Convert Using TikTok Ads in Japan – A Crash Course

Posted By Jim Kersey

Many brands in Japan haven’t yet taken the time to figure out whether TikTok can help them achieve their goals.

Perhaps because the country has one of the most rapidly ageing populations and TikTok is considered a “youth-oriented platform”, or, maybe because companies are waiting until they know this relatively new channel is here to stay?

Whatever the reason, it’s important to consider TikTok’s strong position in Japan today — now one of the most popular and fastest-growing SNS channels — as well as its potential to be an incredibly important tool in reaching an increasingly fragmented consumer landscape in Japan.

We explore these issues and how you can decide whether TikTok ads in Japan are the right PPC marketing choice for your brand.

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Reasons to Consider TikTok Advertising in Japan

Firstly, here are a few key facts that speak to the potential TikTok has as an effective Japanese PPC marketing channel here in Japan.

  • TikTok has over 9.5 million users in Japan
  • In the Japanese iOS and Google Play stores, it has consistently ranked in the top 50 and continues to be one of the most downloaded apps
  • TikTok users are incredibly engaged and love sharing content with peers, increasing the chance of good content going viral
  • TikTok’s simple editing tools make it possible for any brand to create engaging content and catchy narratives
  • The application enjoyed a penetration rate of almost 48 percent among people aged 13 to 19 years old in
  • Japan as of January 2020
  • Approximately 12 percent of females aged between 10 to 19 years old watched TikTok videos on an almost daily basis in 2019
  • TikTok has released several Japan-themed features such as its early variety of J-pop clips that users could select from the creation screen

If you’re looking to learn more about the most popular social media platforms in Japan and their demographic breakdowns, check out our popular blog post: Japan’s Top Social Media Networks for 2020.

Can TikTok Sustain Its Popularity?

It’s true that TikTok caters mostly to a younger demographic and many have been concerned about the potential fickleness of this group, which once had equal love for similar platforms like Vines and MixChannel. However, for the time being, there’s no denying that it’s probably the best online space to reach Gen Z Japanese teenagers.

TikTok says its appeal is that it captures the creativity of users and allows them to present life’s precious moments to the world. And it’s perhaps this encouragement of short bursts of creative expression that has led to such high user engagement in Japan — one of the platform’s greatest attributes for brands hoping to spread their message here.

In a nation of short attention spans, bite sized media space segmentation, and an infinite appetite for video, the simple usability of TikTok and its video content-led approach seems set to continue with its reach potential widening out to older users as the platform’s popularity grows and its user base ages.

Types of TikTok Ads

Girl influencer dancing as example of TikTok ads in Japan

Brands have a few different options when choosing how to reach users on TikTok:

  • Brand takeover – A full-screen ad that appears as you open the app and before user-generated video content is presented. It takes over the whole screen for a few seconds before turning into an in-feed video ad.
  • Branded AR content – Ads that appear as branded stickers, lenses, and other types of AR content that TikTok users can use in their videos.
  • In-feed video – Ads that appear among the native news feed of TikTok users on the “For You” page.
  • Sponsored influencer content – Messages presented through influential TikTok users.
  • Hashtag challenge – Fun and engaging challenges that appear in the “Discovery” section of the app and prompt user participation.

Brands can also create content through their own accounts and share these with their fans, inviting more people to engage with their messages.

1. Embrace Japan’s Appetite for Video Content

Woman influencer applying makeup for video TikTok ads in Japan

With the platform itself based around videos of 15-second intervals, maxing out at a total of 60 seconds, you could say TikTok is a crystallization of the long-term trend that has already been taking place towards the demand for more user-generated video content.

While static image ads and other more traditional social media advertising tactics can still work on channels like Instagram or Facebook, TikTok places more pressure on brands to be forward-thinking and innovative in their advertising content output.

Add to this the fact that Japan has a huge appetite for video consumption — one of the most popular weekly smartphone activities — and there’s really no question as to how you should proceed on this platform.

So before you put any TikTok ads strategy into motion, understand that original and engaging video content is at the heart of any successful campaign. If this seems too daunting or unachievable for you, Facebook, Instagram or even Google may be more suitable for your PPC goals, which will be less demanding of you in this area.

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2. Don’t Make Ads Make TikToks

Under the slogan ‘Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks’ the brand launched a call for advertisers to reconsider a traditional approach to advertising and explore more creative storytelling methods through the video-first platform.

As well as being a successful campaign for the platform itself, it’s extremely useful advice worth keeping in mind when drawing up any marketing strategy for TikTok ads in Japan.

While some platforms operate on a social graph (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), TikTok shifts the focus to user content interests (similar to Youtube). This means the videos people see are not limited to their social circles or those they follow. Instead, videos are served based on someone’s interests or the content they’ve previously engaged with.

The most important takeaway here is that content that is creative and engaging in all the same ways that the best user-generated content is, has a real chance of success. Similarly, formulaic ads won’t be rewarded by TokTok’s algorithm which will only look to scale exposure based on how many people engage with your content.

HB Pro Tip: When done right, you could get discovered surprisingly easily on TikTok by creating your own original content through your account. However, content must align with the rapidly changing interests of your target audience so get used to the incredibly fast pace of this platform!

