution channels that put wholesalers, retailers, and other parties between brand and consumer—until now. Today, relationships between brands and consumers are interactive, reciprocal, and ongoing. Brands that will thrive in the me-conomy will embrace relational marketing, perfect personalization, and form meaningful connections with people.
In this series, we will delve into the complexities of the me-conomy, exploring topics from risk mitigation to cultural relevance, to uncover the best way to thrive in a world of personalization.