CMO 50: Nick Tran

Head of global marketing, TikTok

TikTok became synonymous with culture this year as users of all ages flocked to the platform during lockdown. Head of global marketing Nick Tran joined in April 2020, right as TikTok was boarding a rocket ship of explosive growth. He helped the app leverage the growth of both the TikTok community and brands on the platform to create an environment where both can thrive. 

Through its unique algorithm, which enables brands to both go viral and reach niche communities, TikTok has grown up from a branding vehicle to a sales-driver, spurring the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. The platform has redefined the potential of influencer marketing, leading to a unique partnership with IPG Mediabrands in April around its creator community.

In its brand marketing, TikTok is taking a cue from other social media giants by leveraging the creativity of its community to demonstrate its place in culture, as seen with its first major campaign released in August, It Starts on TikTok.

Despite its insane popularity, TikTok faces challenges. The platform has faced backlash from users, parents and the U.S. government for lack of transparency, its ownership by Chinese tech giant ByteDance (remember the failed Oracle deal?) and misuse of children’s data. TikTok has ramped up privacy protections for minors and developed enhanced transparency reports. But Tran will have his work cut out for him as the app continues to scale and encounters misinformation, hate speech and other issues that run rampant on social media.

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