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The unusual quote getting TikTok boss through recession

Yahoo Finance Journalist talks to TikTok's Brett Armstrong and Canva's Cameron Adams.
Yahoo Finance Journalist talks to TikTok's Brett Armstrong and Canva's Cameron Adams.

Australia officially entered its first recession in 30 years at the beginning of September as lockdown restrictions hamstrung businesses and workers across the country.

Social media platform TikTok was not immune, but general manager Brett Armstrong had a set approach to dealing with the major crisis, he told the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit.

“I spoke to my team about this [recession] about a month ago and I literally put up a quote that read: ‘I hear there’s going to be a recession, I choose not to participate,’” Armstrong said.

That was what Disney founder Walt Disney told his staff in the 1930s during the heights of the Great Depression and it’s something that resonates strongly with Armstrong.


“I thought of the parallels that we have, particularly as a business here. Walt Disney saw an opportunity to capture creativity and imagination and… that vision came to life. It was that choice that they made not to accept fear, but to go out and have a go of it.

“From my team… we’re trying to do what Walt Disney did and that’s to turn a really positive creative platform into happiness, in a commercial way.”

Speaking on the same panel, graphic design unicorn Canva co-founder and chief product officer Cameron Adams noted that many successful businesses like Netflix and Uber were born out of financial downturns and said the rapid changes in consumer behaviour present significant opportunities.

“[People] have to change their spending, they have to change the way they’re thinking. In this pandemic we’ve had to change the way that we interact and communicate,” Adams said.

“There’s always opportunity there. As a designer, I always worked within constraints, like you’re looking at a system, you’re looking at the constraints within the system and you’re trying to figure out how to produce the right solution in there, and it’s exactly the same in these [economic downturns].”

TikTok’s Armstrong said the pandemic has seen a shift in the way advertisers interact with customers from a one-way conversation to a more dynamic conversation.

“[Customers now] talk back to these businesses and tell them how they're feeling about the products or their messages and how they're engaging with them and what positivity that product may be bringing to them as a consumer.

“So it's a new and unique opportunity that a lot of businesses are really getting behind.”

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