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How Influencer Marketing Is Changing: Ocean Spray Goes Viral on TikTok

by Angela D'Amico - March 01, 2021

How did Ocean Spray® enjoy millions of dollars’ worth of advertising without spending a dime? It all started with a viral TikTok video which sparked an unexpected and wildly successful influencer marketing campaign.

The Viral TikTok Video

Nathan Apodaca, aka TikTok user @420doggface208, was just a regular guy posting entertaining videos for fun. On September 25, 2020, Nathan posted a 23-second video of himself skateboarding to work after his truck broke down. He was drinking Ocean Spray® Cran-Raspberry juice straight from the bottle and singing along to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” The video skyrocketed to 80 million views, nearly 13 million likes, and 143,000 comments and counting from people all over the world praising the newly minted king of vibes.

Look Who Joins the Fun

Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” was catapulted to #1 on iTunes charts, breaking streaming records, and climbed up to be one of the top 50 most streamed songs on Spotify nearly 40 years after its release. Mick Fleetwood, a founding member of Fleetwood Mac, joined TikTok a week after the viral video to recreate Nathan’s video, Ocean Spray® Cran-Raspberry juice and all. Mick’s video raked in 18 million views. A week later, Fleetwood Mac lead singer Stevie Nicks joined the platform and posted her nod to the video – featuring, you guessed it, Ocean Spray® Cran-Raspberry juice. Stevie’s post gained 27 million views and is still the only video on her account. The #CranberryDreams hashtag used in reference to the video now has nearly 100 million views. Thousands of copycat recreations exist, including one from Tyson Foods CEO Tom Hayes.

Viral TikToks by Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, and Tom Hayes featuring Ocean Spray®

Viral By The Numbers

If you’re counting, that brings Ocean Spray® to a total of 225 million+ views, which is near twice the average views of a Super Bowl commercial. And that doesn’t even count the reposts to other social media platforms, duets of the video on TikTok by other creators, dozens of other videos posted by Nathan featuring the cranberry drink, hundreds of articles written about the phenomenon, or videos made without the hashtag. “We have about 15 billion media impressions now,” Tom Hayes, CEO of Tyson Foods, told Yahoo Finance. All without Ocean Spray® spending a dime.

Ocean Spray trending on Google
Ocean Spray® Trends on Google

Ocean Spray® started trending on Google almost immediately after the video’s release and has continued to gain attention from micro-influencer marketing. The company’s sales boomed, and store shelves were empty of the Cran-Raspberry flavor all over the country.

Head of Global Marketing at TikTok shares a tweet about empty store shelves.

Brands can’t predict when they’ll go viral, but they can control how they respond to potential viral situations. In this case, Ocean Spray® is a shining example of exactly what brands should be doing if the opportunity arises. Nathan provided massive, incredible amounts of brand awareness, engagement, and even sales for the brand. Ocean Spray® knew what they needed to do.

Ocean Spray® Embraces The Attention

About a week after Nathan posted his video, Ocean Spray® bought him a brand-new, cranberry red truck filled with a literal truckload of products to thank him. This gesture of gratitude sent Nathan’s new fans into a frenzy. Not only were people overjoyed to see Nathan’s luck turning around, but they turned their praise toward Ocean Spray® for making it happen. All the heartfelt sentiment that fans had for Nathan and his authenticity is now associated with the brand. When Ocean Spray® acknowledged Nathan, the TikTok users that helped him go viral felt appreciated too. The brand was humanized in their eyes.

Nathan Apodaca celebrates influencer marketing with gifts from Ocean Spray®
Nathan Apodaca with gifts from Ocean Spray®
Photo Source: NPR

A little over a month later, the hype was still going strong. Ocean Spray® kept the momentum going and surprised Nathan and his new wife with an all-expenses-paid honeymoon of their dreams. Ocean Spray®’s influencer marketing plan solidified relationships with new customers and loyal brand advocates worldwide by continuing to ride the wave and rewarding Nathan for his support. People started buying the product out of respect for how the brand continues to treat him after the original video started fading.

