With TikTok users grimacing in pain and Grimace smiling in delight, McDonald’s has garnered billions of views and millions of dollars from Grimace’s purple shake. What began as a traditional marketing campaign ended in a social media frenzy and one of the most viral trends of the year: fake death by shake. It was a birthday party open to the public that opened McDonald’s to social media in unprecedented ways. If you didn’t get a chance to celebrate the biggest birthday bash of the year, we’re here to spill the gory details so you can get a taste of the purple shake that shook the internet.
The Birth of Grimace and the Purple Shake
Born in 1971 as a four-armed, milkshake-stealing monster, Evil Grimace was too frightening for children and had to be rebranded as a less-threatening, nondescript species from Grimace Island named Grimace. On June 12 of this year, Grimace turned 52. To celebrate, Mcdonald’s passed Grimace the phone and let him take over the Brand’s socials in honor of his upcoming party.
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Instead of a birthday cake, Grimace’s birthday feast was a promotional meal at Mcdonald’s. The Grimace Birthday Meal included a Big Mac or 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, a medium order of fries, and a purple shake. Diners were invited to indulge beyond food and play the promotional Krool Toys Grimace game, purchase Grimace merchandise, or make a birthday donation on behalf of Grimace to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Grimace’s Takeover Takes Over Socials
A series of selfies by Grimace behaving like an influencer and sharing “Get Ready With Me” posts quickly evolved into an avalanche of Grimace memes by Instagram users. The Grimace memes then grew into Grimace cosplay that showcased TikTok users ordering the birthday meal at McDonald’s while dressed as the purple blob. This soon erupted into something gruesomely dark with shades of pale purple: Austin Frazier’s Grimace TikTok video. Austin’s video single-handedly set off a trend that exploded onto everyone’s phone screens after he feigned death from a sip of the shake. The viral hashtags #Grimace and #GrimaceShake came last and ushered in a flood of purple blood across TikTok.
@thefrazmaz R.I.P Grimace (and me) #mcdonalds #grimace #milkshake #grimaceshake #birthday #fakedeath #yummy ♬ Daylight – David Kushner
The Most Gruesome Grimace Videos
#Grimace and #GrimaceShake garnered 2.6B and 2.5B views respectively from the time of the shake’s launch on June 12 until its promotional end date on June 29th. Needless to say, the trend was a viral sensation with everyone under Grimace’s fuzzy grip. An endless stream of horror parodies flooded TikTok’s For You Page that featured users dying in satirical ways from the villainous Grimace Shake. It seemed as though 1971’s Evil Grimace was making a comeback, and this time, they had mass appeal to the youth of today. Celebrities, influencers, and everyday users partook in the trend, falling victim to the deadly Grimace Shake in seconds:
@mattxshaver The response to the Grimace Shake has been so positive that I thought I’d try it myself! Thank you everyone!! #grimaceshake #mcdonalds #grimace ♬ Corporate Music – AndrisMusic
@haleyybaylee Idk why you wanted me to try this… but here we go. Trying the Grimace Shake from McDonalds… HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRIMACE 💕🏻🎈🎂 @Max Goodrich #grimaceshake #happybirthdaygrimace #grimace ♬ original sound – haleyybaylee
@kameryn.paige She grimaced out🙀#grimaceshake #grimacesbirthday ♬ The Attic – Colin Stetson
@courteneycoxofficial Happy Birthday Grimace #grimaceshake ♬ original sound – Courteney Cox
@jacksdriscoll Happy Birthday Grimace!!!!😈#grimaceshake #happybirthdaygrimace ♬ Creepy and simple horror background music(1070744) – howlingindicator
@thatlittlepuff No Puffffffffffffffffff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #thatlittlepuff #grimace #hacks ♬ original sound – ThatLittlePuff
Gen Z Generates Marketing Magic
McDonald’s ad campaign inadvertently became one of the most iconic in its history thanks to the unprompted contribution of Gen Z and their absurdist sense of humor. Gen Z’s unhinged attitude toward Brands opened the gates to riotous success for McDonald’s, and it all happened organically. Thanks to the viral TikTok trend and the youth of social media, McDonald’s earned well over ten million dollars in sales. The unintentional marketing for the limited-edition shake led to unlimited content from Creators everywhere, and a much-deserved thank you from McDonald’s Marketing Director Guillaume Huin on LinkedIn.
Grimace Joins the Birthday Party
Upon learning the Grimace Shake had gone viral, McDonald’s was hesitant to acknowledge the trend for fear of condoning the off-brand horror fest. However, Huin and his team did not want to ignore the fan-generated hype either. In an attempt to connect with fans while still honoring McDonald’s Brand values, Huin’s social media team (Grimace) released a blurry screenshot of himself along with a lower-case statement claiming, “mee pretending i don’t see the grimace shake trendd” on Instagram and Twitter.
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Mcdonald’s Social Engagement Soars
If you take a quick look at McDonald’s Instagram page since the Grimace takeover, you’ll see a noticeable spike in engagement the moment purple fuzz graces its grid. With pre-Grimace posts averaging 50,000 likes, Grimace’s first selfie garnered over a million. However, that was only the beginning. As soon as the Grimace TikTok trend took off, McDonald’s social stats skyrocketed. According to Huin, the Gen Z-led trend produced billions in reach, millions in mentions and engagement, eight consecutive days of being the top-trending topic on Twitter, and three viral hashtags on TikTok and Snapchat.
Grimace Glues the Gaps
The return of Grimace brought about more than millions in sales and billions in views for McDonald’s—it brought families and communities together. Being one of the most beloved McDonald’s mascots, Grimace was embraced by boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zers in an intergenerational birthday celebration. When asked what Grimace was, a McDonald’s representative answered, “Whether he’s a taste bud, a milkshake or just your favorite purple blob — the best part about Grimace is that he means different things to different people. Whatever he is, we’re just proud our bestie makes people happy.“
@janinegutierrez Grimace is the embodiment of a milkshake, though others still insist he’s a taste bud. 🙂
— McDonald’s Corporation (@McDonaldsCorp) May 7, 2012
Go Viral With Creators
While the Grimace Shake is no longer available for purchase, there are thousands of pre-vetted TikTok influencers available for hire on Glewee. If your Brand wants to participate in an online trend or start a viral trend of its own with Gen Z Creator expertise, Glewee has the most in-demand and on-brand talent for the job. Going viral organically and increasing Brand salience rapidly are among the many appeals of influencer marketing. With Glewee Creators, both are possible. With Glewee in your Brand toolkit, everything from launching campaigns to measuring results is easily doable. See you on the platform!