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Why these Gen Z marketers want KC startups to channel the power of TikTok Shop

DATE POSTED:April 2, 2024

A Kansas City-built Gen Z ad agency is opening a TikTok Shop challenge this spring — scrolling through plans to elevate startups’ and small business’s social media brands and offer a chance to win $100,000 in services. 

TRNDSTTRS Media —  ranked No. 3 in client revenue on TikTok — expects the challenge to run May 1 to Sept. 1, said founder Jake Bjorseth. Businesses participate by signing-up for free, receiving access to weekly AMA live streams, their TikTok shop strategy, setup guide, and a community Slack channel for support. 

Click here to apply for the TikTok Shop Launch challenge.

How TikTok Shop works: TikTok Shop primarily focuses on affiliate marketing, where only brand owners can participate. Brands collaborate with affiliates (TikTok publisher or content creator), sending them free products to promote on their own accounts. Affiliates then earn commissions from direct sales from their ad. 

“For a brand, it’s somewhat of a dream, because the same platform that you’re using to reach people through influencers and running ads, now people can also buy your products on that same platform,” said Bjorseth.

Click here to follow Bjorseth on TikTok and here to follow TRNDSTTRS.

With such tools at their disposal, a brand can strike social media gold, said Emily Harpel, founder of Art of Sucre, one of TRNDSTTRS’ clients

“Within a week or two, we had a video go viral and found ourselves selling out every single day,” said Harpel. “That was the point we realized: There is definitely something here!”

The top-earning brand after six months in TRNDSTTRS’ TikTok Shop challenge will win $100,000 and free account servicing for a year, Bjorseth said. TRNDSTTRS sponsors also provide free project management tools and 3PL services, totaling an approximate value of $250,000 to $500,000 for the winner.

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Jake Bjorseth, TRNDSTTRS; photo by Taylor Wilmore, Startland News

Translating ads in the digital era

With traditional marketing seemingly losing traction because of its cost and declining effectiveness with younger audiences, businesses are shifting their focus to intentional social media ads — all in a bid to grab the attention of Gen Z and younger demographics.

“Whether it be an influencer they like promoting a product, or the brand promoting their own content, if they like it, they’ll buy it at that point,” said Bjorseth. “It doesn’t take seven to 12 to 15 touchpoints, Gen Z consumers move quickly.” 

One way to see if your ads will be a hit with Gen Z is to go right to the source, he added. Bjorseth suggests testing to see if your product plays well on video by asking for feedback.

“Don’t tell them anything about the product, just let someone create their own 15-second video with it and see what they come up with,” he said. “If it’s easy for them to come up with something, you have a potentially viral product.”

Evening out the playing field

For Kansas City-based startup brands, Bjorseth believes TikTok offers a huge opportunity for their messaging to truly land with audiences — without competing with big-name competitors they typically see on Google and other social media platforms. 

TikTok — a newer player among popular platforms — isn’t already dominated by major brands, Bjorseth said, noting the chance for smaller businesses to level out the playing field.

“Anytime that something is new, those bigger companies are like a huge ship out on the ocean, struggling to maneuver and turn,” he said. “But if you’re a little speedboat, you can turn and you can do whatever you have to do.” 

Reflecting on the success stories of small businesses on the platform, Bjorseth said, he noticed a trend that it doesn’t matter the size of the company or their advertising team, but about how well they can sell a quality product. 

“The brands that are doing best are individually-owned, with not a ton of investors,” he said. “Those are the brands that are winning, because they can do unique things that the big brands really aren’t.”

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