April 30, 2024
Media Buying

Popular TikTok Trends UA: Horror story of our video blowing up through a trend

minutes read

Context: We own 22 apps (subscription based + ad revenue) on the App Store and spend aggressively on TikTok, Applovin & more.

We produced more than 100k videos in the last 12 months and here’s what we’ve learned:

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About the author

More than a decade in the mobile app & ad-tech industry, Alexei Chemenda is the CEO of Poolday.ai and founder of Skaalx (mobile app studio, 20+ apps). His team created and scaled 20 apps, 100k+ video ads for TikTok UA for apps in 2023 and is obsessed with creative iterations. Alexei has overseen more than $100 million in performance marketing spend with most gaming leaders in the mobile app space.

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Mobile apps are eagerly tapping into TikTok trends for marketing, but they encounter both opportunities and challenges. This article looks at some real stories of wins and flops from our own apps, and offers practical advice on how to effectively use these trends in your campaigns.

What’s a TikTok trend?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a trend in the context of a topic occurs when something becomes "the subject of many posts on a social media site or application within a short period of time." On TikTok, this could manifest as a popular dance (e.g., Renegade), a trending word or phrase (such as "living rent-free"), storytime, challenge video, or even an AI concept (like the Priceless Pancake concept, which we'll delve into shortly).

To simplify, imagine someone starts describing something they saw on TikTok, and within the first three words of their sentence, you instantly grasp what they're referring to. Even if you've never encountered it before and don't share the same TikTok account, that specific subject has gained such widespread popularity on the platform that it's recognized as a trend.

TikTok's algorithm is like the ultimate matchmaker, always serving up content that's just right for each user's tastes and preferences. It's the secret sauce behind the app's success, fueling a constantly evolving and inventive community. Whether it's a trend sparked by a popular influencer or bubbling up from the grassroots, TikTok trends have a knack for spreading like wildfire, drawing in millions eager to put their own creative twist on the latest craze.

How to create videos as part of a TikTok trend

Creating videos based on TikTok trends depends on various factors, such as whether you're running a specific brand campaign or aiming to be an early adopter versus riding the hype wave. It also hinges on whether you're aiming to generate traffic or drive conversions to your app (coming soon). For now, let's simplify things. There's a four step process that can guide you:

  1. Research: 

Spend time scrolling through TikTok or use the search bar to find "popular trends." TikTok also offers a "trending now" section within the app to keep you updated. For a data-driven approach, consider platforms like Pipi ads to see how competitors incorporate trends into their videos.

  1. Avoid Making It Look Like an Ad: 

While you're creating an ad based on a trend, it shouldn't scream "advertising." Instead, craft a script that playfully taps into a sentiment everyone can relate to. For instance, if you're promoting "Candy Crush," you wouldn't start a trend like the "Hamster trend" with "when you're addicted to Candy Crush for hours." Instead, focus on the sentiment of "addiction" and rephrase it to something like "when your finger starts cramping but your dad always said 'no pain, no gain.'"

  1. Embrace Imperfection: 

Trends thrive on being scrappy and humorous, so don't overdo it with editing, lighting, and sound effects. Utilize tools like CapCut or TikTok's in-app templates to keep your rendition of the trend simple.

  1. Find Inspiration: 

Analyze trend videos with over 500k views and observe their language and style. Adapt a few words and animations to align with your app if you're uncertain how to integrate your brand. By making small adjustments to a popular ad, you increase its chances of resonating with your audience.

Incorporating TikTok Trends into Testing

Incorporating TikTok trends into testing is not only efficient but also highly impactful. Harnessing TikTok's trends for marketing purposes requires minimal energy with maximum results. Take, for example, the strategy of testing variants within a trend like the "Priceless Pancake." Instead of laboring over countless ChatGPT pictures (DALL-E will also cap you at ~50 images/day) and exhaustive scripts, streamline your efforts by starting with a single video as your base. From there, create six variants by only changing the first image. Recognizing the importance of the first three seconds on TikTok, testing multiple variants within one ad group enables you to pinpoint which introduction resonates most effectively with your audience—or if any resonate at all. 

Example: Change ONLY one word, and the FIRST picture, and keep the rest of the video entirely the same to test which “hook” holds your audience.


The Impact of TikTok Trends on Performance Advertising

 A TikTok trend has the potential to disrupt your user acquisition (UA) strategy significantly. If approached as a one-off campaign, it may seem appealing, offering a surge in app installs at reduced costs. However, when viewed within the framework of cumulative UA efforts aimed at sustainable growth, trends can prove to be a mixed bag. While they may initially address certain challenges, they can also create unforeseen obstacles, as we discovered in our own experience. Below, we address the upsides and downsides to TikTok trends.

