What is a TikTok hashtag challenge vs a Branded Hashtag Challenge?

Learn the difference between the two, why you should use them, and how to create your own TikTok challenges.
TikTok hashtag challenge vs Branded Hashtag Challenge

TikTok without hashtags is like Instagram without carousel posts.

Hashtags are crucial to the TikTok experience and allow users to find new videos, join trending conversations, build and connect with communities and brands based on their interests, and help TikTok deliver relevant content to users’ FYP. 

Hashtags on TikTok are also powerful tools for brands when used in collaboration with a TikTok challenge. ‘Hashtag challenges’ and ‘Branded Hashtag Challenges’ are two ways brands can form deeper connections with customers, and encourage consumers to actively engage with your brand.

In this article, we’re breaking down the basic differences between the two, why it’s worth investing in a Branded Hashtag Challenge, and best practice tips on creating your own TikTok challenge.


Book your ride within minutes with ekar, the Middle East’s first and largest personal mobility company!#ItsYourRoad #ekar @ekar Mobility Market

♬ original sound – NawfaNurie

Ekar’s #ItsYourRoad

What is a hashtag challenge?

Remember the #SilhouetteChallenge or #BlindingLightsChallenge? These organic TikTok challenges are called ‘hashtag challenges’. They are typically a fun, engaging, and viral challenge that has a specific hashtag attached to it so users can easily join in on the trending conversation. A hashtag challenge could be anything from a simple dance routine to a creative makeup look.

When a user participates in a hashtag challenge, they create their own version and share it with their audience, making sure they add the challenge’s hashtag to their caption. This ensures their take on the challenge is linked to the hashtag’s feed and boosts their chances of landing on the FYP of those who are heavily engaged with the hashtag.

Hashtag challenges are usually started by popular creators on the platform, and organically gain traction which eventually leads to a viral TikTok challenge.

What is a Branded Hashtag Challenge?

When a brand sponsors or puts money behind a hashtag challenge, it’s called a Branded Hashtag Challenge (BHC). Being one of TikTok’s many ad options, brands can leverage BHC’s as an effective TikTok campaign that’s guaranteed to show up on TikTok’s Discover page. 

When a user clicks on a Branded Hashtag, they’re taken to a landing page on TikTok with the brand’s logo, link to their website, a description of the challenge, and all the videos using that hashtag.

Brands will typically come up with their own BHC and partner with creators to further spread awareness, engagement, and participation.


#ad My brain everyday at work 🏝 #drumstickripintosummer #ad @drumstickaustralia

♬ Boy Bounce – Brent Matautia

Drumstick Australia’s #DrumstickRipIntoSummer 

Why consider investing in a Branded Hashtag Challenge?

Having the ability to drive consumers to a landing page makes BHC’s a powerful conversion tool for brands. And although it’s sponsored, the nature of a challenge feels authentic to TikTok, and therefore a BHC can generate these powerful results for your brand.

Spark mass UGC

In the words of TikTok, “BHC’s turn consumers from passive onlookers to active participants.” Instead of running a TikTok campaign for your audience to consume, a BHC gives them the opportunity to be part of the campaign itself. 

This encourages mass UGC and essentially turns your target audience into “co-creators, decision-makers, followers, buyers, and most importantly: ambassadors.” Plus, it boosts the chances of your BHC going viral. If you take a look at E.L.F’s #EyesLipsFace BHC, the brand generated thousands of user-generated pieces of content which contributed to the virality of the overall campaign. 

Generate mind-boggling engagement

Because of how effective UGC is at capturing the attention of TikTok users, and how native a Branded Hashtag Challenge feels to the FYP, you can expect to achieve soaring engagement levels.

According to TikTok’s data, the median engagement rate for BHC’s is a whopping 17.5%, while other platforms achieve a less than 1% engagement rate.

Achieve higher ad recall, brand awareness, and ROAS

From first learning about your brand, to gaining interest and intent, and then finally deciding to buy, a BHC is proven to deliver a full-funnel impact for your brand. TikTok’s research shows that BHC’s don’t just have the power to spread mass awareness and drive engagement, but they’re also more memorable for users.

A BHC drives 4x higher ad recall when compared to standard mobile ads, 4.5x higher brand awareness when again compared to standard mobile ads, and a 2.5x ROAS is achieved for 90% of BHC’s, while 50% of BHC’s achieve a 5x ROAS.  

