How Beauty And Wellness Brands Are Preparing For The Possibility TikTok Could Be Banned In The US

In a rare show of bipartisanship in today’s fraught political environment, House Democrats and Republications came together Wednesday to approve legislation forcing TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to sell the company to an American entity or cease operating the widely popular social media network in the United States.

The legislation now heads to the Senate, where its fate is unclear. However, if it passes the Senate, President Joe Biden has said he’ll sign it. Biden and other critics of TikTok argue it’s a national security threat. Today, TikTok is on the phones of 170 million Americans, including thousands who make money through its content creator program.

For beauty brands, banning TikTok could have serious impacts on business. These days, it’s one of the few venues where emerging beauty brands are breaking through, and beauty has been big business on it from both a marketing and sales perspective.

As of February, NielsenIQ reported TikTok Shop became the12th largest beauty and personal care retailer in the United States. In December last year, the market research firm estimated 81% of TikTok Shop sales were in the health and beauty space, and the top five product categories for sales were facial skincare, supplements, lip cosmetics, perfume and body care.

Given the consequences for beauty brands, the notion that TikTok could be wiped out in the U.S. is huge news in beauty circles. We wanted to understand the beauty industry’s response to it. So, for this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty and wellness, we asked 15 brand founders, executives and social media experts the following: Do you believe the TikTok ban will happen, and how are you planning for a possible ban?

Emily Wagner Founder, Micropause

With an awareness of the political motivations behind the potential TikTok ban, I’m simply going to focus here on the impact for small businesses. As a small business owner, I’m just beginning to explore the creative capabilities of the platform and have yet to leverage it directly for sales. However, I can empathize with brands that are succeeding and thriving on the platform.

In the competitive CPG sector, where marketing and DTC strategies are paramount, TikTok plays a vital role. It's not just about direct sales. TikTok has become a crucial component of a comprehensive marketing strategy, enhancing brand visibility, driving engagement and potentially boosting SEO.

Even if not directly selling on the platform, its creative potential and reach can help amplify brand messaging, foster community engagement and strengthen brand loyalty, all of which are invaluable in today's digital landscape. It's important to recognize that it's not just the brands themselves doing the selling, but also the influencers who create excitement and buzz around them, highlighting the holistic infrastructure that supports success on the platform.

If indeed the ban moves forward, it's possible that new platforms or strategies will emerge, but it will undoubtedly create a challenging transition period for many small businesses who have come to rely on its innovative marketing and engagement opportunities.

Philip Atkins Founder, Phildel Digital

TikTok has been an incredible driver of community engagement, brand discovery and recently with TikTok Shop has been able to unlock social commerce in new ways. We always champion our clients to embrace platform diversification and not put "all their eggs in two baskets."

While we would expect the ban to require agility and quick pivoting of ad dollar allocations, there are emergent platforms and new advertising products from the leading platforms like YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels and campaigns like Meta’s Advantage Plus that are working and indicate scalability. The Flip app, for example, is disrupting social commerce and giving rise to a new generation of content creators, and we are excited to see whats next.

Best practice in today's market is to ensure platform and content diversification. We have actively been testing new campaign formats and technologies to incubate new ways to help customers discover brands and products. We also believe that first-party data is a critical unlock, using audience segments in creative ways to evolve how we reach consumers within the leading platforms like Google and Meta.

Kristina Orlić Co-Founder, Qure Skincare

We are not worried as TikTok is a decent platform for view-through conversions in our industry. If consumers placed a certain amount of their attention today on TikTok, it would just then go to another platform tomorrow. At this time, we do not heavily invest in TikTok, and therefore [a ban] would not interfere with our current growth and social strategy. 

Kelly Donohue Head of Marketing and Design, Viv

We've built our strongest community and seen our business completely transform thanks to TikTok. I'm sure many other brands can relate. So, a potential ban definitely causes a bit of panic.

My initial reaction was to think the ban is not going to happen. There have been so many similar false alarms over the last few years. Multiple times, we've seen creators saying goodbye to their followers one day and then going back to posting like normal the next day. It has certainly created a "boy who cried wolf" situation.

