Dock At TikTok

Luxury brands have berthed at the port of the social media phenomenon with mostly just goofy content

TikTok is banned in India. It could suffer the same fate in the US soon. (Indonesia temporarily banned it in 2018 for “inappropriate content”.) Yet, luxury brands are eagerly adopting TikTok as if their survival depends on it. Among the latest to join the video-centric site are Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci (above), and Fendi. Fashion’s top labels, it appears, are under considerable marketing pressure to be on a platform that is not immediately easy to fathom.

The content on TikTok is unlike anything seen on (old) social media. Created in 2016, it has taken the world by typhoon-strength storm. In a nutshell, TikTok is Instagram for videos. But these aren’t videos seen on YouTube (at 15, a much senior media); these are short takes of virtually anything inane and incomprehensibly foolish, yet the app has been described as a “a refreshing outlier in the social media universe”. So much that are posted are repetitive, it’s hard, even after a mere few days, to consider anything viewed to be “refreshing”. While Instagram is to tell you everyone is having a fabulous life, TikTok is to show you everyone is having incredible fun.

And having fun is mostly rubbing babies’ faces to create cute expressions, playing stupid and staged pranks, and creating more noisy fart jokes than you care to watch (or hear). People, both young (and now old), post unbelievably trite content: from an egg being boiled to clothes being soiled, from unremarkable yawns to unfunny jokes, from ludicrous nothing to loony dancing. What’s irascible, after even just five minutes, are the inevitable canned laughter and cheesy electronic soundtrack (even Shopee TV ads look and sound like TikTok posts!). Amid all these, fashion brands are carving out their own space alongside those users pushing for incredible foolishness.

TikTok fans, similarly, call all of it fun. Gucci’s videos, with suitably attired characters, play to this worldwide search for amusement and absurdity. Or, as one Quora user called the posts, “dumb shit”—the sillier the video, the more likely it’ll go viral. How does fashion fit in this swill? Frankly, we don’t know. So much on TikTok appear slapdash and low-brow. As content quality go, it’s cheaper to create a TikTok video than a fashion film. And scripts are optional.

We keep being told that TikTok allows us a peek into ordinary teenagers’ lives. So Gucci and co are now marketing to adolescents? The brand’s own madcap style may fit TikTok’s ting-tong-ness, but flatulence-loving kids are not likely a good target for S$600+ T-shirts or S$1,000+ sneakers. Marketers observed that TikTok is a break from the increasingly commercial space of Facebook and Instagram. However, when you start to sell on TikTok, you are making the site another digital marketplace. Let’s see Chanel peddle its wares by putting a teen in a bouclé jacket and do a happy dance.

Screen grabs: Gucci/TikTok