Known for its catchy music, hashtag challenges, and viral “dances”, compared to other social platforms, TikTok has a unique focus on sound. So much so that — without its “sound-on” nature — TikTok… wouldn’t really be TikTok. It has “music in its DNA.”
So, back in October 2021, the brand took its sound focus to the next level and announced new partnerships with six certified Sound Partners — meant to help users “leverage the unique potential of TikTok's sound-on environment at scale.”
According to research from MRC Data, 68% of users remember brands better when they feature songs that TikTokers like, and 58% say they feel a stronger connection to the brand. Finally, 65% of TikTokers prefer content from brands that features original sound — and this is the specific topic we’ll be exploring in this article.
It’s true, original sound adds a new layer of work and complexity to social media content creation — but in order to capture and hold the attention of users on platforms like TikTok, brands need to be willing to give it a try.
This article will discuss why original sound is so important on TikTok, as well as provide a few examples of brands that have already used original sound to make their marks on the TikTok community. Let’s dive in.
What Is Original Sound, And Why Does It Matter?
“Original sound” is fairly self-explanatory; It’s sound that users haven’t heard before which is unique to a user or brand.
Now, TikTok isn’t necessarily the first place “original sound” has been utilized by brands — just think of all the catchy brand jingles and original songs that brands have commissioned over the years to craft a unique identity. From Oscar Mayer’s earworm jingle to Coca-Cola’s original “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke”, companies have been using musical branding for decades.
These days, some call it bespoke sound, but — either way — the goal of original sound is to allow brands to “show a different side of their personality and share their message in a completely new way.”
And TikTokers definitely want brands to take part in the original sound movement. In fact, MRC Data also found that 61% of TikTokers actually like brands better when they create or participate in a trend on TikTok.
Thus, using original sound to create a trend is a great way for brands to connect with consumers on TikTok, set themselves apart from the competition, and increase their brand awareness on and beyond the platform.
Who Are TikTok’s Sound Partners?
According to TikTok’s October 2021 announcement, it has six Sound Partners with two sub-specialties: Custom Sound and Subscription Sound. Their offered solutions aim to “support a variety of campaign objectives, from building a sonic brand identity to developing an evergreen content strategy for TikTok.”
First, let’s discuss Custom Sound. For this sub-specialty, TikTok has three partners who create bespoke tracks and sound which it describes as follows:
KARM: “A global music production company specializing in custom tracks on TikTok. Made for the TikTok generation, KARM focuses all of their attention on making brand bangers on the platform.”
MassiveMusic: “A global music agency delivering everything a brand needs in the field of music, voice and sound - impactful strategies, sonic brand identities and best-in-class compositions. MassiveMusic creates this and much more thanks to its fervent passion for music combined with craftsmanship and scientific research.”
The Elements Music: “An award-winning, international music and sound agency, specializing in producing REAL RECORDS FOR MEDIA - authentic music for brands that’s crafted with the same attention to detail as records produced for major-label recording artists and feature films.”
These partners are great for brands that want to really invest in their sonic brand identity, as they create customized music and sounds — meaning your brand will be able to set itself apart from the competition with a unique sonic identity.
Of course, these options also require more time, effort, and (very likely) money, but for brands that are looking to create a well-recognized, unique brand identity on TikTok, it’s likely worth it.
Next, there’s the Subscription Sound sub-specialty, which also boasts three partners, described as follows:
Epidemic Sound: “The leading music destination for content creators and brands globally. Millions of storytellers turn to Epidemic for high-quality music and sound effects.”
Songtradr: “The fastest-growing B2B music platform in the world – enabling creators and brands to discover fresh music that helps content perform better.”
UnitedMasters: “UnitedMasters is an independent music platform that gives creators access to premium music distribution services, a suite of tools to help directly connect with their fans, and opportunities to partner with major brands. UnitedMasters takes the guesswork out of culture for brands, offering custom music solutions, curated sync licensing, and artist activations with breaking artists.”
Offering monthly, yearly, or project-based licensing plans, the Subscription Sound options allow brands to tap into the power of popular, copyrighted music — while ensuring everything is done legally. After all, what’s the point of using a song or sound in your video if it gets taken down or muted for copyright infringement?
These options are a good fit for brands that are looking to build an identity on TikTok but perhaps aren’t yet ready to be creating custom sounds.