Upsides of TikTok trend

There are two main strengths to leveraging TikTok trends:

  • Enhanced discoverability: 

Following a trend offers an avenue for free exposure, as the TikTok audience is intrigued by diverse interpretations of popular trends. This results in lower costs per impression, click, and install (CPMs, CPCs, and CPIs), with the potential for your video to rapidly accumulate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of views.

  • Abundance of creative opportunities: 

With new trends emerging weekly, you have a vast array of options to choose from. This constant influx ensures that you never hit a creative roadblock, allowing you to continuously innovate and experiment with different trends.

Downsides of TikTok trend

Let’s unpack the impact on our app studio. A video for one of our apps blew up, amassing over 10m+ views (organically). However, the audience was absolutely not qualified for our subscription, evident in the surge of installs following the video’s popularity. Although some viewers converted to installs, analyzing user cohorts became challenging, leading to a drop in our overall conversion rate from install to subscription. Of course since bad news never comes alone, we had released a new version of the paywall at scale and had no clear idea what the drop in subscription rate was due to. Moreover, these non-ideal users not only refrained from purchasing but also left negative reviews on the app store. Eventually, we cut the video (in hindsight that should have been done sooner, but we didn’t identify that video as a problem and pointed towards the new paywall).

Another downside is that trends are not evergreen - once you find a trend, you build videos on top of it but as soon as the trend becomes a fad, so does your strategy. At this juncture, you can try to chase a new trend, but there’s no assurance of replicating the success of another trend video on the same scale.This necessitates constant adaptation, and keeping a close eye on the performance of your video every day.

Learn More: Overcoming Tiktok Creative Fatigue: Strategies for Maintaining Spend and Performance High

Top TikTok Trends for Business Marketing (Examples) 

The effectiveness of trend-based ads varies depending on factors like your app's niche (like fintech, gaming, or beauty) and who you're targeting. Each sector draws in different demographics with their own interests, affecting how they interact with trends on platforms like TikTok. Knowing your app's sector and audience helps you customize trend-based ads for better results. For instance, we've experimented with various trends that have significantly boosted traffic to our apps or led to cost-effective installs.

Here are a few examples: 

Example 1: 


Example 2:

  1. Trend Name: Hamster Trend
  2. App We Tested: Gaming App
  3. First and Last Prompts: 


Example 3:

  1. Trend Name: Hamster Trend
  2. App We Tested: Gaming App
  3. First and Last Prompts: 

Recall the "Avoid Making It Look Like an Ad" tip mentioned earlier when crafting your trend videos. Utilize trends without overly promoting your app directly to the viewer.

Learn More: 9x ROAS using hook swapping: Insights from 100k+ videos tested using AI actors


Our journey with TikTok trends underscores a vital lesson: specificity is key. By tailoring trend content to resonate directly with your audience through the hook [aka first three seconds] if your video , you’ll have better luck with targeting using the trend video. Our initial misstep lay in crafting a trend video that lacked this targeted approach, resulting in a loss of control over audience targeting as the video organically gained traction.. While such trends can be amazing for branding efforts, offering expansive reach, they present formidable challenges for performance-driven marketers like us, relentlessly pursuing ROI and CPA optimization. The unpredictability and added effort of pursuing trends can be daunting, unless the trend has broad appeal, where every viewer counts. Moving ahead, we'll infuse our trend efforts with insights gained from our past experiences, as outlined in our approach to creating TikTok trends. This will ensure that each video becomes a powerful asset in our advertising endeavors.

About us:

Poolday.ai is a self-serve platform enabling performance marketers to generate videos in any language and style instantly using our AI actors. Rapidly A/B test anything alongside existing gameplay recordings to produce a wide range of video styles — from green screen to floating heads, to organic looks—comparable to what real content creators make.

Increase ROI on user acquisition and boost operational efficiency by cutting out the need to coordinate with content creators, giving marketers complete control over the script and style of the video.

About the author

More than a decade in the mobile app & ad-tech industry, Alexei Chemenda is the CEO of Poolday.ai and founder of Skaalx (mobile app studio, 20+ apps). His team created and scaled 20 apps, 100k+ video ads for TikTok UA for apps in 2023 and is obsessed with creative iterations. Alexei has overseen more than $100 million in performance marketing spend with most gaming leaders in the mobile app space.

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