Short video apps: Jostling for fame, searching for identity

Guest Column: Vigyan Verma, Founder, The Bottom Line (Brand Impact Solutions) writes on the TikTok ban and how it has affected the short video app category

e4m by Vigyan Verma
Updated: Aug 13, 2020 5:00 PM

The ban on TikTok in India has opened up opportunities for a slew of brands to get even bigger - Roposo, Chingari, Mitron and the list is growing. Gaana Hotshots, MX Player TakaTak and Instagram Reels are some of the other apps that have got into the now crowded short video app category.

Most of these apps contain videos that feature dancing to popular tracks, lip-syncing, performing pranks, jokes and creating a duet with another performer. As these apps are still in the early stages, there isn’t yet a clear focus on the type of content that’s being sought for each of the app. Is there an opportunity to segment the short video app space? Before we examine that, it may help to step back and comprehend the phenomenon of TikTok. After all, these new apps are trying to fill in the void created by its exit.

While Facebook got positioned as the stepping stone for the urban masses to get on to social media, Instagram entrenched itself as the vista to showcase one’s curated sensibilities - be it food, fashion or photography. Till the emergence of TikTok and the likes, social media as a platform of creative expression was largely beyond the reckoning of Indian hinterland.

TikTok lowered the guardrails and became the inclusive platform that gave a voice and more importantly a face to millions in small town India, those who had thus far felt largely ignored by the evolving social media landscape. Suddenly, there was a platform that made them feel belonged where they could showcase their talents in the rawest form without a need to apply a glossy filter over their plebian lives. One must also recognize the role of Reliance Jio as a force multiplier through its affordable internet data tariff plans on mobile phones. By the time TikTok was launched in India in August 2018, Jio had penetrated well into the Tier 2 and 3 markets. It took about a year for TikTok to become the buzzing consumer engagement platform with brands like Pepsi, Puma, SBI, Clean & Clear coming on board, a far cry from its lowbrow existence initially in India.

Interestingly, the TikTok personality (raw, small town expression of confidence) that it engendered in India in the early stages was unique to Indian market. In United States for instance, TikTok is a Gen Z brand that has had tremendous traction with the mainstream audiences.

The pertinent question to ask is that while creators are adopting these new video platforms of their own volition, are these apps doing enough to carve a positioning for themselves. Being defined as an Indian app was a useful plank as long as the Chinese apps existed. After the Chinese apps were outlawed, Indianness in itself isn’t a good enough or sustainable positioning platform. There has to be something more. A few brands are making a start for sure. For instance, Roposo defines itself as a culturally sensitive Indian platform that has content that’s shareable with family. Chingari talks of it being the platform for creators to express themselves. If quirkiness defined TikTok then are the brands which are jockeying to fill in the vacated space losing the edginess by trying to be universally acceptable. The KPI or measure for the apps to be seen as leaders in this category can be purely based on the number of downloads and the number of content creators of a particular app. However, with the category getting cluttered with a large number of players, app brands should craft the personality of their brands and thereby attract relevant content creators and partner brands who may want to use these platforms for Marketing purposes.

Can these app brands look at owning one of the following platforms? Or, at least be best known for.

  1. Music/dance based (lip-synced)-can be further segmented to urban Indian and Bharat.
  2. Comedy videos
  3. Pranks
  4. Daredevilry
  5. Hashtag challenge based
  6. Family friendly content.

As with any such decisions, while the upside is the sharp positioning it provides, the universe at play becoming much smaller is the downside. Even then, think of the clarity it can give to content creators to gravitate towards the relevant short video content app. As also, the lucidity it can offer to the brand custodians of say Myntra, Mentos, Kurkure, Thums Up, Byjus or Amazon Prime.

While we are at it, how does one look at a possible coming together of Microsoft and TikTok in the United States and may be India as well, two brands that are seemingly from different worlds. One-innovative, suave and professional, and the other- quirky, irreverent and playful. Can there be a sweet spot that doesn’t compromise the integrity of either one? That’s quite something to watch out for.

The author is Vigyan Verma - Founder, The Bottom Line (Brand Impact Solutions).

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of   

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