TikTok Trends and their impact on Brands

Published: June 27, 2023

min read

No product is safe from the absurd humor of Gen Z

McDonald’s recently launched a Grimace Birthday Meal that includes a choice of a Big Mac or 10-piece McNuggets with fries, along with a purple milkshake. This was just a couple of weeks ago.

Now Gen Z is going to town with it on TikTok! The latest trend shows Gen Z take a sip of the purple milkshake and then pass out! The Grimace Shake Trend is the latest brand-inspired trend to take hold of Gen Z on TikTok, where they pass out or simply get attacked by the purple blob!

The TikToks usually start with someone – most often a teenager - wishing Grimace a happy birthday and taking a sip of the shake. The next thing you see is the person either passed out flat on the ground or against the wall, with their chest and face covered in the milkshake. Some of them even cough and spit up the drink. Several of the videos are like mini horror films that have been shot in the dark on playgrounds or parking lots, or in cars. The hash tag #grimaceshake has over 370 million views on TikTok.

This Grimace TikTok trend seems to have a couple of variations – there are those videos that seem to imply that Grimace will attack those who drink the milkshake. And there are those that suggest that the Grimace Shake has the same effect as lean or “purple drank” – which is a recreational drug drink that is made by mixing cough or cold syrup containing codeine and promethazine with a soft drink. It makes the one that drinks high and slouch or lean.

McDonald’s seems to have acknowledged the trend on Twitter, with a photo of Grimace and the caption - “meee pretending i don't see the grimace shake trendd.”

It all started with a TikTok by Austin Frazier, who posted a video, calling himself the ‘first victim of Grimace’ on June 13, a day after the shake came out. In the TikTok, you can see him excitedly wish Grimace a happy birthday, and before you know it, he is sprawled on his kitchen floor with the drink next to him. Explaining why he did it, he said that it all reminded him of the “Spider-Verse” Whopper from Burger King that had a red bun and black sesame seeds.

There have been other TikTok trends - there was the Tide Pods challenge, for example, where teenagers dared each other to bite into a Tide Pod – a bright, colorful but highly toxic laundry detergent packet. It ended up with Procter & Gamble having to tell everyone that the pods were to be used only for laundry. There was also the Sprite challenge on TikTok where there were videos of people trying to drink a whole bottle of Sprite without burping. And then there were the Wes Anderson film-inspired TikToks where people shot videos of themselves do every day errands but in the style of the filmmaker.

TikTok Trends – Boone or Bane?

These kinds of viral trends are good for brands – even when the trends don’t show the product in a favorable light. It is the sheer viral nature and popularity of the TikToks that make all the difference. This trend highlights the fact that brands really need to stay on their toes – and have a game plan of what to do when there are either positive or even negative reactions.

McDonald’s brought Grimace back, hoping to tap into the nostalgia of the purple monster and the fun birthday parties held in the play area of several McDonald’s outlets. But the brand’s community just picked it up and ran with it! Within days there were more than 370 million views of the TikToks grouped together under the hash tag #grimaceshake!

This would naturally impact sales and make it sky-rocket since the trend made the purple shake extremely popular. Regardless of whether anyone liked the taste of the shake, Gen Z and teenagers would buy it – even if it was just to make a Tiktok video out of it.

Of course this limited period Grimace shake will remain forever in internet history thanks to this TikTok trend. Maybe years from now this trend will come back as nostalgia!


Bill Walker

Bill is a marketing strategist who believes in the power of storytelling. He's known for his creativity, wit, and ability to connect with audiences across all channels. When he's not crafting marketing campaigns, you can find him hiking in the mountains or reading a good book.


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