This small business has broken TikTok with its hilarious marketing

Social media can be difficult to break into these days, especially for small businesses. There's so much competition for viewers' ever-reduced attention spans, that it can be hard to get any organic reach at all, let alone make a memorable impact.

But Clancy's Auto Body, a car body shop in Fort Lauderdale, has found a formula that's won it more views and likes on TikTok in the past week than some of the world's biggest brands. The key to its success? A heavy dose of humour... and Maxwell the Cat. Suffice it to say, it's not an approach you often find in the best branding books or best graphic design books.

@clancysautobody

♬ original sound - keeern

Until a couple of weeks ago, very few people had heard of Clancy's Auto Body, but within just days, the business became a TikTok sensation. It all started with the video above. With a humourous intentionally amateur approach to social media and a conspicuous cameo appearance by internet celebrity Maxwell the Cat, it picked up over 22M views, 2.2M likes and thousands of comments. 

We might write the extraordinary hit as a one-hit wonder, but Clancy's quickly followed up and delivered more in the same vein. It hasn't hit the same numbers as the debut, but it's seen several TikTok posts surpass a million views, gaining its account 198.3K followers and 7.2M likes in a little over a week. It even has its own TikTok fanbase, which has dubbed itself the Clancy's Cult.

@clancysautobody

♬ original sound - Clancy’s Auto Body

The results have had repercussions beyond TikTok too. Clancy's Google business listing has been flooded with positive reviews, to the point where Google had to step in and start monitoring them. They've also received interview requests from national media.

@clancysautobody

♬ original sound - keeern

The phenomenon will be an interesting study for advertising people and social media managers to analyse and anguish over. Is this really what a company needs to do to get attention on TikTok? Is there any point in paying for influencer endorsements when we can appropriate an internet meme for free?

Humour and meme culture clearly go down well on the platform – as do random acts of design kindness. Clancy's social media manager has taken advantage of that perfectly. They also quickly started to generate characters and plotlines, creating a story that evolves and an authenticity that's highly engaging. Appearances from the 'boss man' and body shop workers make the series feel like a reality show – like The Office but real.

But bigger brands should be wary. Clancy's approach is so successful because it's a small business. That makes it believable and elicits sympathy. Larger companies that attempt something similar could find that it falls flat. Nobody believes that a big business doesn't have a professional marketing team capable of producing polished content, and attempts to communicate anything otherwise often feel utterly cringeworthy – just see the reaction to the Oatly ads on Reddit.

@clancysautobody

♬ original sound - keeern

Will Clancy's endeavours prove to be worth the effort? The videos probably take more time to produce than what it might seem, and only a minority of the millions of viewers of Clancy Auto Body's TikTok are ever going to become customers for geographical reasons alone. But I expect the exposure will still pay off. 

They've started to include content that focuses more on their services – there's even an interview with the company's founder, which again creates a sense of authenticity and generates trust. They're unlikely to replicate the viral success of the first video, but if they just make themselves a local household name. 

Oh, what's with the cat? If you blinked recently, you might have missed him, but Maxwell's suddenly everywhere. He apparently started life as a photo uploaded to Imgur over five years ago. He then got turned into 3D model and more recently started spinning. Now he's the internet's biggest celebrity. 

Ilias Pistopoulos, the creator of the viral TikTok effects Maxwell The Cat and Maxwell in the Sky says that he's "happy to see such interest and love from people around the world for Maxwell". You can see more of his content on TikTok at @doitfam. See our pick of the best 3D modelling software if you think you can create a star that could steal his crown.

Read more:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.