TikTok:The Pink Stuff, an abrasive cleaning product for hard surfaces, had been doing “absolutely nothing for 15 years,” according to Henrik Pade, managing director at its parent business, Star Brands, based in the United Kingdom. Cleaning influencers on Instagram and YouTube helped it gain traction in 2017. The company began engaging in social promotion after selling the majority of its cleaning goods through domestic brick-and-mortar grocery stores.
According to Mr. Pade. “It happened, and we began to investigate.” Videos of individuals cleaning kitchens, bathrooms, and off-label things such as shoes and automobile wheels with the Pink Stuff have received over 250 million views in less than a year.
Mr. Pade claims that three years ago, sales of the paste totaled roughly 2 million pounds, or $2.6 million. They exceeded 25 million pounds, or $34 million, in sales last year, accounting for half of the company’s entire revenues. “In the United Kingdom, it has gone from being a specialist product to being widely stocked in retailers,” including the country’s main supermarket chains, which still account for the vast majority of its domestic sales, according to Mr. Pade. However, in the United States, sales are 85 percent online, primarily through Amazon, thanks in large part to TikTok.
Stories like this suggest, with some credence, that anything may become the next big thing on TikTok. The app that always tells you what to watch next and isn’t afraid to tell you what to buy next. However, its version of purchasing is noticeably shaky, with a large reliance on Amazon, where artists seek for viral gold and users follow. To an international tech conglomerate, this may appear to be untapped potential.
TikTok’s recent efforts to become a one-stop shopping destination, such as brand shops, could be interpreted as an attempt by TikTok to catch up. Some, on the other hand, have hinted at a desire to transform TikTok into something even more independent and commerce-focused, following in the footsteps of TikTok’s Chinese sister app, Douyin, which has over 600 million users. On Douyin, brands and consumers may already sell and buy things without leaving the app, and they can do so by the million. It has its own payment system and has begun to take market share away from China’s e-commerce behemoths, which it has expressly named as competitors.
Whether “an end-to-end buying experience,” as Mr. Irigoyen characterised earlier this week, is ultimately what people want from their social places remains an unresolved question: Perhaps the shameless consumerism of #TikTokMadeMeBuy is to blame. It is only bearable to the extent that it appears natural. Or maybe TikTok is different. It’s a platform that has never pretended to be anything other than a machine for creating and monetizing virality, and it has never shied away from telling us what it wants us to do next. What, after all, do we stand to lose if it becomes a mall? Even while we appreciate it, the finest of the rest of TikTok feels transitory – that was always part of the thrill.