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Will Government scrutiny impact TikTok’s brand equity?

TikTok, the social media video app from Chinese tech company Bytedance, is under the radar of the Indian Government yet again. In the last one quarter, this is the second time when TikTok has come under the scrutiny of the authorities for content generated on the platform. This time, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a political and cultural organisation which is also an affiliate of the RSS, has alleged that TikTok has been misused for anti-national and pornographic content. The Ministry of Electronics and IT has issued a set of 24 questions to the Chinese social media app, and mentioned that the app could face a ban in this market if it is not able to answer these questions.

Also read: TikTok faces ban again; Helo, too, under Government scanner

Interestingly, after the first ban was lifted, TikTok had done two big campaigns with Pepsico, which engaged millions of millennials and gave a high engagement rate. It remains to be seen how the social media app responds to the latest challenge.

Brands on TikTok

It is never an easy decision for a brand manager to add a platform to his media plan that runs the risk of diluting the brand equity by associating with it. Brands like PepsiCo, Spotify and Club Factory advertise on TikTok. However, these brands will not want to be associated with content that is anti-national or pornographic in nature.

As Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEO, Mirum India, pointed out, “Brand safety can potentially be threatened for brands that advertise on TikTok. If the advertisement is associated with a video that is anti-national or negative in nature, no brand would like that. Secondly, the mood of the Government which is anti-TikTok, especially because of the kind of content that keeps showing up on the platform. TikTok hasn’t been able to ensure that the standards are maintained, which might result in the brands, too, receiving pressure from the Government.”

Influencers on TikTok

TikTok has a user base of over 200 million people and has become a platform of new age influencers the world has never been introduced to before. With the platform’s integrity and content under speculation, the influencers, too, fall in the radar.

Sahil Chopra, Founder - CEO, iCubesWire, remarked, “Influencers would definitely be affected, because a lot of names who couldn’t make a name for themselves on other platforms have certainly made a name for themselves on TikTok. If moderations come into play, they too will definitely be affected. These guidelines will have a direct impact on the influencers.”

When it comes to users of the platform, it seems that they will be least affected as there is no shortage of similar platforms of short form video content. Though TikTok has a large presence, in the world of trends there is always the next big thing. Users will not find it difficult to jump onto something else.

Chopra goes on to say that “Although the entire eco-system of TikTok will be affected, users who consume the content are at the end of the funnel and will be least affected. People who are on TikTok must be already present on other similar platforms and will find it easy to switch from one to another.”

Along similar lines, Mehta opined, “I don’t think it will affect the users really. It is very easy for people to move on to the next thing. It’s not like a Facebook or Twitter, where the user himself has created a massive network. People can very easily move on to another content consumption platform.”

If TikTok finally regulates its content or even gets banned, it is the brands and influencers that will be affected the most. However, users will keep consuming content, given the plethora of platforms available to view content on. It remains to be seen how TikTok handles the current situation with Indian Government.

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