Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

How Viral Social Media Trends Can Drive Offline Engagement

Bracha Arnold
December 13, 2022
How Viral Social Media Trends Can Drive Offline Engagement

Social media is playing an ever-larger role in consumer shopping habits and marketing strategies. Consumers increasingly seek a more authentic approach to marketing, and social media trends that seem spontaneous, viral, and of the minute can resonate with potential shoppers. 

And while social media trends can help with brand engagement and recognition, they can also impact brick-and-mortar retail performance. Offline engagement, in turn, can promote greater brand awareness and loyalty. 

This blog takes a closer look at how viral social media campaigns can increase foot traffic and explores the role of influencer marketing in brick-and-mortar strategy.

Crumbl Cookies: Changing Products Driving Customer Engagement

Crumbl, a Utah-based bakery, launched in 2017. This cookie company has seen exponential growth over the past few years, reaching over 600 stores by 2022. And while the brand has more than tripled its retail footprint since launching, it is even more popular on social media, with TikTok accounts and Reddit threads dedicated to discussing new flavors and reviews. The company releases a flavor of the week and teases them online every Sunday. 

Digital interest in the chain took off in February 2021 when a post about Crumbl’s Strawberry Toaster Tart cookie went viral. Since then, visits to its locations, which operate under a franchise model, have increased steadily, peaking in July 2021 when the brand’s viral reputation was cemented after it gained nearly 1 million followers in a month.

August 2022 saw another massive visit spike, coinciding with the brand's well-publicized lawsuits against copycat competitors. Customers rallied around the brand and the hashtag #UtahCookieWars, likely contributing to the increase in foot traffic that month. 

Crocs: Celebrity Collaborations Leading to Increased Sales

Crocs are an unlikely fashion success story. The brand launched in 2002 as a boat shoe, and while the foam clogs were highly popular, they were often mocked by the fashion set. But the shoe has been rising in popularity over the past few years, as celebrity and influencer collaborations and a shifting fashion aesthetic brought them into the mainstream

The brand has promoted dozens of high-profile collaborations with celebrities and fashion houses – Justin Bieber, Post Malone, and the Grateful Dead have all designed and launched shoes. Crocs’ decision to pull collaborators from across the spectrum – from high-art fashion houses to pop musicians – allows the company to expand its reach to a diverse range of customers. 

The brand is also extremely successful on TikTok, with the hashtag #crocs racking up over 3 billion views on the platform. Crocs used its online reach to promote its annual Crocs Day on October 23rd, 2022, advertising the day online and offering in-store deals. These online promotion efforts seem to have translated into offline success – weekly visits to the brand’s store during the week of Crocs Day were up year-over-year (YoY) for the first time since August 2022. The company’s strong Crocs Day visit numbers seem to indicate that social media promotions can translate into increased in-store traffic. 

Rick and Morty and Wendy's: Cult Favorites Drive Visits

A foul-mouthed cartoon grandfather with a penchant for drinking and interdimensional space travel and his awkward teen grandson are unlikely candidates for influencer campaigns. And yet, the hit TV show Rick and Morty has become an inadvertent product-placement darling. Fans of the show mobbed McDonald’s following a Szechuan Sauce-themed plotline, demanding the condiment.

Now, Wendy’s is getting into the mix – the company launched an ongoing collaboration with Rick and Morty in 2021. The partnership is promoted on the fast-food chain's Twitter account, which is well-known for roasting individuals and companies alike. Their first project was an immersive pop-up experience at a California location, which included a giant Rick head and new menu items based on elements of the show, such as the Pickle Rick Frosty and Mello Yello Portal Time Lemon Lime. 

The pop-up was a huge success, with the Wendy’s at Panorama City during the weeks of June 14th and 21st seeing massive year-over-two-year (Yo2Y) increases in foot traffic of 208.9% and 87.7%, respectively. And the effects lingered, with visits to the Panorama City Wendy’s above the nationwide Wendy’s for two of the following four weeks. The restaurant chain has since launched additional Rick and Morty-themed menu items with partner Uber Eats and debuted several commercials featuring the cartoon characters. 

