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Brand Strategy TikTok Social Media

Retailers hook TikTokers with falls & fails to serve up surprise sales pitches


By Mark Hird, Co-founder

April 19, 2024 | 10 min read

The clever marketing tactic, which appears to have originated earlier this year in Brazil, is delighting TikTok users and generating millions of views for both big box retailers and small businesses. This story is part of Tik-Talks, The Drum’s special content series developed in partnership with online social media insight and trend-spotting platform Shooglebox.

Jetski fail

/ Quino Al

Retailers and other businesses are picking up on a fast-growing TikTok marketing trend in which viral video clips of accidents and mishaps are used to hook viewers before cutting to an unexpected sales message from a store employee.

@.centralhoustonnissan He's fine....LIFETIME Warranty on New and Used Cars . . . #CentralHoustonNissan #CentralHouston #Houston #Texas #HoustonCars #Nissan #NissanFamily #Car #Cars #CarGram #CarInstagram #HoustonCarScene #Dealership #PreOwnedCarSales #PreOwnedCar #PreOwnedCars #NIssanService ♬ original sound - Central Houston Nissan

The TikTok algorithm knows that there’s something about people falling over or getting hurt that users just love to watch. Videos that feature mild – or, in some cases, extreme – peril regularly go viral, but using them as a way to create an audience for a brand’s deals is a surprising twist.

And judging by the reaction of TikTokers, the tactic is working – possibly thanks to the funny, unpolished approach that feels right at home on the app.

In the UK, brands including Iceland Foods and electronics retailer Currys have embraced the trend with a series of TikToks. In total, they’ve amassed millions of views.

One Iceland Foods video that seamlessly blended a clip of a Starbucks employee falling over from the weight of a trash bag with a clip of a store employee promoting frozen pizzas has a million ‘likes’ and more than 65,000 ‘saves.’

@icelandfoods Someone call DJ Khaled…we've got another one #PepperoniPizza #Eastenders #IcelandFoods #Transition #Savings ♬ original sound - Wibble Wobz

Users are signaling their approval in the comments. “Why do they spend thousands on boring adverts. THIS is what we want,” says one. Another user writes: “This is genius advertising,” accompanied by a laughing emoji.

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But where did this bizarre idea even come from?

It appears to have all started in Brazil in early February, when some enterprising retailers came up with the approach of grabbing TikTokers’ attention with content like a patient falling off an ambulance stretcher.


Se sua carteira foi de arrasta para cima não perca tempo e vem para a CRIATIVA ! Nossas carteiras são a partir de de R$ 29,90

♬ som original - Pablo_films_ofc

This São Paulo stationery shop won more than 16m views and 2.3m likes with a video from February 8 that blended the stretcher fall with a store employee rolling into frame to show off a series of leather products.

A Houston Nissan dealership created its own version a month later, and soon began posting various ‘ouch’ videos. The content has racked up some 65m views over the last few weeks.

By early April, the trend had caught on, with many more brands getting in on the action.

The Brazilian marketing news website Janela reported on the early appearance of these mishap TikToks two months ago, noting that they build on the previous popularity of creative social media content produced by retailers and franchises across Brazil.

As the trend has spread to the rest of the world, brands, restaurants and local stores began using some of the same viral video clips as their Brazilian predecessors.

But now, brands are developing even more creative ways to jump on the trend, copying and building on each other’s new twists. Instead of using existing viral videos to grab attention, some smaller businesses have been creating their own attention-grabbing scenarios to tee up their sales messages.

Chinese restaurant Fei Er Cottage in central London, for example, staged a mock car crash to promote “the best handmade dumplings in London.” The restaurant’s TikToks have garnered more than 2.5m views and comments like: “I’m going just because of this advert,” and, “Okay but for this effort I feel I should make a trip across London for these dumplings!”

@feiercottage #londonrestaurants #restaurant #chinesefood #chineserestaurants #londonchinesefood ♬ original sound - Fei Er Cottage

So is this genius marketing, or just another attention-grabbing effort that plays on people’s innate interest in the misfortunes of others?

At the end of the day, audiences will be the ultimate judge. You make the call – explore this Shooglebox of branded TikTok ’fail’ stunts for yourself.

Brand Strategy TikTok Social Media

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