Grimace Brought Big Sales Growth To McDonald's

What initially appeared to be a public relations crisis for McDonald's swiftly evolved into a viral sensation, driving an extraordinary double-digit sales growth for the fast-food chain in the United States alone this summer, and stocks of the fast food company have seen a 13% increase in value since the beginning of the year. The Grimace Shake, a limited-edition purple milkshake launched on June 12th to honor the 52nd birthday of the mascot Grimace, unexpectedly became the epicenter of the social media trend #grimaceshake. This bizarre trend featured over-the-top, faux gruesome, and horror scenarios ranging from food poisoning to explosive deaths to monstrous transformations, initially raising eyebrows.

As of this writing, the #grimaceshake trend has garnered nearly 3 billion views on TikTok alone. Instead of pushing for PR and damage control, McDonald's marketing and social media teams leaned into and participated in the unconventional trend, sparking a wave of nostalgia for Grimace, a beloved, derpy, and endearing figure from the past. Grimace himself humorously addressed the trend on Twitter, with the mascot taking over McDonald's social media accounts during his birthday celebration. This clever marketing strategy resonates with McDonald's other successful campaigns, such as the introduction of the Adult Happy Meal

Grimace's resurgence achieved 2 things

McDonald's latest nostalgia-fueled campaigns effectively leverage the power of social media, creating a ripple effect across multiple generations. Grimace, a classic character from McDonaldland born in 1971, was resurrected to evoke memories of birthday parties from yesteryears. Different generations of consumers became massively engaged, contributing significantly to the #grimaceshake trend's virality across social media. The originator of the #grimaceshake trend, for one, is reported to be Austin Frazier, a social media manager.

There were two main outcomes — first, it brought younger audiences into a nostalgia-laden narrative. Second, it galvanized the older generation to rekindle their relationship with the McDonald's brand, driven by the shared buzz and excitement. Even celebrities like Courtney Cox participated in the #grimaceshake, pretending it made her dog into a gigantic purple-eared beast. And, of course, McDonald's knows how adults are nostalgic for Happy Meals and want to enjoy an adult version. Many people, as a result, are happy, especially McDonald's.