3. Give Your Japanese Influencers Creative Freedom

Friendly influencer making TikTok ads in Japan for brand

As we’ve mentioned in other blogs, the culture of celebrity endorsements and star popularity is ingrained in Japanese advertising culture. Here, where big TV personalities have paved the way for many successful brand campaigns, it’s never a bad thing to get a well-liked individual to lend you some of their credibility.

Perhaps this has contributed to the widespread prevalence of influencer marketing in Japan, and the regular scramble many companies now partake in to clinch a popular individual to help with their brand promotions.

On TikTok, where influencer marketing is one of the most powerful tools you have in reaching new audiences, it’s especially important that you avoid being “too involved” in the process. Meaning, the best campaigns allow your influencers to lead the creative process themselves and tap into the current trends that they are the best placed to understand.

So, rather than dishing out too many rules or guidelines to influence your TikTok ads in Japan, focus instead on choosing the right people for the job and letting them find their own unique and original ways of promoting your brand. The chances that their messages will resonate with your audience will be much higher.

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4. Embrace ‘WTF’ for Japanese Hashtag Challenge Success

Friends tackling hashtag challenge based on branded Japanese TikTok ads in Japan

TikTok users respond exceptionally well to challenges. This generally involves somebody creating a unique video and challenging others to make their own similarly themed video — all framed by a catchy # that captures the essence of the challenge.

Akira Suzuki, who heads up X Design Centre, TikTok’s in-house planning and creative unit in Japan, explained how advertisers in Japan can significantly increase ad recall, brand awareness and favourability of hashtag challenges by adopting three important drivers: WTF.

The acronym, despite being associated with a very different meaning for many English-speaking social-media users, stands for ‘Wish’, ‘Try’ and ‘Fun’, three factors that emerged from TikTok’s research on the Gen Z audience.

‘Wish’ relates to a greater interest in social causes and breaking stereotypes, as well as spreading positive messages with friends. If the cause is something people really care about, users will tend to share content willingly in the hope of doing something good, or at least to be seen as promoting a good cause.

‘Try’ relates to how users, predominantly younger demographics, love the idea of tackling something new that might be complicated yet achievable. Embracing such a challenge can fill them with satisfaction and when they nail it, they’ll naturally want to share this with the world.

‘Fun’ captures the platform’s lighthearted and exciting character, with much of its content not being particularly “deep”. Many TikTok users just want to have fun and to share this experience with others.

HB Pro Tip: There’s no value in creating a challenge that goes viral if no one associates it with your brand. People need to know that it’s connected with you and one way to do it is to add the brand name in the hashtag itself. However, this can sometimes lead to “clunkiness”. Another option is to create a challenge that somehow uses your product as a prop. Finally, make sure your hashtag uses a simple, memorable Japanese term or phrase so that people can easily search for it, share it, and use it.

Top Tips for Converting with TikTok Ads in Japan

Influencer converting audience with engaging TikTok ads in Japan

  1. Use trends. It’s important to stay on top of trends with TokTok. With content already having a shorter shelf life, if you want to get yourself seen by more people, you’ll need to tie your campaigns in with the very latest trends, themes, and current challenges.
  2. Create for niche audiences. Japanese demographics are more segmented than you probably think and creating tailored content for niche audiences is incredibly important if you want your message to really resonate on TikTok. Aim to build a detailed profile of your target audiences’ interests and even the types of hashtag challenges they like.
  3. Use text overlays. Good old text overlays can play a key role on this video-first platform. Use them to grab your audience’s attention and enhance your storytelling within your TikTok ads in Japan.

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Adding TikTok to Your Marketing Strategy

Team planning TikTok ads in Japan

TikTok is an exciting addition to the world of social media and digital marketing in Japan, but it’s admittedly not for everyone.

Also, with the great potential that platforms like Google, Facebook, and Instagram have to drive significant paid traffic to your business, as well as SEO’s aptitude for generating long term organic traffic, there are certainly other contenders to consider when thinking about how you’ll divide up your marketing budget.

The truth is that TikTok isn’t a platform for businesses that are too “serious” and if your customer base is generally older, other channels may well be better suited to your brand. However, a few signs you should give TikTok some more of your attention are:

  • Your target audience is younger (ages 16-30)
  • You’re looking to expand awareness of your business/brand to a younger audience for the future
  • You want to diversify your marketing strategy to stay ahead of the competition
  • You want to get more involved in showcasing the creative and fun side of your brand
  • You have the capacity and willingness to produce your own video-based TikTok content
  • You want to try something new
  • You’re comfortable with your brand producing content that is light-hearted and fun

In a nutshell, you shouldn’t be looking to move all your money to TikTok straight away, but you should certainly keep an eye open for its potential, and consider whether it can play a role in helping you spread greater awareness of your brand and drive more traffic to your most important sales channels.

SEO vs PPC in Japan – What’s More Important When Entering the Japanese Market?

Make It Fun!

Many brands are still in their early stages of understanding (let alone using) TikTok ads in Japan, but those who have been early adopters of the platform’s unique style have showcased its value. A few final notes to keep in mind are:

  • TikTok requires a new and different approach to advertising where marketers will need to learn and embrace the channel’s unique character.
  • There is a huge opportunity for brands to communicate with responsive audiences on TikTok in Japan, but it’s crucial that they first understand the requirements of the platform and engage with users on their own terms.
  • Regardless of how much money you’re willing to invest in TikTok ads in Japan, your content needs to be fresh and fun. If this doesn’t align with your capacity as a business or brand, there are other PPC channels to consider!

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