Decoding TikTok trends: What brands need to know about what we will be eating, drinking & talking about in 2024

I have a theory that 97% of conversations that start “So, I read this thing the other day [insert fact/anecdote/life hack]” are actually really good TikToks people have watched, such is the breadth and impact of the platform.

Whilst I’m sure we can agree the beauty of TikTok is its ability to consistently deliver content that is completely tailored to you – the joy of TikTok is its ability to produce trends that disrupt culture and speak to us a collective. Whether that’s the Roman Empire, Girl Dinner or fuelling a return to 90s music and fashion, TikTok is the definitive place where creativity starts conversations, creates communities and brings people together.

Earlier this month, TikTok, revealed TikTok Trending, a look into the cultural moments and trends it predicts will take off this year in the UK. TikTok Trending highlights the creators, hashtags, sounds and effects that are growing in app, analyses why this is happening and what this insight tells us about what’s coming next. Whether that’s a new aesthetic, emerging subculture or niche community, the findings provide food for thought for brands looking to understand the TikTok community’s changing wants and needs for the year ahead.

If a mass public audience is important to your business or brand, chances are TikTok is a vital channel for them. So, you’ll want to be across these three trends that will define the coming months.

  1. The new core: #hopecore. For the uninitiated, ‘core’ is a term widely used across the internet to describe a particular aesthetic or attitude in fashion, beauty, design and more. There are lots of different #cores the TikTok community has been at the forefront of, from #cottagecore to #balletcore, #gorpcore and even #corecore. Last year, #barbiecore dominated, but 2024 is looking to be even more wholesome with the emergence of #hopecore. This is the genre of videos dedicated to spreading messages of hopefulness, positivity and taking delight in the little things. #Hopecore is fuelled by optimism and inspiration. It’s the antidote to doomscrolling, focusing on the everyday interactions with nature and other humans. 
  2. The joy of home: There is nothing TikTok loves more than romanticising the mundane aspects of our lives. Across various categories this looks set to continue in 2024. In food, fuelled by lunchbox purchases on TikTok Shop, ‘pack my lunch with me’ videos are the new ‘get ready with me’, whilst broader #lunchbox makes everyday meals fun and taps into four long-established communities: fridge and cupboard organisation, ASMR, meal prep and thriftiness. Whilst in health and fitness, bed workouts, wall Pilates and walking pads suggest 2024 will be the year of slowing down. And continuing with the theme of inner strength and back to basics, #calisthenics is really taking off within the TikTok community. Eschewing machines, calisthenics embraces individual strength, endurance, flexibility and coordination.
  3. HR stars: From M&S to Hobbycraft, brands have enjoyed lots of success when heroing employees in their TikTok content, creating their own employee influencers who can put a face to the brand and offer an alternative and often more authentic view of what it’s like to work at a particular business. One of TikTok’s ‘Ones to Watch’ in 2024 is creator Mo_t_ivate Manny aka Mo T – the Airport Guy, a Heathrow engineer who lifts the lid on what it’s like to work at one of the world’s busiest airports: from what happens to your luggage, to sustainable flight fuel along with practical advice on how to make your CV stand out when applying for a job at Heathrow. Manny has been working with the Heathrow HR team to help encourage more Asian and Muslim people to consider applying for jobs in aviation.

What does this mean for brands?

Many businesses will have a ‘conversation strategy’ mapping out how and when they take part in cultural conversations. These will obviously need to be guided by your broader business strategy and key stakeholder groups, but when it comes to exactly how you should or shouldn’t interact with trends, there are some important guiding principles to be mindful of:

  1. Don’t jump on a trend for the sake of it: Trends are a great way to show your brand’s personality, but don’t just jump on a trend for the sake of it. Be strategic and think about how a trending sound or effect can show your brand voice in a meaningful way. One brand that does this really well is the RSPB. The charity for birds will often use popular music and sounds and then put their own spin on it in a way that feels topical and relevant to their community of nature-lovers who want to protect and hero birds.
  2. Immerse yourself in the platform: This one is pretty simple: follow lots of accounts that are making engaging content. Don’t repurpose content form other platforms. Reply to comments and have a conversation with your community. Encourage collaboration. TikTok trends are constantly evolving, so to really get under the skin of what’s getting traction search for relevant hashtags and browse through the ‘trending tab’. By staying across what’s popular on TikTok, brands will be better able to participate in trends in a way that resonates with their community.
  3. Be consistent with you content: Content really is king on TikTok, so focus on what you’re creating and why you’re creating. Nothing should come to the detriment of making content that people will genuinely want to watch and enjoy. Think about what feels sustainable and analyse what seems to be resonating with your community and go from there.

Brands have long played an active role in helping to shape, sustain and amplify trends in a way that can benefit them and entertain us. For brand marketers, understanding your communities and their diverse interests, challenges, values and identities, is paramount to success. Understanding, leveraging and participating in trends on TikTok, in a way that is meaningful to them, is an extension of this.

Ultimately, it’s the awful buzzword of authenticity to have front of mind when thinking about engaging with any trend on TikTok. With data also showing TikTok is 1.8x more likely to introduce users to new topics they didn’t even know they liked (40% TikTok vs. 22% Traditional Social Media) the opportunity is there for their taking.

You can read more about the TikTok Trending 2024 here, and if you’d like to build a deeper understanding of your audiences and communities, do get in touch!

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