This cycle of TikTok ban threats definitely feels different because there is actual movement in our government. If this bill passes through the Senate and we've already seen Biden say he'll sign it if it crosses his desk, I still don't think it will be the end of TikTok. There is too much opportunity, too many jobs, and to be honest, too much profit to be made to let it fall away.

I foresee an American company or individual like the Elon Musk/Twitter situation buying American TikTok and keeping it alive if it gets to that point. What happens post-purchase will be interesting to see unfold, and I hope it doesn't go the route Twitter has gone!

As a brand, we've been unintentionally preparing for this moment over the last couple years. Our goal has always been longevity over virality and relying on TikTok as a profitable marketing channel isn't always consistent.

Social media is huge for us as we target gen Z and young millennials who live online. We have been pouring more effort into a cohesive social portfolio, with consistent content on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. We try to be among the first to adapt to new channels like Lemon8 or Threads.

It will be interesting to see what dominates if TikTok goes away, but our strategy is to stay nimble and adapt to meet our community where they are.

Colleen Carey Founder, Skin RX  

The business of beauty has gone political and hit the House and Senate floor! Who saw this one coming? In my opinion, the potential ban of TikTok would have a huge impact on the U.S. beauty market and the larger retailers that rely on the app for launching products through influencer marketing and viral campaigns.

This can be a deeply researched and highly budgeted marketing strategy that can take months to years of planning for social media. Larger corporate beauty brands as well as small indie brands rely on TikTok as oftentimes it’s the most effective social media strategy given their audience and consumer.

If the bill is passed, it would prohibit U.S. app stores from allowing TikTok unless it is sold off from parent company, ByteDance, within five months. Given the great amount of sales and profits TikTok brings to many large industries beyond just beauty, I could see an American company buying it out to allow its continued use in the U.S., but without ownership by a Chinese conglomerate. 

I foresee the U.S. government and big business will find a way to keep TikTok alive in a new format or name. There is too much financially at stake if TikTok disappears in the U.S. altogether.

For my skincare brand, Skin Rx, I take the same approach as I do with the stock market or my personal investment portfolio. I diversify. My company's growth and sales strategies always include a variety of outreach funnels, from social media to influencer marketing to Instagram and Meta ads to TikTok and Pinterest posts in addition to always working to improve our website and email outreach to new, returning and potential customers.

Success is not linear. Managing risk is essential across all industries, and it is always a financial expert's opinion to diversify your assets and not "put all your eggs in one basket."

I love to stay on top of current events and market fluctuations. That comes from my experience studying economics and later learning to understand the market is often based on emotion. I'm glad this news about a potential TikTok ban is being so widely addressed at this early stage so we can be prepared if this bill is passed and a ban takes effect. My company will be prepared to move our TikTok eggs into another one of our baskets, so to speak.

I think the big lessons to startup indie brands and large conglomerates as well is to always be prepared because change is inevitable, and we all want the beauty industry to stay strong and keep growing. It's up to the decision makers, CEOs, owners and boards to set in place certain protocol as to not impact thousands of American jobs and take billions of dollars away from so many U.S. industries.

Senator Maria Cantwell, the chair of the Senate committee that has jurisdiction over the issue, is still developing a proposal, which could take weeks or months. My plan and advice are to continue business as usual. At this point there is no guarantee which way this issue will go. So, it might be a disservice to start to disengage from TikTok strategies for business. 

However, it is important for company leadership to start the discussions over how to transition if there is a major change to this platform if a company is highly invested in social media campaigns led by TikTok. An effective leader will be prepared for all situations to best protect their company, employees, profits and overall image.

