Grimace or no Grimace: 4 questions to ask before joining a trend

Maybe you’ve seen the latest online trend: Someone buys the new McDonald’s Grimace Shake, tries it, and then stages a graphic death scene with the purple shake everywhere. Even the CMO of McDonald’s joined in and posted a video online. As tempting as it is to follow suit, here are four questions to consider before your organization decides to participate in any kind of viral scenario.

  1. Is this trend appropriate for your organization?

Humor in communications can be risky, especially if it's dark humor. Even if the intent is to make people laugh, you wouldn’t want law enforcement to fake deaths — under any circumstance, joke or no joke. This trend might be fine for hip, cool brands, but not for an organization in charge of public safety or a dangerous industry. Tread extra carefully if your organization works in any kind of safety environment.

  1. Is the timing sensitive?

Half of crisis management is awareness. If there is a solemn significance to the day, like Memorial Day, it would be wise to refrain from joking about death. Also, be aware of current news. Posting such a video on the day five submersible passengers died exploring the Titanic would have come across as insensitive, too.

  1. What value can you add?

Copying for copying’s sake is an easy trap to fall into. Being trendy can definitely provide social currency, but be sure to make it your own. What’s going to make your TikTok more shareable than everyone else’s?

  1. Does it match your audience?

The majority of TikTok users are Gen Z. If your organization’s audience isn’t likely to understand the trend, the Grimace trend may not benefit you. In fact, it might leave your most loyal followers scratching their heads.

Even trends like the Grimace Shake TikTok can be an impactful marketing tool. Good PR is about more than proving to your followers that you are keeping up with the times. It’s about being strategic with the popularity of different types of content and ensuring your brand is always portrayed strategically. By first considering these four questions, you can work the trends to your advantage and avoid unintended consequences.

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