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How TikTok is redefining search, and how one brand took notice

You can’t overstate the importance of SEO for businesses. All businesses want online visibility, and search engine optimisation is how you get there. 

For years, the SE in SEO has been used as a kind of shorthand for Google.

But now new search paradigms are threatening to knock the classic Google results page off its perch.

After years of fairly static Google search dominance, generative AI, voice search, and the growth of visual and video search are starting to cause real waves in the way we search online.

And as the way we search online changes, the way we think about SEO needs to evolve too. 

One brand who recently served a masterclass in responding to search trends is Olaplex

Their recent Oladupé campaign gave a nod and wink to the staggering numbers using TikTok as a search tool, redefining what it means to engage in consumer trends and optimise for search.

The rise of TikTok as a search engine

One of the most striking developments in search in recent years is the great numbers of young people now using TikTok as a search engine.

Young audiences don’t just see it as an entertainment program but view TikTok as a genuine competitor to established search engines.

Research from Adobe indicated that 64% of Gen Zers and at least 2 in 5 Americans use TikTok as a search engine, and nearly 1 in 10 Gen Zers are more likely to rely on TikTok than Google as a search engine.

The 30 million search term

One business who understands the power of TikTok search is Olaplex, who cleverly drew from TikTok search trends to launch their ‘Oladupé campaign.

Olaplex created a completely new category of haircare when it launched in 2014 its bond-building formula for hair. 

As its product range and direct to consumer line has grown, interest in the innovative hair brand and its patented bond multiplying technologies has persisted. 

Last year, more than 30 million TikTok users were hunting for Olaplex ‘dupes’. TikTok has become a huge force for identifying ‘dupes’ of luxury products. While some quarters have celebrated affordable trends, dupe ‘culture’ has also attracted condemnation for funding ultra fast fashion and imitation products. 

Introducing Oladupé

With #Olaplexdupe trending, the brand’s marketing team took note.

They launched a campaign around their new product Oladupe No.160, which tapped into existing search trends, with the tagline “The only genuine Olaplex dupe”.

They collaborated with over 100 influencers to build a buzz around the product.

The twist? The product was completely fictitious. 

The first 160 people to register at Oladupe.com were sent a free bottle.

In unboxing videos the Olaplex 160 labels peeled off to reveal… a standard Olaplex 03 bottle. 

“You got duped!” the updated Oladupe website page told shoppers, explaining the joke. 

The 160 referred to the impressive 160 patents which made the science-driven beauty brand “undupable”. With the joke explained, shoppers were offered a 20% discount and a cheeky reminder why the original formula was not something you could imitate. 

"This campaign tapped into the cultural zeitgeist, meeting consumers where they are and playfully educating them on the one-of-a-kind and proven repair and strengthening benefits of our bond-building technology, which cannot be copied or duped,” JuE Wong, Chief Executive Officer of Olaplex, explained in a press statement.

The takeaway

There was already no doubt of the importance of TikTok for marketing beauty brands, but the Oladupé campaign highlights the power of seeing TikTok trends for what they are, powerful search terms. 

Olaplex’s brand was already enjoying enormous popularity when they launched this campaign, but their marketing efforts demonstrated aptly how a brand can use social listening tools to inform campaigns and ensure their brand’s enduring relevance.

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