TikTok comments on Nathan Apodaca’s video. /@420doggface208

What “Going Viral” Can Mean

Nathan wasn’t a marketing influencer by any stretch. He lived in an RV without running water and spent his days working in an Idaho potato warehouse. TikTok users made him famous and kept blowing up the video with loops, comments, duets, and hashtags because they felt he deserved it. 

These days Nathan has been deemed a legend. He has been parlaying his newfound fame into partnerships and collaborations with Fashion Nova Men, ASOS, Vivint (a commercial with Snoop Dogg), and Walmart. Plus, a  music video with David Guetta, an Ocean Spray® deal featuring a Superbowl promotion TikTok campaign, and a merchandise line. 

Nathan Apodaca goes viral with influencer marketing
Nathan Apodaca goes viral and sparks brand partnerships. /@420doggface208

The Power of Influencer Marketing

While influencer marketing proves to work time and time again, it’s changing. Users aren’t as trusting of popular influencers posting perfectly curated, corporate-friendly videos with meticulous scripts provided by brands. We’ve seen them throw their support behind these typical influencers, but nothing to the degree of what’s happened here with Ocean Spray®. Why? People want spontaneous, genuine, and fun.

Nathan’s original video was a raw, real-life moment capturing the essence of his experience and enjoying life. The spontaneous and natural slice-of-life resonated with TikTok users who appreciate this man’s authentic, easygoing nature just making the best out of a bad situation.

The power of influencer marketing - TikTok comments on Ocean Spray.
TikTok comments on Nathan Apodaca’s video. /@420doggface208

Why were people so adamant about Nathan’s success? He represents the real customer. He reflects all of us – real working people with real problems and challenges to overcome, just being grateful and making it through each day. He wasn’t a celebrity, or a paid actor, or an established influencer. He just liked the product, and that was enough for people to rally behind him.

The New Influencer Marketing Model

Social media influencers started as nothing more than spokespeople. There is little difference between Brooke Shields wearing Calvin Klein jeans in 1980 and Khloe Kardashian wearing Puma sneakers in an Instagram post. Both are forms of push marketing, where brands choose these influencers based on their audience and hope to use their credibility to push products onto people. With such an oversaturation of brand deals in the macro-influencer world, these promotions are understandably starting to feel disingenuous and turn off users.

People want truth. People want real. Everyday average Joe brand advocates sharing opinions on products and brand experiences cut through the noise. These influencers are trustworthy to users because they share their support for products and services from genuine experience. It’s not just money talking. An influencer’s need to have established credibility is replaced by their perceived authenticity and pulls customers in without the brand having to do any work. This type of influencer is running rampant online, especially on TikTok. Products sell out in hours. Sites crash. Businesses boom. Regular people become instant influencers overnight.

Are Nathan’s collaboration videos highly produced, Hollywood-esque type ads? Nope, but they work. Maybe it’s time to change how we think about who an influencer is and what their content should look like. Will people still follow, enjoy, and buy from typical “influencers”? Of course! It’s still a viable tactic. They won’t always be the best option. In fact, there wasn’t really another option…until now.

Influencer Marketing Conclusion

People want brands to humanize themselves, and the easiest way to do that is to pay attention. Be involved in conversations when presented with them. Keep up with who’s promoting your brand without sponsorship and how others are responding. Authenticity is going a longer and longer way today. Acknowledge your micro-influencers and show how you appreciate their advocacy. Recognizing one customer displays appreciation to all customers. Let the influencers with true power reveal themselves instead of cherry-picking celebrities and praying the millions spent with them pay off.

Ocean Spray® is embracing the new influencer marketing model and, in doing so, being rewarded for jumping on opportunities when they present themselves.

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Feature Photo Source: The Guardian

Source: @420doggface208/TikTok

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