TikTok hashtag challenge vs Branded Hashtag Challenge

How to create an engaging Branded Hashtag Challenge 

TikTok is all about giving users creative freedom while sparking joy. So while your BHC should provide some direction, it also should leave plenty of room for creative interpretation if it’s going to appeal to the masses. Here’s how to make sure your BHC catches on and achieves viral status.

Make it relevant and relatable

Engaging with your BHC will feel difficult and inauthentic for users if it doesn’t feel relevant to the platform and relatable to their interests. When coming up with your challenge, keep in mind how well the participants’ videos will blend into the FYP – spontaneity should be front of mind. 

You also need to make sure the challenge is relevant to your brand. Your fashion-loving customers are not going to participate in a trend that feels more relevant to car enthusiasts. 

Keep it short, sweet, and simple

A tiresome and lengthy challenge won’t keep your audience engaged and will deter them from participating. Instead, your BHC should be fun to participate in, easy to complete and take your audience no longer than a minute to film and upload to TikTok. 

The easier and faster it is for more TikTok users to join in on the challenge, the more UGC you’ll encourage. 

Collaborate with creators  

Influencers are trendsetters who have loyal and engaged audiences. Anything they participate in, their followers will likely follow in their footsteps – mind the pun. The connection creators have with their TikTok audience is what you need to kick start a viral BHC. 

Vamp’s platform has streamlined the collaboration process between brand and creator so that all your creator relationships can be managed under one roof. When you work with us, we provide access to our invite-only pool of TikTok creators, as well as an easy-to-use dashboard that helps you manage your creators. Plus, we offer creators’ audience and performance data, direct from TikTok themselves. 

Lemnos’ #CookingWithLemnos

The brands leveraging the power of a hashtag challenge with Vamp


To raise awareness and drive engagement around Rimmel London’s new Lasting Finish 25-Hour Foundation, the global beauty brand partnered with Vamp to execute their #RimmelHasYouCovered influencer campaign. 

Nine creators were selected based on how well they represented the Rimmel London brand and voice. They were then tasked to create TikToks that showcased why this foundation is their ‘best-kept beauty secret’. The brief was left open to allow for creators to shoot in their own fun, hype-driving, and authentic way. 

The campaign delivered on the brand’s awareness and engagement objectives by achieving over 1.1M impressions, 101.7K engagements and almost 1.8k hours (75 days) worth of total watch time.

#ClearYourHead with Tangle Teezer

Vamp ran another awareness-raising, engagement-driving campaign, but this time with Tangle Teezer. The haircare brand partnered with Vamp to help promote their scalp exfoliator and massager brush. 

11 creators were engaged to participate in the brand’s #ClearYourHead campaign where they had the option to create one of two videos; A fun and comedic video that captured their best ‘blind-reacts’ to using the scalp exfoliator tool in the shower or bath, or a wellness-focused video that showcased the tools’ ability to provide a deep soothing massage, to hit pressure points and release tension. 

Awareness and engagement goals were met as the campaign achieved over 703K impressions, 68.9K engagements and almost 1.8k hours (75 days) worth of total watch time.

Origins’ #GetUnreadyWithMe

For their first TikTok campaign with Vamp, Origins harnessed the already existing, #GetUnreadyWithMe hashtag to tap into a current beauty trend and reach skincare-loving Gen Zers. 

To drive product awareness, build brand advocacy and create original content for Origins cleansers, nine Vamp creators were selected to film a ‘get unready with me’ style video. Creators began their video in full glam and used the Origins range to remove their makeup and prep their skin for nighttime. 

By tapping into a current trend, Origins was able to achieve a whopping 243K hours worth of total watch time – that’s over a week and a half worth of view time! Over 116K impressions and 9k engagements were also achieved.

Download our TikTok guide and learn:

  • The six things every marketer should know about TikTok
  • How to effectively use the app’s most popular features
  • Five steps to creating a successful brand account on TikTok
  • What type of organic TikTok content performs the best
  • How to effectively partner with TikTok creators
  • How to use the eight different ad options available to marketers
  • What it takes to create high-performing TikTok ads that maximise your ROI
  • How brands like Benefit Cosmetics, Sheridan, and Rimmel London achieved TikTok success with Vamp


Enter your details below to download Vamp’s free ‘Everything Guide to TikTok for Marketers’ and watch your brand become the next Duolingo.

Download the free Vamp guide and learn how your brand can succeed on the original influencer marketing platform, Instagram.

Download this free Vamp guide and learn how to succeed on the world’s most viral platform.