McDonald’s latest drink has gone viral for reasons we doubt it intended. With a vibrant purple hue, a meme-able mascot and limited window of availability, McDonald’s had all the ingredients to turn its Grimace milkshake into a viral sensation. Instead, the reaction to the drink has been that it is so artificial it causes consumers to feel nausea and die… 

@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

Most TikTok content on the topic of the Grimace shake centres around creators often dumping the shake over their convulsing bodies, apparently signalling that Grimace has killed them. I honestly don’t know where this dark interpretation stemmed from originally but it’s safe to say that the outcome isn’t what the iconic fast food chain was hoping for. The TikTok videos have been viewed millions of times this month, drawing eyes to McDonald’s latest culinary gambit — even if users are abruptly throwing it up afterwards.

The rollout seemed in line with other recent McDonald’s marketing schemes to build cultural credibility and capitalise on virality. The eatery has collaborated with musicians like J Balvin and Travis Scott on celebrity-approved meals and even teamed up with buzzy streetwear brand Cactus Plant Flea Market to release exclusive collectible Happy Meal toys for adults, including a mould of everyone’s favourite purple blob.

Even before collectors were reselling the limited-edition designer toys, McDonald’s has played with scarcity and limited availability: Its Shamrock Shake and McRib are often only available for a few weeks each year, if that, and they’ve become cult menu favourites.

Although this is the first time many of us as young consumers have been exposed to Grimace, he originated within the brand in the 1970s with early commercials referring to him as the “evil Grimace,” a four-armed purple blob who used his many limbs to abscond with cups of milkshakes. When ad execs realised that Grimace was frightening young potential consumers, they softened the character, dropping the “evil” from descriptors and lopping off one of his sets of arms. Soon, benevolent Grimace was just a triangular lump in Ronald McDonald’s gang of fast food lovers, and the villainous Hamburglar filled Grimace’s former role.

The ambiguity surrounding Grimace, as well as his villainous past, seem to have made him a suitable template for meme-making.

Bizarrely, and rather unexpectedly, the appearingly negative-toned trend has caused a surge in the Grimace shake’s popularity. Perhaps there really is no such thing as bad press. Prince, the Chapman University professor, told CNN that “what seems like weird viral ploys to some is just good brand engagement reflective of a young generation.” “The Grimace shake speaks, somehow, to Gen Z’s humour and cultural interests” he concluded.

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