The success of this pop-up indicates that influencers come from multiple platforms – TV included. Rick & Morty’s cult appeal allowed Wendy's to create a viral, irreverent promotion to speak to the show’s fan base and beyond. 

Taco Bell & Doja Cat: Social Media Conversations 

Social media allows seamless conversations between brands, customers, or influencers, with real-world implications. One example is the collaboration between singer Doja Cat and Taco Bell. In 2020, Doja Cat tweeted a request for the return of Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza, which had been removed from menus earlier in the year. Taco Bell ran with the concept, collaborating with Doja Cat to write a jingle about the pizza. The song went viral, and the pizza was relaunched in May 2022.

While the Mexican Pizza previously saw lackluster sales, the May 2022 launch saw products selling out at a rate 7 times faster than in November 2020. This enthusiasm caused the chain to run out of ingredients and put the brakes on the Mexican Pizza until it felt logistically ready to relaunch in September 2022. Both times the launch was met with a massive spike in foot traffic – visits to Taco Bell grew by 63.3% in the week of May 16, while weekly visits to Taco Bell increased by 9.6% YoY during the second launch. 

Companies like Taco Bell have mastered the art of harnessing these brief moments of virality into real marketing opportunities. Doja Cat’s initial tweet helped reintroduce a menu item, increased foot traffic, massively increased visibility for Taco Bell, and even sparked a musical collaboration with Dolly Parton. 

Minions: TikTok Trends Filling Movie Theaters

Visits to movie theaters are still trailing behind pre-pandemic levels, but the release of Minions: The Rise of Gru brought a significant boost in foot traffic. Although families with small children contributed significantly to the boost, another factor worked in theaters' favors as well: a viral TikTok trend in which teens filmed themselves leaving for the movies in a suit and tie while using #GentleMinions as a hashtag.

The trend started innocently enough and quickly ballooned into a worldwide phenomenon, helping boost ticket sales. Universal Studios tweeted in support of the trend. However, some theaters were not as happy as the suited-up moviegoers left behind significant messes, with some theaters going as far as to ban anyone coming in a suit. Still, the trend boosted a segment that has struggled post-pandemic, with visits to theaters up 34.8%, 40.1%, and 64.3% for AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas, and Cinemark, respectively, for the July 4th weekend.  

The trend underscores how quickly an idea can spread worldwide on social platforms.

Social Strategies for 2023

The success of these viral campaigns emphasizes just how important a social media strategy can be for a brick-and-mortar retailer. Influencer and social media marketing will be one of the most important marketing trends of 2023 as consumers seek authentic advertising approaches that feel seamless and natural. Companies that capitalize on this modern advertising approach can hope to see increased engagement and a boost in-store traffic visits. 

