Grimace shake trend mixes horror with McDonald’s mascot on TikTok

Lucas Robbins and 12 of his friends gathered this week in a sewer with 13 purple milkshakes and a plan to go viral.

The video posted Monday on Robbins’s TikTok account begins at a McDonald’s parking lot in San Clemente, Calif., but cuts to the sewer, where the teenagers are lying shirtless and covered in the melted purple shakes, some playing dead while others scream in panic.

The video has received 1.6 million views, though at a very messy cost to everyone involved.

“It just got, like, super sticky,” said Enzo Candol, one of Robbins’s friends. “And it was really nasty. … I got two towels, which was not enough.”

It was just one of thousands of videos posted on TikTok as part of a “Grimace shake” trend featuring a berry-flavored drink named after the fast-food chain’s furry purple mascot.

McDonald’s released the shake on June 12, but it wasn’t until the TikTok trend caught fire last weekend that sales took off.

The trend – started publicly not by the McDonald’s marketing team, but by fans such as Robbins – features people enacting scenes akin to horror movies, usually scored with dramatic music and in some cases, elaborate plots.

Videos posted on TikTok with the hashtag #GrimaceShake have been viewed 400 million times so far.

Demands for Grimace shakes led to some stores running out of ice cream by the middle of the day, said McDonald’s employees in New York City and Minneapolis.

“It started off pretty lighthearted,” said Emily Downey, who works at a McDonald’s in Brooklyn. “But as it got viral on TikTok, you could definitely see that there was a lot more business in terms of the Grimace meal, and even people just coming in to get, like, the shake by itself.”

On Thursday, McDonalds acknowledged the trend openly for the first time, posting a video to its TikTok account of Grimace covering its eyes with the caption “meee pretending I dont see the grimace shake trendd.”

Wendy Zajack, faculty director of marketing at Georgetown University, heard about the trend not through work but from her three Gen Z kids.

“If I were a marketer trying to create a viral campaign, I don’t know that I would’ve said, ‘Hey, drink my milkshake and die,’” Zajack said.

“But it connects to a generation. And at the end of the day, it’s boosting sales. It’s getting people to try a purple milkshake.”

The shake videos’ popularity comes as restaurants are turning to social media, particularly TikTok, to reach younger audiences.

Mexican chain Chipotle has inked sponsorship deals with popular food TikTokers such as Keith Lee, who has more than 13 million followers on the platform.

Cava, a Mediterranean restaurant chain, has named meals for some TikTok influencers.

But corporate marketing is no match for an organic trend when it comes to resonating with an audience, Zajack said.

“The corporate line on something isn’t what goes viral – it’s not authentic,” she said.

“Brands will always want to control the message, but to get something to go viral isn’t easy. It’s a risk-reward, and in this case, the reward is greater than the risk.”

It is not the first time McDonalds has benefited from the unintended viral marketing of one of its products.

In 2020, the company’s “Travis Scott Meal” attracted attention when customers took to TikTok to post videos of themselves ordering the meal by blaring the rapper’s song “Sicko Mode” in the drive-through line.

Like with the Travis Scott Meal, the Grimace shake trend has boosted sales at the cost of bringing chaos to its employees’ workplace, said Dilma Juvio, the manager of a McDonald’s restaurant in D.C.

“Most people buying them mention the TikToks,” Juvio told The Post. “We’ve sold hundreds each day. But it’s a nuisance to employees.”

Some customers have posted videos of their friends pouring the shake on themselves in the restaurant lobby.

In a video posted by the user @lundonhala, McDonald’s employees tell a shirtless customer covered in purple shake to get out of the restaurant and threatened to call security.

In California, Robbins wasn’t sure if he would buy the shake again.

“Maybe as another joke,” Robbins said. “But no, I wouldn’t buy it for my own pleasure.”

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