Brand Experience

Deadly Grimace Shake Trend Sparks Debate, Generates 689 Million Views

07 July, 2023

The phrase “TikTok Trend” often sends a shiver down the spine of many adults. The platform has been a hotbed for various challenges that have resulted in everything from stolen Kia cars, leading to grand theft auto charges against minors, to the infamous Tide Pod challenge that saw numerous teenagers poisoned after ingesting the detergent pods. The potential for a brand to be caught up in a negative viral trend is a constant concern.

The most recent trend to take TikTok by storm involves McDonald’s Grimace Shake. The fast-food giant launched the novelty shake on June 12 to celebrate the birthday of its iconic purple mascot, Grimace. However, within a fortnight, TikTokers had reimagined Grimace as a villain, with his shake causing the ‘deaths’ of those who consumed it. As of June 28, Polygon reported that the hashtag #grimaceshake had garnered a whopping 689 million views.

The reaction to this viral trend has been mixed. While some see it as damaging to the McDonald’s brand, others view it as a unique user-generated content (UGC) opportunity. McDonald’s own response was a humorous post that lightly acknowledged the trend without feeding into it.

So, what can be learnt from this for those in the marketing industry, particularly those working in gym marketing or looking for more gym members? How should a brand respond when its product is misused or misinterpreted in a viral trend?

The answer largely depends on the nature of the misuse or misinterpretation. If it poses a genuine hazard, such as the Tide Pod challenge, immediate action is necessary. A response should be swift and clear, highlighting the risks and urging users not to partake in the dangerous activity.

However, if the trend is largely harmless and even humorous, as with the Grimace Shake trend, it can be an opportunity for brands to engage with their audience and potentially even benefit from the unexpected advertising.

In such instances, brands should tread carefully. Any attempt to capitalize on the trend should be done with humor and authenticity. Brands should avoid trying too hard to be ‘cool’ or ‘down with the kids’. This can often backfire and kill the originality of the trend.

Brands should also consider elevating the original creators of the trend. This not only gives credit where it’s due but also adds an element of authenticity to their response.

Moreover, brands need to be prepared for such situations. Having a section in your marketing playbook dedicated to handling viral trends can help ensure your brand isn’t caught off guard.

In conclusion, while TikTok trends can be a minefield for brands, they can also present unique opportunities for engagement and even advertising. The key is to respond appropriately and authentically, whether that’s with humor and engagement or serious concern and action.

Whether you’re working on gym lead generation, Facebook ads, or any other form of marketing, being aware of and prepared for viral trends is crucial in today’s digital age.