'Brands need these creators': TikTok influencers come of age

Mitchell Crawford, Loren Gray and Brittany Broski post for Grubhub, Betsey Johnson and Chipotle.
Mitchell Crawford, Loren Gray and Brittany Broski post for Grubhub, Betsey Johnson and Chipotle.

Chipotle, Rihanna's Fenty Beauty, even Gucci and Prada come to these GenZ creators for a fresh take on their brands.

Brittany Broski, Charli D’Amelio, Loren Gray, Mitchell Crawford. These are a handful of personalities achieving stardom on TikTok. 

For many popular TikTok-ers, fame is built upon dancing in their bedrooms, participating in viral challenges and lip-synching in front of their iPhones. Not a lot, one could say. But what they have is authenticity and audiences that number into the millions. 

Brands range from grocery-and-drug store labels, such as Sabra and Mucinex, restaurants like Chipotle and fashion spanning humble Crocs to aspirational Gucci, each one riding these influencers to elevate their brands on GenZ’s crowded feeds.

"This medium is like its own special universe and brands can’t approach it like any other platform," said Mukta Chowdhary, senior director, strategy and cultural forecasting at Fullscreen, the social content company serving talent and brands. "They need these creators to be their conduit because so much of the platform is experimental and quirky and what is attention-worthy is hard for brands to capture alone."

The TikTok influencer came of age during this year’s Super Bowl as both Broski and D’Amelio received cameos in a Sabra hummus spot, alongside rapper T-Pain and two Real Housewives of New Jersey.

"Our CEO Gary Vaynerchuk has been passionate about TikTok since its’ early days, which in turn, infiltrated throughout the agency," said Peter Chun, senior vice president, global head of partnerships and growth at VaynerMedia. "VaynerMedia watched and experimented on the app and noticed these two individuals had gone viral in a very short amount of time. The agency knew there was an opportunity for our clients and it became evident that these two TikTok creators attracted a massive amount of attention."

Singer Rihanna, who has reached the pinnacle of mainstream stardom, and her marketers followed the script laid out by top TikTok-ers when she launched her Fenty Beauty House this month. The concept has a group of TikTok personalities known for their beauty tutorials living together, posting content. It is a direct lift from the Hype House, a Los Angeles mansion that is home to about 20 TikTok personalities who collaborate together. 

As the medium hits its moment, here are some of the influencers that are directly shaping how advertisers reach younger audiences today. Much more than the spokespeople of yore, these TikTok stars and others like them shape the concept, execute the creative and run the production. 

One of the most popular personalities on the platform, Charli D’Amelio is a 15-year-old originally from Connecticut with 38 million followers and two billion likes on TikTok. She became popular on the basis of her choreographed TikTok dances, running around 15-to-30 seconds. Recently on the Tonight Show, she showed Jimmy Fallon some of her routines, striking another advance into mainstream culture. Part girl next door, part blank canvas, some of the brands D’Amelio has integrated into her TikToks include Prada and Dunkin Donuts coffee drinks. 

Brittany Broski, the 22-year-old junior banker who was fired from her job, rose to fame gagging on a bottle of kombucha. "Brittany Broski tasting kombucha and her facial expressions were one of her first videos that just went viral," said Laura Perez, director of communications at TikTok. "After that, Elf leveraged her for a campaign." Since then, she has danced around for Crocs, to Post Malone’s "I’m Gonna Be" which contains a shoutout to $1000 Crocs, endorses Chipotle on TikTok and then, the Sabra’s Super Bowl spot. Her malleable expressions have her looking like Owen Wilson one minute and the yellow M&M the next. In an organic boost for the candy, she recently made a TikTok where she humorously compared her appearance to it. 

Mitchell Crawford, who is repped by Fullscreen, is taking a more measured approach to social stardom. He is repped by Fullscreen, who have put him in improv classes to work his acting skills. "This is someone who can probably translate very well," said Mahzad Babayan, Vice President, Talent Management and Partnerships. "He is very funny. His work is very thought out, it is scripted. He is not pushing out content the same way other TikToks are." Crawford specializes in light parodies of suburban life, like the hapless dad he parodied for Grubhub who orders in because he can’t cook dinner. Other content lightly pokes fun at "White Moms at Christmas: and "People at Whole Foods." "This is $17? I’d like to pay 25 for it," he says, hitting his target.

Seventeen-year-old Loren Gray is the most popular personality on the app with 40 million followers. She started gaining fans during the legacy app to TikTok, Musical.ly, where she lip-synched to hit songs. Recently, she appeared in "The Man '' video for Taylor Swift. Brand connections include Chipotle and the Just Dance 2020 video game. In a real-world move, Gray is going from endorsing to co-designing a line of clothes. The upcoming prom dress collaboration, Loren Gray x Betsey Johnson, is debuting at Macy’s this month. 

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