Nya Jones Founder, Inside Then Out

I don’t believe the platform will actually be banned (I hope), but we're surely keeping an eye on it. We’re not losing sleep over it just yet. As a small brand, we're all about rolling with the punches and staying adaptable. Here's what we're up to in case TikTok does a disappearing act:

  • Mixing it up on social media: We're not putting all our eggs in the TikTok basket. We're spreading our content across Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube—you name it.
  • Keeping our eyes open for new trends: There might be a new platform coming soon that's just as cool as TikTok. We're staying open to fresh opportunities.
  • Focusing on content that lasts: We're whipping up content that's timeless and can be reused across different platforms. That way, we're always in the game no matter what happens.
Micaela Hoo and Dawn Hoo Founders, My July

We believe in diversifying our platforms to reach as many as possible. It’s never wise to put all your eggs in one basket so to speak. Social media is a great tool to gain exposure and foster community. However, it is not reliable.

We put an emphasis on our owned platforms like our newsletter and SMS. If TikTok is banned, we are confident we have built up our community in other places.

Dimitra Davidson President and COO, Indeed Labs, Founder and CEO, pH-In

There has been ongoing discussion about a TikTok ban in the U.S. for the past few years, and if it were to occur, it would undoubtedly bring significant changes for brands, consumers and creators. With over 15 years of experience in this industry, adapting to shifting consumer behaviors has been a constant necessity.

However, I am not worried. Our brand excels at pivoting and adapting, prioritizing the consumer journey above all else. Currently, we are closely monitoring the latest news and ensuring we remain informed about all social platforms as we always do.

Lisa Tanzer CEO, Beacon Wellness Brands

I recognize the significant impact a potential ban on TikTok could have on our business, particularly in consumer discovery and trend-driven categories. TikTok has emerged as a dynamic platform like a modern search engine for consumers, influencing trends and driving purchasing decisions.

For our sexual wellness brand, plusOne, the inability to advertise on TikTok and social media in general presents a unique obstacle. Despite this limitation, our team at Beacon Wellness Brands is proactive in exploring alternative avenues to educate consumers about sexual wellness and plusOne products. Our continued success and position as a leading brand in the category demonstrate our ability to navigate these challenges and maintain our commitment to consumer engagement and education, regardless of platform restrictions.

Our beauty and grooming brands, Plum Beauty and PalmPerfect, actively leverage TikTok and its trend-driven nature to engage with our audience and influence innovation. However, it's important to note that our recent proprietary study on beauty tools revealed that, while TikTok plays a role in consumer purchasing behavior, most consumers still make their purchases based on in-store experiences rather than solely relying on TikTok. 

Our priority remains meeting consumers where they are, whether that's on TikTok or in the aisles of retailers like Walmart. While a potential ban may pose challenges, we are committed to adapting our strategies to continue reaching and engaging our audience effectively. 

In preparation for a potential TikTok ban, Beacon Wellness Brands is continuing to maintain its test and learn strategy across all platforms. We will closely monitor alternative social platforms like Meta, YouTube, Pinterest and the like. We are actively partnering with industry experts and publishers like Katie Couric Media, SheMedia, Sex with Emily, etc., that will remain unaffected.

This proactive approach ensures continuity and resilience in our business operations, allowing us to maintain visibility and engagement with consumers regardless of TikTok's status.

Rita Hazan Founder, Rita Hazan

I am not necessarily worried about TikTok affecting my salon business because it's more led by word of mouth paired with Instagram. TikTok has been a successful platform when it comes to virality with my before-and-afters and how to demonstrate how my products work. It led to discovery and awareness of the products, but it was never a major sales converter. In the case it is banned I’ll redirect and have these video concepts live on Instagram Reels. 

Amir Karam Facial Plastic Surgeon and Founder, KaramMD Skin

In reality, we are not very worried about this ban drastically impacting our business. We’ve taken deliberate steps to cultivate a diversified presence with communities on media platforms like Instagram and YouTube to ensure that we would not be harmed if one channel is impacted.

We plan to watch the legislation decisions closely and evaluate how this may impact our current presence and performance on the platform. We will continue to engage with the community on TikTok as the legislation works its way through Congress, while pursuing growth on additional social media and educational channels to engage with our audience.

Keran Look Joy EVP of Marketing, USRx

TikTok has revolutionized the skincare industry over the last four to five years. There's a real community there that lives and breathes skincare, so the thought of losing that as a Brand is definitely concerning.

