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How do you unlock the random genius of TikTok? Sam Gormley of Osaka Labs has some answers

As Ocean Spray so perfectly demonstrated last week, TikTok is changing how brands connect with their customers. Osaka Labs has worked with TikTok for two years; its founder Sam Gormley has some tips for content, strategy and engagement on the platform.

The Birth of Beautiful Chaos:

TikTok is a video-sharing social networking service founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. It is used to create dance, comedy, and talent videos. The app came to market in 2017 for iOS and Android for markets outside of China.

Since TikTok hit the masses in 2017, it has seen incredible growth and user stickiness. As with any new platform, there have been media attacks, scepticism regarding data safety, and general confusion about what TikTok can do for brands. TikTok is used for creating, sharing and mimicking; a combination of Netflix, Reddit and Instagram with the reach of Facebook.

The app is the go-to social platform for many different niche communities, ranging from music, dance, sport, fitness, beauty, fashion, design, food, and memes, with an emphasis on entertainment rather than social gloating or personal updates. TikTok gives everybody an environment to express their creativity.

Rules to live by:

TikTok is unique. If TV and social media had a baby, it’d be TikTok. The goal is to create content that is so entertaining that Netflix gets jealous, and everyone starts sharing. The basics:

• Nurture your tribe – don’t try and force feed content to users, join their conversations (like Ocean Spray did)
• Be relevant – Make sure your content is in tune with the platform.
• Be entertaining – Storytelling first, branding second
• Loosen up – have fun with it. Boring content will get swiped away
• Add Value – even though the platform is fun, you can still be informative.

Regardless of the placement of the content, the goal is entertainment or education. Paid advertising for in-feed and native organic content must feel natural, engaging and needs to have purpose to promote sharing.

What good looks like:

Tracking performance is very similar to any other modern ad system like Google Adwords or Facebook, and the KPIs depend on the objective of the campaign. A brand that did particularly well on the platform is ELF Cosmetics.

ELF, a relatively unknown US make up brand ran a campaign with a track they created in the hope people would start using it on their TikTok videos. Well they did, and in fact, UGC didn’t just come from teenagers but James Charles, Lizzo and Reese Witherspoon – and it generated 4.5bn views.

Tracking performance is very similar to any other modern advertising system like Google Adwords or Facebook, and the KPIs you’re monitoring depends on the objective of the campaign (obviously!).


Since the format is limited to 60 seconds, both the making and watching of videos is easy, quick, and doesn’t require much effort. That being said, content isn’t staged or styled to look perfect. Sure, some videos are more amateur than others, but that’s not a problem. TikTok’s community is limitless, fun, and – first and foremost – authentic. The little hiccups along the way are endearing and relatable for audiences.

High Tech:

TikTok offers loads of additions like sounds and songs, special effects, filters. TikTok also offers unparalleled video editing capabilities that allow users, brands and advertisers alike to create unique content composed of music, visuals, text, animation, sound effects, and of course, AR filters for your pets.

Sam Gormley is founder of content activation studio Osaka Labs. He has previously worked in the music business.

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