Can You Build an Actual Brand on TikTok?

I admit I fall into a subsection of the culture that is skeptical (at best) of TikTok and the way brands are getting built there. I know companies are selling a lot of stuff. But, are they building actual brands? You know: Where the name has equity, and creates preference and good will in the minds of consumers, enable product innovation, extensions and pricing favorability.

I’m a fan of brands that are designed to last: Brands with a goal to be around in 50 years, with a strong company culture as a foundation, delivering high integrity products, serving an actual need, and a focus on contributing more than “net profit “good deals, great prices” to the community where they work. This sort of brand building takes time, commitment beyond ROI, and faith that consumers will become fans and eventually loyal customers.

I’ve recently started buying GoMacro Bars as I ramp up my training for some summer bike rides. The bars are great food for when I’m on the bike and need something to fuel the next two hours of riding. And, the bars are great pre-ride food to get me ready ahead of the training effort.

GoMacro is growing in a really competitive space: Nutrition Bars. The “job to be done” for this product is two fold: High integrity (good nutrition profile, high quality ingredients, great taste) snack, and a trusted/quality energy bar for workouts. The space is very crowded with Mega brands (like Nature Valley and Kind bars) and a lot of specialty bars with both functional benefits (allergen free, vegan, organic, sustainable, diet-specific, etc) and great taste. 

So, if you want to succeed over the long haul you need to be great on the product, but you also need a differentiated way to communicate your brand, your story and your product information.

Tell the Origin Story

GoMaco does a great job of telling their story via Instagram and their site. It’s a cool backgrounder on where the product came from and the company’s reason for being in business.

GoMacro’s origin story is heartwarming and compelling. A mom with a  cancer diagnosis, a mother-daughter duo creating a plan to use food for health, a company from a small town in rolling farmland of Wisconsin. The roots of the company are woven through their product development, their marketing and the way they interact with their community.

But, the story is not getting told in any of their TikTok. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to tell complex stories in Reels and TikToks? Does the slow music, soft focus, considerate pace get dropped by the algorithm? Or, is it just a mismatch between editorial intent (tell a meaningful story) and the point of the platform (stop/watch time)?

Values-driven Point of View

The values that drive the company and their efforts are woven through their marketing efforts and embodied in their product choices, with a focus on Ingredients with Integrity:

  • plant-based
  • Organic
  • Beneficial
  • No additives and preservatives

GoMacro does a pretty good job of communicating the product differentiation across their social channels, including TikTok. I mean, who doesn’t love to see organic peanut butter chips getting made (though “homemade” sort of stretches it a bit). This seems like a good match between the format and the content and the editorial intent.


Our organic homemade peanut butter chips give MacroBars a little extra love. 🤤 #howitsmade #bts #peanutbutter #gomacro #fyp

♬ original sound – GoMacro

We recently visited our brown rice supplier. 🌾 #gomacro #texas #rice #organic #howitsmade

♬ original sound – GoMacro

Commitments in Action

The company brings their commitments to life across a number of interests on their other social platforms and website:

  • The rural lifestyle / farming as meaningful,  vital work
  • An active, outdoor lifestyle of motion and wellness
  • Food as a pathway to wellness and health

Their TikTok is filled with videos of the product being used out in nature, while being active, etc.


This is your reminder to stop and smell the flowers… and eat a MacroBar. 💐🍫 @arisayoon #earthday #traveltiktok #outfitinspo #gomacro #ecofriendly

♬ original sound – GoMacro

Community Connections

The company is actively supporting the communities where there are shared values. They do this through active investment and flowing dollars to relevant programs. These deep connections are getting communicated well on their site, on instagram and on YouTube, but they aren’t showing up as much on TikTok. These sorts of stories probably don’t really drive dwell/watch time, the way other, more platform-friendly content does.

Reflect the Best Aspirations of Your Buyers

Great brands are aspirational. That is, they reflect the best aspirations of who the consumers want to be. Consumers see themselves, at their best, in the brand. The brand does use TikTok to reflect their buyer. Or, at least their desired buyer: Young, active, “greenish” buyers who are investing their food dollars as self-care. FWIW, there are no images of dads on bikes anywhere to be found (Perhaps an untapped, unknown audience for them?)

