Common knowledge says that to get in with the youths, you need a youth to sneak you in. Carnation would have agreed with that assumption—until a miraculous TikTok moment spearheaded by someone almost as old as the brand made us all reconsider (read: throw out) the traditional playbook.
Carnation has 124 years under its belt. Shockingly, that legacy wasn’t immediately appealing to Millennials and Gen Z. While the brand has a strong foothold with older audiences, they were struggling to connect with younger folks and were consequently facing decreasing category sales.
Then, just before Thanksgiving, came a video from a 96-year-old grandmother reciting a 1940s jingle for Carnation Milk, which unexpectedly gained 16M views in a matter of days. It was clear that this was Carnation’s chance to enter the zeitgeist. With no TikTok presence or plan in place—and the understanding that social whims move at the speed of light—Carnation asked us to quickly harness the viral trend to help bridge the generational gap and reconnect with younger audiences.
On TikTok, time is of the essence. So our strategy hinged on speed and saturation, aiming to amplify the cultural sensation and capitalize on the unexpected viral moment before the cultural masses lost interest. Carnation quickly established a dedicated TikTok presence to foster a community on the platform. From there, we partnered with The Gregory Bros—the mega music creator known for elevating“The Corn Kid” to viral icon status—to songify the jingle. In a matter of days, we created an infectious Carnation remix video that was posted on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube to strategically amplify viewership and engagement.
Meanwhile, Grandma Helen’s star was rising. Infused with genuine enthusiasm and love for the brand, plus an infectious charm and relatability, Helen was an authentic brand advocate—so it was a no-brainer that Carnation should forge an official partnership with her. Her engagement helped fuel the momentum of the campaign and signaled to followers that the Carnation campaign wasn’t just grab-and-go; it was a true partnership between a brand and a real brand believer.
With a song and a 96-year-old brand ambassador in place, we sent the whole thing pinging across TikTok feeds with Carnation's “Cooking Across Generations” TikTok challenge, spearheaded by influential mega-creators. Encouraging families to share cherished baking memories spanning generations, this campaign reinforced Carnation's legacy while tapping into the universal appeal of familial traditions.
The of-the-moment initiative boosted the brand's relevance and ignited heartfelt moments of nostalgia that deeply resonated with consumers (and not just the ones who were born in 1927). We had succeeded in establishing a meaningful connection with a broader audience, solidifying Carnation's presence as a cultural force on TikTok and beyond.
Thanks to a saucy grandma and lightning-fast campaign execution, people started buying what we were selling. Literally. The campaign produced a whopping 3% shift in category sales, proof that marrying zeitgeisty vitality and heartfelt nostalgia is a recipe for delicious success. Across social, Carnation was able to peel eyeballs away from GRWMs and celeb tutorials, and North Sea sailors to amass an astounding 107M views and 2.6M engagements. All that energy kicked up by Carnation leveraging the right person, the right song, and the right challenge resulted in the brand growing its TikTok following from zero to 68K seemingly overnight—making it the most successful Nestle TikTok channel launch ever.