Our guest author Yashi says brands need to exercise a certain level of self-awareness before taking a plunge into creating bite-sized content

The perennial process of creating regular, bite-sized and funny or entertaining video snippets for your brand with a short-sighted view of the social validation that it rewards itself with is what we’re referring to as TikTokisation of brands. This phenomenon also trickles into other media, but a brand’s usage of video is probably the most telling. While not inherently ‘bad’ in any sense, maybe even somewhat necessary for running the flywheel of relevance, an excessive emphasis on this style of brand building poses a threat to brand equity in the long run and the aggregate IQ of an entire generation. 

Marketers almost always downplay their role in cultural jockeying; the more they capitalise on trends, the more important it becomes to do so in the first place, till they’re left scurrying from one to the next. So, it may be healthy to give the algorithms a rest from time to time, and focus on trying to create deeper, richer, and more beautiful things that may or may not sell, but at least attempt to be something meaningful and nuanced. It’s a commitment to expression over efficiency. 

But before you can even build the conviction to do so and ask for the production budget, there’s some self-awareness to be exercised. Here are some symptoms of this phenomenon your brand might be facing in the content creation process. This is especially true for brands who are still trying to make it:

You’re stuck in tonal/template inertia

It’s fair to want your brand to be relatable and its communications easily consumed. But it’s important to not overestimate the lifespan of a trend and even more important the tone which you’ve chosen. Unless what you’re doing repeatedly is completely original and appreciated, you’re not really adding new value to the world. Think about the jokes you’re cracking or the social commentary that you’re making and think if there’s a new and original take, you’re adding to this. If you’re not, you’re just adding to the noise. 

Your lowest hanging fruits are your usual picks

The more universality we try to give our videos, the more bereft of soul they get. We end up dumbing down concepts to ensure everybody gets it or trying to balance delivery with requirements to ultimately end up with another video you had to get off this quarter’s collateral list. We make the mistake of thinking our audiences are as simple as the numbers they’re relegated to on our decks. The truth is that we over-aggregate forgetting that if our films are truly made with heart and the craft it is given attention to, it will find its audience and then it won’t really matter how big SEC B is. 

You think art isn’t the province of brand

For minds that have grown up in this late-capitalist paradigm, this is either going to be too obvious or too easy to disagree with. Either way, it’s still quite possible to at least want to create ‘art’ first and see if and how a brand is fit into the scheme of things. Audiences aren’t looking for your brand in the first place so it’s better to accept your place as an afterthought and own the content as an artist and not a shopkeeper. Even if you want to give people’s altruism a shot in the arm during Diwali, don’t just make a song and dance montage about it.

Your picks for music are the last consideration for your videos

This may be because you’re going to pick up something that’s already popular or you’re going to pick something that’s obvious and quick to get made. But the truth is that the music is the only part of your film that’s independently guiding the emotion of your message and that should probably be your first point of decision. Our choices are also easily overruled by what’s trending on TikTok (or Instagram or other social platforms) – that’s TikTokisation by actual TikTok. There is an explosion of artists, playlists, and tastes in the country and that is something brands, both old and new need to capitalise on. 

Your influencers are everyone’s influencers

The performances and the people in your videos are going to be the first thing people care about before they can care about the plot, message, production value and then your brand. Influencers, at least the popular ones, for all the high-quality production they offer you, are already a typecast class of celebrity. So, associating your brand with them is just something of a watered-down brand placement with the same amount of believability. It’s more important to create real, original heroes and villains or to find genuine stories that people can explore. Clout may not have to be something that social media profiles reflect. 

There’s probably a lot unsaid in this list but the presence of a combination of these five points is a quick and reliable way of telling which way your brand could be headed. That said, fortunately, the appetite and space for ‘art’ that happens to have a brand involved are also increasing. Given enough time and exposure, emerging musicians, writers, designers, and filmmakers will form some healthy symbiosis with emerging and established brands. 

Yashi Paswan is the co-founder and creative producer of Dot Films, a film production agency based in Goa. Dot Films is an agency member of afaqs! marketplace.