‘Our plan is to spend a lot more’: Inside online baby registry Babylist’s TikTok strategy

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Online baby registry Babylist is making a big bet on video this year, leveraging TikTok in a play to boost brand awareness. The California-based company has gone so far as to hire a dedicated TikTok editor late last year, according to Lee Anne Grant, vice president of marketing and revenue at Babylist.

It’s a growing trend. As TikTok becomes more popular, brands like Amazon and VolunteerMatch are looking to hire TikTok social media managers to boost their presence on the app.

Babylist, founded in 2011, started the brand account about eight months ago and has since gained more than 416,000 followers on the video app. Regularly, Babylist videos rack up thousands of views per post, occasionally going viral. One video of a father helping to deliver his child saw 8 million views.

“[One of the] top six marketing goals for Babylist is around growing TikTok,” Grant said. “Our plan is to spend a lot more than we are currently.”

By the end of the year, TikTok is expected to become one of Babylist’s top three advertising channels. Grant added that the baby brand is planning to invest significantly more ad dollars in TikTok than any other advertising channel this year. 

This year, Babylist’s TikTok spend will be slightly over 7% of the total marketing spend, up from the 2% of total marketing spend it was last year, said a spokesperson for the brand, who did not provide specific dollar amounts. According to Kantar, Babylist spent more than $291,000 on media in 2021, up from the $145,000 spent in 2020. Those figures do not include social spending as Kantar does not track those numbers. Ad-tracking firm Pathmatics reports that Babylist spent $5.1 million on Facebook and Instagram ads in 2021, slightly up from the $4.8 spent in 2020.

The baby brand’s TikTok strategy is two-fold, leveraging both paid and organic efforts. Videos are made up of user-generated content, creator content and videos produced in-house, per Grant.

Babylist’s target audience is made up of expecting parents, from anyone carrying a child to those adopting, fostering or using surrogates. To target those people and grow its user base, Grant says the company uses machine learning and TikTok’s targeting capabilities.

Babylist’s TikTok efforts aren’t relegated to driving direct sales. Instead, Grant says the team sees the platform as one that provides brand awareness, customer acquisition and sales. Success is measured by how many people signed up for a baby registry, she added. It’s a common theme in how many brands approach TikTok as a brand awareness channel as opposed to a performance marketing channel. In fact, most advertisers have yet to view the platform as another branding or performance channel similar to Facebook and Instagram, according to previous Digiday reporting. 

“We’re looking for people to hear about Babylist and sign up more,” she said. “You can’t put an exact number on that, but we do feel like that’s working and that’s driving results.”

Babylist isn’t alone in its TikTok efforts. Brands like L’Oréal, Dr. Squatch and Hotwire have beefed up both spend and content efforts to get in front of the platform’s growing audience. In fact, eMarketer reports that TikTok’s global ad revenues are expected to triple to $11.64 billion this year.

For the last two years, after gaining popularity during the pandemic lockdown, TikTok has continued to become a staple in media spending, even eating up more and more marketing dollars. Earlier this year, Digiday reported that not only is the ByteDance-owned company seeing more performance advertisers testing out the platform, but larger advertisers are spending more also.

Babylist may be on the right track in its refusal to depend on TikTok for sales and conversion, according to Glenn Ginsburg, president of influencer marketing agency QYOU media.

“There’s a happy medium where native and influencer content on social platforms consistently outperforms traditional ad units in view through, engagement and click-through,” Ginsburg said. “A growth marketing and content strategy can catapult DTC brands to a new level of awareness and relevance.”

Overall, Babylist’s Grant says the brand wants to double its video views and plans to continue to invest ad dollars in TikTok and expand its YouTube footprint. By the end of the year, Babylist hopes to reach more than a million TikTok followers.

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