Much of our viral success was born from the TikTok skincare community, and today it's our No. 2 social media marketing channel with over 73,000 followers. It's also a strategic part of our efforts to grow and connect with gen Z customers as well as a layer within our performance marketing strategy. 

Today, it's difficult to be fully prepared as the outcome is very uncertain. However, as a brand, you don't want to lose an audience that took years to build.

We have an amazing community of followers on TikTok who love our brand and our products. This is part of our brand equity and we want to stay connected to all of them. Driving our TikTok followers to our No. 1 channel, Instagram, and other social platforms will be a priority over the coming weeks and months. 

Mimi Anderson CMO, Say La V.

In short, yes, we are worried about the implications of a ban on TikTok. As a recently launched vulva skin care brand, Say La V. is on a mission to #sayVulva loud and proud, and the possible ban on a platform like TikTok is yet another roadblock in educating women on body literacy.

In recent years, TikTok has been a unifying platform and educational tool all in one, connecting brands directly to consumers to foster greater relationships and understanding of a brand's value.

In the case of Say La V., which has a mission that goes above and beyond simply selling product, the ban of TikTok means that consumers have less accessibility to information about their bodies. Looking beyond Say La V. and at the greater landscape of women's health, a TikTok ban will continue to set the category back and prevent important conversations around body literacy, wellness and caring for ourselves from happening at all.

As we plan for a possible ban on TikTok, we are forced to look at the strict content moderation on other available social media platforms, which would become the primary avenues for reaching consumers. The Say La V. team stands by the saying that words matter, so we’re intentionally posting videos and images that don’t include misspellings or work arounds of our body parts because we want to #sayVulva.

At the same time, we have multiple content iterations ready to deploy in the event that we experience censorship so we can act quickly and minimize any downtime.  As we continue to generate more buzz with the support of social media partners, we hope to normalize the conversation around women’s health, specifically vulva care, and make saying “vulva wash” as casual as saying “face wash.” A ban on TikTok will certainly slow the spread of our message, but we trust that users will flock to other platforms, and we are ready to meet them there.

It’s difficult to say if there will for sure be a ban on the platform or not, but I have a hard time believing there will be a full out ban. Given the dynamic financial growth for businesses and individuals as a result of the platform’s existence, it would be wild in my opinion for the U.S. to remove it. That said, I do predict it will be a major point of discussion in the future and likely result in TikTok having to make modifications to their business as a whole.

Brands should continue business as usual. Ideally, no brand is putting all of their marketing eggs into one basket. Keep posting across all of your active platforms and make sure your influencer and content strategies are flexible.

Pierre-Loïc Assayag Founder and CEO, Traackr

We can’t know what will happen in the future. TikTok has escaped bans in the past, but each time this issue comes up, there are new factors at play.

Given that the bill just passed in the House and President Biden has publicly supported the bill, this is the first time that a divestiture or ban has actually felt like a real possibility. If a bill like this does advance, ByteDance may find itself in a position where it has to give up trillions of dollars of market value in the U.S.

The best thing brands can do is prepare as if any platform could disappear or change at any time, whether due to a ban or because of rapidly changing algorithms and consumer preferences. Never put all of your eggs in one basket.

While brands can continue to invest in TikTok, savvy marketers are making sure to invest their time, resources and budget across multiple platforms. A few years ago, it was hard to translate TikTok content to other platforms, but now you can cross-promote a TikTok video as an Instagram Reel or YouTube Short.

With talks of TikTok bans reappearing every year or so, advertisers and influencer marketers are thinking more holistically about partners. They are using a broad set of KPIs across social media platforms to determine the best partners for their campaigns who reach the right audience.

Plus, “people follow people,” and it’s backed by data. Traackr’s 2024 U.S. IMPACT report showed that 57% of U.S. consumers said they are somewhat likely to try out a new social platform if an influencer they know and trust posts there. If TikTok is banned, consumers will follow their favorite creators to whatever platform necessary.

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