3 Brands That Have Leveraged The Power of Original Sound
Now, let’s discuss a few brands that have already used original sound on TikTok to foster a unique sonic identity and make a name for themselves.
1. e.l.f Cosmetics + iLL Wayno & Holla FyeSixWun, “Eyes. Lips. Face.”
Perhaps the first original song commissioned by a brand for a TikTok campaign, “Eyes. Lips. Face.” by iLL Wayno & Holla FyeSixWun has been an absolute smash hit. In fact, since 2019, the hashtag #eyeslipsface currently has 9.6 billion views on TikTok!
In addition to sourcing an original song for the campaign, e.l.f. also got a few notable influencers on board to kick it off, such as James Charles and Brittany Broski. This approach allowed the brand to get the campaign trending much faster than if it has been completely organic — and since it was still early days for original sound, it makes sense.
Overall, the campaign’s success was really no surprise, as e.l.f. was an early pioneer in the TikTok branding space.
In fact, e.l.f.’s Vice President of Brand, Gayatri Budhraja, stated that the brand has been using TikTok as a venue to launch marketing campaigns for years — and was surprised by the fact that more brands weren’t using the platform to create content.
Today, the brand continues to use the original song in most of its TikTok videos, as it’s become an anthem of sorts. Easily recognizable and super catchy, e.l.f.’s song managed to spearhead the original sound movement and other brands have been following suit!
2. Pizza Hut + Jon Moss, “Pizza Hut DSP”
In order to celebrate the return of its Detroit-Syle pizza this September, Pizza Hut has teamed up with TikToker @jonmosslol to create an original song, entitled “Pizza Hut DSP”.
According to an article on Cision, for Jon, “creating a tune proclaiming his love for Pizza Hut came naturally as he has been a loyal brand fan since he was younger with Detroit-Style Pizza being one of his favorite new menu items, and Detroit being a historically innovative music city.”
Jon, who had 6.9 million followers on TikTok, shared:
“Pizza Hut has always been my go-to pizza, so with the success of my ‘Pizza Hut’ character from TikTok, and the new Detroit-Style pizza, I knew I had to write the Pizza Hut Anthem to celebrate it coming back.
“As my mascot grew in popularity, I wanted to create something that would bring Pizza Hut and fans together in a fun, upbeat way. Because after all, No One OutPizzas The Hut."
Pizza Hut’s collaboration with Jon makes a lot of sense — as he had already gained popularity for his “Pizza Hut” mascot character on the platform and was known for being a talented musician and performer.
By commissioning an original song from Jon for specific use on TikTok, Pizza Hut is using original sound in an effective, cutting-edge way. Not only will this collaboration increase awareness around the return of the Detroit-Style Pizza, but it will also help the brand build a larger following and better connect with TikTokers.
3. McDonald's + TisaKorean, “Static”
Mcdonald's is another brand that has leaned into the power of original sound and recently collaborated with TikToker @tisakorean to “create an original beat celebrating the Sprite dispensed by the chain’s fountain machines”, called “Static”.
According to Marketing Dive, the song, which dropped on August 30th, is “meant to reflect what over a thousand consumers on social media say McDonald’s Sprite tastes like — static. The artist uses the sound as inspiration, and layers it with a hip-hop beat.”
TisaKorean, who is known for his “dance rap” image and has over 500,000 followers on TikTok, was charged with making the original song for McDonald’s — as “creating a beat that can be used on Instagram and TikTok could further bolster the trend and help the chain build awareness with Gen Z and millennials.”
Thanks to the above-mentioned research, we know that young consumers who frequent TikTok love it when brands create original sound and music — as they find it easier to connect with them.
Therefore, Mcdonald's was smart to join forces with a TikToker who already has his own loyal following and to promote the collaboration by encouraging users to tag #McDonaldsStaticSprite on social media platforms.
Tapping into the power of original sound on TikTok could make it possible for brands to make their mark on the fast-paced social media platform. By creating a unique sonic brand identity, companies can carve out their niche on the platform and increase their brand awareness with users.
Of course, not every brand has the time, resources, or desire to create original sound — but if making it big on TikTok is a brand goal, then you’d be smart to look into the platform’s Sound Partner offerings to see what you could leverage to build your brand.