While they are running a pretty straightforward ambassador program, it’s a good start to demonstrate shared interests and support for the lifestyle aligned with the brand. But, it’s not clear how those ambassadors are being used within brand content, but the brand shows up a ton elsewhere, paid and unpaid.


I’m back in LA! Showing you what I eat in a day, vegan edition 🥒🍣🍜✨ #gomacro #biggerthanabar #whatieatinaday #vegan

♬ Jazz – Aylior

It’s a Vibe, but I’m not a Platform Native

I’m not a heavy enough user of TikTok to have deep, intuitive sense of how brands are effectively using the native content to build the brand. It’s one thing to shoot for virality (#donotattempt). But, in terms of building your brand equity, the best practices are still sort of emerging. My gut instinct is that the “vibe” is the thing and in order to deliver on that, you’ve got to be deeply fluent on the platform. The GoMacro team seems to deliver.

Are You A Strong Node?

After around 15 years of advocating for the embrace of "Digital Marketing", we're in the early stages of being advocates for embracing marketing for a digital world. I first heard this from Mark Comerford, but like all truisms, i feel like i had heard it before. It's a nice verbal flip, of course, but it's also true: "Digital Marketing" as a separate, distinct category for marketing needs to go away, and in it's place we need to simply be marketers to people who are connected digitally across so many devices, applications, networks, and touchpoints. That is, all marketing is or should be "digital" marketing.

But, Commerford actually makes a point of distinguishing between the word "digital" and "networked", preferring "networked", presumably, because it implies what happens (we get networked to each other) instead of how (via digital means). All of us digital marketers have spent so much time talking about the "how" of digital marketing – all our jargon, our easy comparisons with traditional, our smug satisfaction about being on trend – that we haven't paid enough attention to what's really going to happen when all this stuff takes hold. More importantly, we're not spending enough time understanding how *our* behavior should change when we're all networked.

Those of us who have been around for a while owe it to others to be at our best, to ensure they're benefiting from our experience and knowledge. It's democratic, maybe a little socialistic, but we have to ensure we are acting like modern leaders connecting our peers together to ensure the effect is bigger than the sum of the parts. The best outcome for the best marketers, i would argue, is becoming a strong node in a network of likeminded marketers. We need to connect the players into the hard lessons we all learned. So, the question is, are you a strong node? Here are the questions to ask yourself: 

Are you a connector? Do you work hard to make new connections to other marketers, learning from them and connecting your friends to others who could benefit from the relationship? Are you bringing new folks and new ideas into the conversation? 

Are you a repeater? Do you take the signal your hearing – the message, the content – and clean it up  so it can be passed along effectively? Do you make sure the flow of knowledge and info is going on to the next user on the network? Are you passing it along and getting it to the right person? 

Are you communicating in a common protocol? Are you using weird jargon (um, like "Strong node") or are you focused on keeping the messaging as simple as possible. A common language helps info flow faster and makes it easier for new participants to find their way. 

Are you a Hub? Are you enabling others to plug into the flow of knowledge you're seeing? Do you make it easy for new folks to get connected?

Are you a router? Do you break the complex stuff into easy to understand, easily simplified "packets" so the knowledge can flow easier? A good router will ensure the most pertinent info gets to the right node as efficiently as possible. It could be as simple as forwarding an email, or as involved as introducing one marketer to another.  

Are you adding value? Whether its ensuring a good signal/noise ration, volunteering to be a hub, router or access point, there are many ways a good marketer can help drive some larger, pursuit-driven objects. But, it all starts with learning ways to ensure the rest of the nodes refers to you. 

Do you create Bufferbloat? Do hold onto the information you have? Do you obfuscate, complexify, or otherwise mystify those you are communicating with? Then, you're creating bufferbloat: You're holding information back, and preventing it from moving efficiently through the system

When the evolution goes well, we all end up better for our effort. That's the network effect in action. When it's NOT done well, it's a broken network that doesn't generate strength.