TikTok’s Sofia Hernandez on Disrupting Sameness in Digital Marketing

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A Content Disrupted podcast with Sofia Hernandez, Global Head of Business Marketing at TikTok. Access…

A Content Disrupted podcast with Sofia Hernandez, Global Head of Business Marketing at TikTok.

Access this and more Content Disrupted episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.

Observing what’s trending on TikTok, you can discern a tremendous amount about what piques people’s interest and how they prefer to consume information. This week, we spoke with TikTok’s Global Head of Business Marketing, Sophia Hernandez, about the evolution of brand storytelling from the importance of diversity and risk-taking to the innovative strategies shaping the future of content and brand marketing on platforms like TikTok.

Sofia Hernandez is a seasoned marketing leader with over twenty years of experience in driving innovative and impactful campaigns for global brands, including P&G, Netflix, and Spotify. She is the Global Head of Business Marketing at TikTok, where she builds creative solutions that help brands connect with their audiences through short-form video storytelling. Sofia is also a board member at The One Club for Creativity and Suzy, a founding member at Chief, and a co-founder at Black On Black, a social justice apparel line. She has been recognized as an innovator and disruptor in the tech industry and has published articles on AdWeek and Fast Company.

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Episode Highlights:

[04:10] The Evolving Role of Marketers – Sofia suggests that the role of a marketer is expanding beyond traditional marketing responsibilities, evolving into a multifaceted and expansive function. Today’s marketers are no longer confined to conventional advertising paradigms; they are agents of change, innovators, and strategists who play a crucial role in shaping brand narratives and consumer engagement. She emphasizes that modern marketers must be adept at navigating the complexities of a digitally dominated world, where real-time marketing and authentic audience connections are paramount. This requires a deep understanding of consumer culture and a commitment to representing the dynamic needs and expectations of the audience in marketing campaigns. Sofia urges marketers to build strong cross-functional relationships and develop in-depth knowledge of the company’s overall goals, not just marketing objectives. She stresses the importance of marketers acting as key drivers of profitability and business growth, urging them to think beyond siloed functions and contribute more holistically to their organizations.

[08:03] Embracing Diversity for Authentic Brand Narratives – Sofia emphasizes the critical need for diverse representation in marketing campaigns. This stems from a growing expectation among audiences, particularly the TikTok community, for authenticity and inclusivity in brand messaging. She highlights that while 72% of TikTok users expect ads to showcase diverse representation, only half feel that brands are meeting this expectation. This gap indicates a strong demand for more inclusive marketing approaches. The global nature of the TikTok community exposes users to a vast array of cultures and experiences, thereby increasing their expectation for brands to reflect this diversity. She cites successful brand partnerships, like Warner Brothers with a TikTok lobster fisherman for the “Aquaman” movie promotion, and the Old Gays with Walgreens, as innovative examples of embracing diversity. These cases exemplify not just cultural diversity but also age diversity, challenging traditional marketing norms and resonating strongly with audiences seeking something different and more representative of the world’s diversity.

[12:37] Authenticity from Within: The Impact of Internal Diversity – The theme of internal diversity and authenticity is a personal one for Sofia. She shares her own journey of embracing her identity in professional settings and the positive impact it had on her career. This personal anecdote underscores the importance of diversity within organizations, particularly in marketing departments. Diverse teams bring varied perspectives and ideas, leading to more innovative and relatable marketing campaigns. Sofia’s experience reflects a broader trend in the industry, where the call for authenticity is not just in external communications but also in the makeup of the teams that create these communications. This internal diversity is crucial for fostering an inclusive culture that reflects the varied audience that brands aim to reach.

[15:54] How TikTok Empowers the Creator Community – TikTok has revolutionized the way individuals and brands express themselves and connect with audiences. Its unique charm lies in offering everyone, from factory workers like Khaby Lame to everyday people, a voice and a tool to showcase their creativity. This openness has led to a plethora of inspiring stories where ordinary individuals have risen to fame. TikTok’s culture encourages authentic, relatable content, as seen in how people blend entertainment with serious topics, like discussing social justice issues while doing a makeup tutorial. Brands like Chipotle excel on TikTok by embracing its low-production, authentic ethos, engaging with the community through simple, genuine content like showing the making of their cilantro rice using a smartphone. This approach resonates deeply with the TikTok audience, who value authenticity over perfection. Sofia emphasizes that TikTok’s ever-evolving landscape, filled with new creators and diverse discussions, offers endless inspiration and opportunities for both individuals and brands to connect with their audience in meaningful ways.

[21:46] TikTok Trends to Look Out For in 2024 – Unpacking the TikTok What’s Next 2024 Trend Report, Sofia highlights “delulu” as a significant trend for brands. This trend encapsulates how users are finding joy and relief in delusional content, especially in addressing serious topics with a flair of lightheartedness. An exemplary case is “Tube Girl,” who transforms her everyday subway rides into a playful music video experience, exemplifying the essence of finding joy in mundane activities. “Delulu” extends beyond mere entertainment; it’s been effectively used in discussions about sensitive subjects like mental health, promoting open and engaging conversations within the TikTok community. This growing trend not only reflects the current social milieu but also offers a creative avenue for brands to connect with their audience, signifying its lasting influence and relevance in the digital space.

[24:27] The Rise of TikTok as a Discovery Engine – The emergence of TikTok as a powerful discovery engine marks a significant shift in the digital content landscape. Unlike traditional search engines that rely on established social graphs, TikTok operates on a content graph paradigm, fundamentally altering how information and content are discovered and consumed. This approach democratizes content discovery, allowing for a more organic and immersive experience. Users, including brands, are not just passive consumers of content; they are active participants in a dynamic, evolving ecosystem. This system enables an unprecedented level of discovery, where content is not just found but experienced in a context that’s richer and more engaging. For brands, this means an opportunity to be discovered by new audiences in ways that feel authentic and engaging, rather than through traditional, often intrusive advertising methods. This shift to a discovery-based model represents a fundamental change in digital strategy. It suggests that brands need to rethink their approach to content creation, focusing on crafting narratives that resonate deeply with audiences, rather than merely targeting them. In this new landscape, TikTok stands out not just as a platform for sharing short videos, but as a hub of creativity and discovery, where brands can connect with audiences in meaningful, memorable ways.


Follow and subscribe to Content Disrupted on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. Every other week, we host candid conversations with pioneering CMOs and researchers on the topics most relevant to enterprise marketers, from the psychology behind today’s digital buying behaviors and how to craft more relevant creative to maximizing internal trust in the marketing team.


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