10/01/2021 01:03 PM

By Nina Muslim

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 10 -- Viral videos on TikTok have caused a revival in demand for a decades-old skin ointment -- touted as an excellent pimple-fighting agent -- in Malaysia, defying the pandemic-era depression that has hit other businesses.

Nisolab, which owns the licensing rights to Nixoderm in Malaysia and Singapore, noticed sales of the ointment spiking by 30 to 40 per cent at retailers in December. Growth on its online store on the shopping platform Shopee has doubled, according to the group’s head.

Tan Sri M. Ariffin Yusuf, managing director of the Prima Group, which owns Nisolab, told Bernama the increase caught the company by surprise.

“At first we did not know why suddenly the sales jumped so well, you know, despite … the economy is not so good (at the moment). For some time, sales had not been as good. But suddenly, the sales jumped -- something that is not normal. So I started asking my distributor, ‘Can you please find out?’ Because normally, (people from) my era don’t look at TikTok and so on,” he said.

Ariffin said when his staff found the videos on the social video app TikTok, he was amazed at how significantly they could affect the company’s sales. 

He added that the company had no idea who the Tik-Tokkers were, but said it would like to track the users down so Nisolab could provide them with some complimentary items.

The trend started with a video made by Amir Aqram Azizi on his @thedancedoc Tik Tok account on Dec 16 last year, explaining how to use the Nixoderm ointment to combat acne. It racked up over 208,100 views with almost 14,000 likes. 

Other videos soon followed, racking up more than half a million views and almost 48,000 likes, documenting the users’ journey towards a blemish-free countenance.

“Since this became viral yesterday, I’m going to Watsons (Disebabkan semalam dok viral benda ni aku pon p la watson),” said user @Firdaus, with the video showing him heading to a pharmacy to buy the cream.

Sales staff at pharmacies confirmed they have noticed more purchases of the ointment since December. 

Nazelynakmar Kamaruddin, a mother-of-two and avid TikTok watcher, said she has long known about the cream but never tried it before.

“I’m only now trying it out after viewing TikTok,” she said.

In this, Nixoderm has inadvertently achieved the holy grail of social media marketing, having a product go viral.

Dr Suhaimee Saahar, who teaches digital marketing and social media at Universiti Teknologi MARA, said many companies strive for virality on social media but only a few succeed.

“It’s a dream come true for any company -- for consumers and followers to generate content for free and have everyone join in,” he said.

He added that more companies should add TikTok into their digital marketing campaigns on top of the usual Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, saying, “If you want to move forward with the younger generation, then TikTok has to be part of your marketing strategy.”

A number of products have gone viral on social media, fuelled by users and resulting in increased sales for their manufacturers. Among the most popular examples is #The Dress in 2015, where netizens were asked to identify the colour of a Roman Originals dress in a photo, whether it was white and gold, or blue and black. Arguments ensued and the controversy caused sales at the retailer to skyrocket, selling 10,000 dresses in three days.

However, there is also a dark side to virality. Products that went negatively viral include that of Peloton, a high-end interactive exercise equipment company. In December 2019, the company released an ad featuring a woman who charted her efforts to lose weight with the exercise bike her husband had given her for Christmas. 

Social media users took issue with the storyline and the ad, which depicted an already-thin woman’s struggle to lose more weight, accusing the company of sexism. By Dec 6, the viral ad and the backlash wiped out US$1.5 billion of its market value within three days. The stock price has since recovered.

On the home front, Ariffin said Nixoderm's encounter with virality has taught it to invest more in digital campaigns, including TikTok, with the hopes of winning a whole slew of fans within the younger generation. The company, which produces cosmeceutical, dermatological and other health-oriented products, such as the tongue scraper, has now started an official business account on TikTok, hoping lightning will strike twice with their other products.

“We have seen the effect of social media,” he said.

Ariffin also said Nixoderm plans to expand further in the region, including Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Cambodia and Mongolia.

As of April 2020, TikTok had been downloaded over 2 billion times globally and has an estimated 850 million monthly users, according to the New York Times.


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