“To GAP: TikTok isn’t free advertising”? It’s not? What’s the catch?

gap, clothing, tiktok, social media marketing, tiktok marketing, affiliate marketing, demographics,


TikTok has become the best place for every brand to market since the peak of lockdown. Or is that really the case? Does every brand and business have a home on TikTok? Are there maybe some brands that are not hitting the mark on the platform? That are perhaps getting ignored? Like… say, GAP?

In a TikTok with a label that says, “Boomers are ruining social media [marketing]”, complete with an unimpressed emoji to make the rest of us feel geriatric, Christopher Claflin explains how not to market your brand on TikTok, using GAP as an example.

He says: “GAP’s account is actually a perfect example of what happens when you leave Boomers in charge of social media marketing. Because these guys would be better off if they didn’t even try TikTok. Honestly, I’m not here to help GAP with this post but maybe you have a business that is struggling from these same symptoms, so I want to use GAP as a case study to help you out.”

And that is exactly what we are doing too.

“The first thing to remember, if you are running a company, especially if you are a Boomer, is that this platform is not free advertising. But if you’re creating entertainment around your brand, it can be. But here’s the thing: if you post polished corporate ads like this, you’ll wind up with 17 thousand followers, a blue checkmark that means nothing and videos with 58 likes and a couple of comments. This is so bad.”

So, what do you need to do? If “TikTok is not free advertising”, but you’re not spending money to post, then what is the catch? We explore.

Offer something more

“So, we get around this problem by asking ourselves, as the business, as the creator, ‘Is this post that I’m putting out there sharable?’ If the answer is ‘No’, you don’t put it.”

“If we look at GAP, none of these videos are sharable. They are literally the definition of time you will never get back. … The third thing to remember is that in order for posts to be shareable, there has to be something deeper than just the brand and shoving products in a viewer’s face. GAP’s content has no deeper meaning besides ‘We make bad clothes’ and ‘We want your money’.”

We should point out that that is the opinion of Christopher Claflin and we can neither confirm nor deny that we disagree that GAP makes bad clothes. But he has got the key target of marketing on TikTok especially: offer something more.

Offering something more on TikTok doesn’t have to be difficult. Christopher sums it up as “entertainment”, but we think that’s too broad a term. You can offer satisfaction, with cleaning videos or ASMR, you can offer information or tips, or you can offer demonstrations of your product. Both of these two are checked off by the montage of examples Christopher gives in his TikTok, which are of influencers putting outfits together and modelling them.

Know who you are marketing to

Christopher goes off on a slight tangent that is still relevant to the GAP marketing campaign.

“And side note: who wears this stuff? Like, what is this style? It’s like a Boomer’s dream of how Gen Z should dress in their eye” he adds, with a new title card that says “old money”.

And you know what, he has a point. TikTok is notoriously for kids. That idea might be widening a bit, as in “It’s not exclusively for kids”, but it’s definitely not got to the point of “Golf buddies trying to decide what their grandson should wear to the regatta” vibe that the GAP’s photos give off.

Particularly hilarious is the fact that a commenter under the video said, “What’s ironic is the name stands for ‘Generation Gap’.” This is echoed by Wikipedia, so make of that what you will. If true, GAP has become the very thing it fought against, and should perhaps think about an entire rebrand.

But even if you are a young person who likes these clothes, this isn’t the way to appeal to these young people. They want more out of their marketing, as we’ve gone over. You’ll have to entertain them, inform them, entice them. All of which cannot be expressed in a photo montage of the clothing items against a white backdrop. There is a lot of ways you can go about marketing on TikTok and getting viewers interested and frankly, what GAP is doing in comparison is just lazy.

Be your authentic selves

Christopher continues: “The point is that if you want your business to grow on TikTok, you’ve got to focus on the viewer first. You’ve got to make an objective effort to create content that is in service of the viewer and refrain from posting these quasi-commercials that are polished and corporate and ultimately, at the end of the day, viewed as everyone else (besides you) as bull. You don’t want to be bull. You want to make good media.”

The “corporate” and “polished” look of GAP’s TikToks are a particular point stuck in the craw of Christopher, and indeed a lot of TikTok users. When TikTok exploded, part of its rise was the “authenticity” of it. What was really meant by that was that it doesn’t look like Instagram. People were talking in their beds, with no makeup or hair, probably not even showered, and their phone cameras could look like a potato was powering it in bad lighting. But it was authentic. Brands quickly caught on that people liked this, and iPhone marketing TikToks became the norm. No one borrowed a camera from the photoshoot next door. The low quality was reassuring.

Christopher concludes: “Because the counterintuitive thing is that if you focus on your business and making sales through social media as your lowest priority and you focus on entertaining viewers and connecting with your potential customers, you’ll start to make sales organically. Who would have thought? But if you do what GAP is doing, you’re just wasting your time.”

TLDR? Watch Christopher Claflin’s TikTok here to hear his analysis of the GAP’s TikTok marketing campaign in his own words.

If you are interested in more affiliate and social media marketing insights, take a look at our blog for all the latest news and advice. Or for a more personalised approach, book a free call with a member of our team.

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