For more data-driven insights, visit

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Text Link
Text Link
Social Media
Text Link
Crumbl Cookies
Pent-Up Demand Ahead of October Sales Events
4 Strategies Retailers are Using to Drive Traffic to Their Venues
5 Key Regional Grocery Players Impressing in 2023
Upscale Kitchenware Trending Up
Costco Finds More Room for Growth
Four C-Store Chains Making an A-Grade
National Parks + Outdoor Summer Activities
Diving Into Darden: Summer 2023 Update
The Summer Event Effect
Messi: Massive in Miami
Looking Back on Back to School 2023
The Anchor Recap: August 2023 Office Index: August 2023 Recap Mall Index: August 2023 Recap White Paper Recap: August 2023
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Strikes Again
Big Scoop: We All Scream For Ice Cream
Sports Away: Lululemon & Nike’s Momentum Continues
Summer Visits Heat Up For Recreation and Outdoor Gear Chains
No CSS overwrite - July 2023 Office Index Recap
Staging - August 2023 Mall Indec
Mid-Atlantic Grocery Deep Dive
Experiential Chains Heating Up This Summer
Petco Goes Big by Going Small
Ulta Beauty: Leading the Discretionary Pack
Discount and Dollar Chains Continue to Thrive
Summer of Sports: DICK’s Sporting Goods and Hibbett Sports
Off-Price: Succeeding Into Summer
The Anchor Recap: July 2023
Superstores Maintaining Pandemic Gains Amidst Economic Headwinds
2023: Home Improvement at the Halfway Point
July 2023 Office Index Recap Mall Index: July 2023 Recap
widget test
The Taylor Swift Visit Lift
Southwestern Grocery Dive
July 2023 White Paper Recap: Halfway Point Review & Quarterly Index
Yum! Brands: Driving Dining Visits
Slurpees and Summer Movies Stimulate Consumer Foot Traffic
Cool Beans: Summer Coffee Update
Checking In on Back to School 2023
Crocs and New Balance Tip The Scales
Burger Bliss: Shake Shack and In-N-Out Stacking Visits
Chipotle & McDonald's Continue to Reign Supreme
Vibenomics and Partner to Enhance Retail Media In-Store Measurement
California Grocers Here We Come!
Marriott’s Different Audiences
Bonchon and Kura Sushi Thrive in the Fast-Casual Scene
A Shoe In: Footwear Climbs to the Top
Cheers! Raising a Glass to Beverage Retail Office Index: June 2023 Recap Mall Index June 2023 Recap – A Turn of the Tide and a Dive into Open-Air Lifestyle Centers
Local Kitchens: Redefining the Restaurant
Unlocking Urban Insights: The Value in Manhattan’s Employees
Ohio State Parks On The Rise
How is Inflation Impacting the High-Income Shoppers?
Five Fast-Growing Dining Chains
What To Expect From Prime Day and July Sales Events in 2023
The State Of Fashion: How Are Apparel Retailers Faring in 2023?
2023’s Latest Dining Success Story: GEN Korean BBQ House
The NBA Finals: A Location Intelligence Perspective
Moving the Market: The Impact of Domestic Migration on Housing Costs
Post-Pandemic Museum Update
The Darden-est Things
The Enduring Demand for Urban and Suburban Retail
Leveraging Data to Evaluate the Impact of Municipal Investments
Trader Joe's Success Amidst Food Inflation and Changing Consumer Behavior Office Index: May 2023 Recap
Fitness at its Fittest: Staying Strong in 2023
Movie Theaters, Off-Price, and Home Improvement: May 2023 Recap Mall Index - May 2023 Recap
What’s Working for Bath & Body Works?
Why Are Specialty Grocers Thriving in 2023?
The CAVA Craze: A Location Intelligence Perspective on the Mediterranean Marvel
How Will Primark’s US Expansion Impact Target?
All Eyes on Eyewear
Northwestern U.S. Grocery Dive
Return of the Lunch: Salad Chains Are Thriving
Retail Media Networks – Off the Beaten Track
Bet Your Bottom Dollar: Discount and Dollar Stores Drive Foot Traffic
Ulta & Lululemon: Discretionary Spending On The Up
The Score After Q1: Sporting Goods Chains
Who Uses NYC Airports: Biting Into The Big Apple’s Main Transport Hubs
Off Price: Strength in The Face of Retail Challenges
Visits Improve for Home Improvement
Walmart, Target & Wholesalers in Q1 2023 – The Return of Mission-Driven Shopping?
Department Store Roundup: Q1 2023 Office Index: April 2023 Recap Mall Index, April 2023 – A Rebound on the Horizon?
How Will Bed Bath & Beyond’s Bankruptcy Impact the Retail Space?
Buffet Restaurants: Filling Up on Foot Traffic
Thrift Stores: Vintage Visits Drive New Age in Apparel
The Windy City: A Hub of Post-Pandemic Opportunity
Diving into Dining Traffic - Q1 2023
Bring On The Joe
A Dollar (or more) For Your Thoughts: Five Below and pOpshelf
Dining Out With The Cheesecake Factory
Retail Foot Traffic Recap – March 2023
Digging Into 2023: McDonald’s and Chipotle Update Office Index: March 2023 Recap