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Grimace shake meme mixes horror with McDonald’s in the latest TikTok trend




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

The video posted Monday on Robbins’ TikTok account begins in a McDonald’s parking lot in San Clemente, California, but cuts to the sewers, where the teenagers lie shirtless and covered in the melted purple shakes, some playing dead while others scream in a panic. The video has received 1.6 million views, but at a very messy price for everyone involved.

“It just got really sticky,” said Enzo Candol, one of Robbins’ friends. “And it was really disgusting. … I was given 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 McDonald’s marketing team, but by fans like Robbins — features people acting out scenes similar 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.

Demand for Grimace shakes caused some stores to run out of ice cream in the middle of the day, McDonald’s employees in New York City and Minneapolis said.

“It started off pretty easy,” said Emily Downey, who works at a McDonald’s in Brooklyn. “But as it went viral on TikTok, you could definitely see that there was a lot more business for the Grimase meal, and even people just coming in to get the shake by themselves.”

On Thursday, McDonald’s openly acknowledged the trend for the first time, posting a video on its TikTok account of Grimace covering her eyes with the caption “pretend I don’t see the grimace-shake trend.”

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

“If I was a marketer trying to create a viral campaign, I don’t know that I would have said, ‘Hey, drink my milkshake and die,'” Zajack said. “But it connects to a generation. And at the end of the day, that increases sales. It makes people want to try a purple milkshake.”

The shake videos’ popularity comes as restaurants turn to social media, particularly TikTok, to reach younger audiences. Mexican chain Chipotle has signed 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 after some TikTok influencers.

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

“The company line on something is not what goes viral it’s not authentic, she said. “Brands will always want to control the message, but getting something to go viral isn’t easy. It’s a risk-reward, and in this case, the reward outweighs the risk.”

It’s not the first time McDonald’s has benefited from the unintentional viral promotion of one of its products. In 2020, the company’s “Travis Scott Meal” drew attention when customers took to TikTok to post videos of themselves ordering the meal blaring the rapper’s song “Sicko Mode” in the drive-through line.

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

“Most people who buy them mention TikToks,” Juvio told The Post. “We’ve been selling hundreds every day. But it is a nuisance for employees.”

Some customers have posted videos of their friends pouring the shake on themselves in the restaurant’s lobby. In a video posted by user @lundonhala, McDonald’s employees tell a shirtless customer covered in purple shake to get out of the restaurant and threaten 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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