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How McDonald’s is using the Grimace shake TikTok trend to maximize the product’s visibility

By Axia Public Relations

The purple milkshake, and now infamous social media trend, could help boost McDonald’s brand presence.


A McDonald's sign.McDonald’s has an army of social media professionals at the social media agency of record at its corporate headquarters — a team constantly monitoring the trend. This team has noticed the mountain of social media videos stacking up with users trying the fast food chain’s new Grimace shake, wishing the character the shake’s named after a happy birthday, then shortly after pretending to die from it.


Videos following this trend have amassed 1.1 billion views and counting on TikTok, placing McDonald’s name in the spotlight and sending customers to try the shake — and the trend — for themselves.


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With a trend this large, you may expect McDonald’s to jump on board with the hype. However, its team has chosen a very limited response to the grim shake trend, which is a good thing, says Axia Public Relations CEO Jason Mudd.


Acknowledging and weighing the trend

By not overly engaging and instead passively acknowledging the trend, McDonald’s is allowing it to gain more traction and subsequently generate more news media coverage. Kids are out of school for the summer, and they could be doing much worse things than making videos about a milkshake, which is something the fast-food chain likely considered in its decision to ride the wave of the trend.


While acknowledging the trend internally, one step McDonald’s likely took toward developing its strategic response was assessing the trend and weighing its impact on McDonald’s brand. The trend implies the shake is deadly, which may initially sound like it should spur a crisis communications plan. However, the videos are made with a sense of dark humor that has effectively engaged mass audiences around one of McDonald’s products.


So, what should McDonald’s do next?

McDonald’s playfully acknowledged the Grimace trend on social media several days ago, meaning the company may be preparing to take a more hands-on approach in engaging with the trend. So, what should McDonald’s do next?


After gaining the public spotlight, McDonald’s is in a position to win over a large demographic of young people who are engaging with the trend on social media. So, it’s important its next move resonates with the audience it has successfully,  and maybe inadvertently, captured the attention of.


“One way McDonald’s could play into the trend is by partnering with its original creator,” Jason Mudd said. “The chain could carefully and mindfully consider a collaboration with the original creator, as well as some of the more influential creators who have jumped in on the trend to not only ride the wave of the trend, but to add to it.”


“Perhaps they invite the creators to a behind-the-scenes event or to Grimace’s actual birthday party. McDonald’s could give content creators an inside look at the shake, or even bring out the character itself and let them take selfies and videos with Grimace at a staged birthday party celebration. This provides the opportunity for additional content creation with McDonald’s at the center — rather than just its product. Of course there are pros and cons to doing this and the organization should consider its long and short-term impact,” Mudd said.


McDonald’s is in a position many public relations professionals, corporate communicators, and social media strategists can learn from. The company made a strategic and smart decision to let the internet “do its thing,” building a reputation and awareness for this product. Now, it’s time for McDonald’s to bring it back home and seal the deal to ultimately boost its brand presence.


Are you interested in learning more about social media management? Download our e-book, “The Essential Social Media Management Guide,” for more expert tips and tricks like the ones in this story.


Forbes Magazine named Axia Public Relations one of America's Best PR Agencies. Axia Public Relations helps national companies – including franchisors – build a strong brand and great reputation. For more than 20 years, some of America's fastest-growing and most admired brands have trusted Axia for its news, social media, and web strategies and measurement.


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Photo by Szabó Viktor

Topics: shared media, social media

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