Mucinex debuts as first OTC drug on TikTok app—and it was a mammoth hit

Reckitt Benckiser's cold and flu brand Mucinex made history as the first OTC med on TikTok, the trendy music and video social app. The brand translated its zombie-themed campaign for new product NightShift into a challenge promotion called #TooSickToBeSick—and it racked up more than 400 million views in just five days.

RB worked with TikTok to choose four influencers who transformed themselves into zombies suffering from cold and flu. With the help of a Mucinex product, they quickly change into rested characters dressed and ready for Halloween fun.

The idea came from the zombie theme in Mucinex NightShift’s TV ad in which the Mr. Mucus snot monster brings an army of zombies to tell a cold sufferer that she’ll be one of them by morning. She disagrees with the short green agitator and shows off her NightShift medicine.

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Each TikTok-er crafted an original 15-second video and posted it with the campaign hashtag #TooSickToBeSick the week before Halloween for millions of followers. TikTok couple Chris and Sharla, who post under the @ourfire handle and have 5.4 million followers, picked up the most likes at just under one million (927,900). Another creator, Drea (@dreaknowsbest), has 3.5 million followers and nabbed 803,000 likes.

Viewers were also encouraged to create their own zombie-to-fab videos—and many did. While RB did not have a final total by press time, a scroll through TikTok’s queue shows dozens of people who used the tag and Mucinex’s “Join the Challenge” music. Every video that used the music features a rotating Mr. Mucus icon in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Total views of all videos with that hashtag reached more than 400 million by the time the promotion ended Nov. 4. One of TikTok's dominant trends now— transformation videos in which people morph from drab to fab, backed by songs like Cinderella’s “Bippity Boppity Boo”—likely helped the Mucinex videos succeed.

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TikTok helped “us to understand how people use the platform and how to engage on the platform. From an experimentation standpoint, we’re always looking to understand what can we do to be new and different. Looking at how technology is evolving and how can we participate in different ways,” said Elyse Altabet, marketing director of Mucinex, adding that it’s something they would definitely consider doing again.

The experience was also good exposure to a new audience for the new brand, she said. In this case, a mobile-forward audience, typically younger, that likes to engage with new technology.