TikTok’s horror-themed Grimace Shake trend went supremely viral, amassing more than 2.5 billion views (that’s with a “b”) on TikTok, with some of the videos leaving fans of the amorphous purple mascot in utter disbelief. But, according to one pivotal person behind the scenes, no one was as shocked by the absurd trend than McDonald's was.
On July 12, Guillaume Huin, McDonald’s head of social media, reflected on the shake that launched a billion views. On both LinkedIn and Twitter, the Huin wrote about what was going on in the McDonald’s offices as people young and old, famous and unfamous, sipped the berry-flavored shake and pretended to pass out in a puddle of purple.
“I have received so many questions about the Grimace Trend and how McDonald’s handled it,” Huin began his story.
“If you think we planted the grimace shake trend, thank you. So much. But you think way too highly of us,” Huin continued. “This was a level of genius creativity and organic fun that I could never dream about or plan for — it was all from the fans, and the fans only, and the initial spark came from Austin Frazier.”
Huin credits TikToker Austin Frazier (@thefrazmaz) for starting this mega-viral trend, as Frazier posted the first video on June 13 where he consumed a Grimace Shake and pretended to pass out after regurgitating its purple contents, scoring 3.6 million views and inspiring hundreds of videos that followed.
Huin wrote that McDonald’s simply provided the tools for the public to play with by reintroducing Grimace, debuting the Grimace Shake and letting the character take over all the McDonald’s accounts. “With a particular tone of voice, attitude, ‘way of typinggg’ and taking badly cropped and blurry selfies,” Huin explained.
Huin goes on to say that he and his colleagues weren’t sure if they would acknowledge the darkly humorous online trend.
“Honestly, I think my very first text to the team and agencies was ‘not sure we should jump in’. It took us a bit of time to process what was happening,” Huin wrote, adding that he wasn’t sure if commenting on it would be too risky.
“But hours of watching, reading the comments, trying to learn and genuinely understand helped us see what this was about : brilliant creativity, unfiltered fun, peak absurdist gen z humor, just the way a new generation of creators and consumers play with brands,” Huin wrote. “I’ve seen videos which levels of production and craft made me smile silently in admiration and wonder.”
Huin also wrote that he saw fan art that delighted him and his team. Although he didn’t point any out in particular, people have truly gone wild with Grimace, even outside of TikTok, making absurdist animations, strange commercials for a nonexistent Grimace burger and even creating a first-person online horror game involving our purple pal.
After discussing the “right thing to do about the trend,” Huin wrote that they decided to acknowledge the artistry without discouraging it “in a sweet, candid and genuine way, as grimace would.”
“The same way you would respectfully and gently nod at someone, without repeating what they said to show you agree with them and stealing their thunder,” Huin wrote about the nine-word response, straight from the purple whatever-he-is. “Thank you, Grimace. We miss youuu.”