SmileDirectClub has stepped up its ads on TikTok after seeing strong results on the buzzing social video app. Amid its broader push to reach new customers for orthodontic retainers, SmileDirectClub has found that TikTok delivers the best results through a combination of automated ads and organic sharing.
“We are able to work effectively at their auction and get some good prices for the ad, but the big thing we learned in our ads on TikTok is that you don’t go to TikTok and just place ads,” John Sheldon, director of direct-to-consumer marketing for the brand, said in an interview. “You go to TikTok, get creative and become part of the TikTok community.”
SmileDirectClub consistently ranks in the top 100 TikTok advertisers by conversions, including sites second and third for their videos, according to data provided by the company. As a DTC brand, SmileDirectClub considers conversions an important metric, although Sheldon said the company monitors its campaigns through all parts of the purchase funnel.
Owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok has amassed over a billion users worldwide in the past few years with its endless feed of viral videos and easy-to-use content creation tools. Much of the app’s popularity stems from the sense of authenticity found in the videos created by millions of casual consumers. An average of 64% of users around the world said they could be their “real selves” on TikTok, while 77% mentioned how they could express themselves publicly on the app, researcher Nielsen found in studies commissioned by TikTok.
SmileDirectClub has a 3D strategy for TikTok that blends a mix of reworking its TV ads and creating custom content for the mobile platform. The first part consists of creating custom videos for TikTok featuring Dee Dee, the brand ambassador introduced last year who promotes the SmileDirectClub service and offers comparisons to its main competitor Invisalign, which is made by Align Technology.
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“With Dee Dee, we are doing specific work and tailored versions of the TikTok platform to get people engaged and engaged,” said Sheldon. “Dee Dee is a character we use on TV because we’re focused on conquering people who might consider Invisalign.”
The second part of the SmileDirectClub strategy focuses on enhancing brand connections to consumers by creating original content that works for them. Those efforts include dozens of videos featuring Emily Watson, the company’s director of content strategy that monitors online memes.
“I’ve built a following, and she’s especially creative,” Sheldon said. “She’s jumping on a lot of major trends that are starting to emerge and finding ways to relate to our brand. It’s the equity building that I really appreciate with her as a character.”
SmileDirectClub also works with its network of physicians to create videos that answer frequently asked questions about their product.
“What we’re trying to avoid is – I’m going to call it ‘borrowed equity’ – where someone comes in as a spokesperson but they haven’t used the product,” Sheldon said.
To generate more authentic testimonials, the third part of the brand’s social strategy consists of identifying creators who can become customers and discussing their experience with SmileDirectClub, and creating personalized content tailored to TikTok. Sheldon referenced a video created by Kelli Erdmann, the social media personality with 4.2 million followers, for punishing happykelli on TikTok. In the video, Erdmann dances with a SmileDirectClub bundle of braces, inspiring other TikTok users to mimic her movements.
“If you take a look at the video Happy Kelli did with us when she got her shipping box, it’s got over a million views,” Sheldon said. “It’s great to create this content and make it original on the platform with people who are actually our customers and [can] Talk about the product.
Create an audience
SmileDirectClub’s largest customer segment consists of women between the ages of 18 and 34, which is a younger audience who are more likely to be on TikTok than older groups. Nearly half (48%) of American consumers ages 18 to 29 said they use TikTok, compared to about 20% of people ages 30 to 49, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey.
“There is a huge audience for us in the TikTok environment that matches our core demographics,” Sheldon said. “As we have learned how to operate within the platform, we have significantly increased our investment in TikTok.”
SmileDirectClub boosted its spending on sales and marketing to $96 million in the third quarter of 2021, up 43% from the previous year, according to the latest earnings report. Spending growth reflects brand building efforts in countries outside the United States and Canada and a shift toward a higher-track strategy to increase awareness and lead generation. SmileDirectClub cited several economic challenges, declining revenue by 18% to $137.7 million over the period. The company said in its earnings report that inflationary pressures have reduced the purchasing power of consumers, and the main demographic of households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year is finding it more difficult to pay their bills.
“…the important thing we learned in our ads [on] TikTok is that you don’t go to TikTok and just place ads. You go to TikTok, get creative and become part of the TikTok community. “
DTC’s biggest rush to TikTok in 2021 followed a period of experimentation with the platform. In mid-2020, she launched a branded hashtag challenge urging teens to wear their favorite yearbook clothes, such as “Most Likely to Succeed.” The challenge, which offered a chance to win a dental alignment treatment, generated 4.3 billion video views using the hashtag #SuperlativeSmiles.
For its social media strategy starting in 2022, SmileDirectClub is currently testing third-party software to manage its content on a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
“Being able to manage it all in one place would be much more convenient for us, and you can see a little bit of reuse around the content, but we’re not trying to do a lot of reworking of the content,” Sheldon said. “It’s really important for TikTok to do things that are tailored to the platform.”