TikTok’s obsession with berries and cream shows that DeepTok isn’t actually that far from mainstream TikTok.
The tag #berriesandcream has roughly 327 million views on TikTok as of Wednesday, and #berriesandcreamtok has 1.6 million. Over 132,7000 videos use one iteration of the sound, pulled from a 2007 Starburst commercial, and 27,500 videos use another upload of the sound from a different clip of the commercial.
In one berries and cream TikTok, creator howe_about_no pokes fun at her haircut, comparing it to that of the Little Lad. In another video, taylor_.the_.creator does the “Little Lad Dance” to the beat of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP.”
Choreographer and director Jack Ferver, who played the character known as the Little Lad, is now a TikTok celebrity for their portrayal of the perma-adolescent berries and cream enthusiast. Blunt bangs and frilly collared shirts, like the look worn by the Little Lad, are now considered berries and cream-core. Delighted users are further spreading the trend by imitating the Little Lad’s clapping dance to pop songs that have been remixed with the Little Lad’s song about berries and cream.
The trend is derived from a series of Starburst commercials that aired in 2007, which feature a character called “The Little Lad” who adores berries and cream. In one commercial, The Little Lad explains that when he was younger, his mother made him do the “Little Lad Dance” if he wanted berries and cream. His mother is gone now, he tells the viewer, and abruptly demonstrates how to hop and clap in place while singing about berries and cream. In another ad, The Little Lad overhears two bystanders discussing the Starburst’s new berries and cream flavor, and launches into his ecstatic dance in front of the nonplussed strangers.
The commercial made its way back to TikTok in January, when podcaster Justin McElroy posted an excerpt with the caption “Please make great art with this sound, it’s what we all need.”
It didn’t immediately catch on like he hoped. The commercial seemed to exist in a limbo of bizarre aughts humor that few remembered. In response to McElroy’s March tweet about the sound, one person described the commercial as “some weird fever dream.”
Another responded, “You can’t force a sound to be popular…all you can hope is that it’ll catch on in about 8 months.”
And it did. Searches for “berries and cream” skyrocketed in late August, according to Google Trends data. The sound, which TikTok users described as only existing in “DeepTok,” is now all over the app.
Though it failed to pick up on mainstream TikTok for months, the sound would occasionally rear its head on DeepTok. DeepTok describes the nonsensical videos that don’t necessarily align with any online trends, but do appeal to very online humor.
The phrase “Straight TikTok” is often used to disparage the mainstream dance trends, beauty videos, and heteronormative content that rule the app. DeepTok content that uses surreal visuals, alternative aesthetics, and absurdist humor is also described as “AltTok,” “Gay TikTok,” or “Elite TikTok.” Being on DeepTok is like being in on a massive inside joke — if you’re on DeepTok, you’re in the club.
Outside the fray of conventional TikTok trends ruled by popular creators like Addison Rae and members of the infamous creator collective The Hype House, DeepTok content is believed to be more authentic because it isn’t considered mainstream.
The Little Lad’s singsong chant about berries and cream may have taken a while to gain popularity, but it’s far from a DeepTok secret. TikTok users joked that they had to be especially disturbed to see so many remixed berries and cream sounds on their For You Pages. However, the sound has been remixed into so many songs, it’s not particularly niche.
Popular remixes include Flo-Rida’s “Low” and the theme song from The Nightmare Before Christmas. An already viral clip of Miley Cyrus performing “Twinkle Song,” in which she belts “What does it mean? What does it mean?” was also remixed with The Little Lad singing about berries and cream. The account misc_mashups, which has 20,500 followers and nearly a million collective likes, has posted 15 remixes of berries and cream.
The trend’s popularity inspired Ferver themself to join TikTok, in character as The Little Lad.
DeepTok trends like berries and cream are gaining traction as traditional influencers fall out of favor. Dance trends, which used to be TikTok’s bread and butter, are declining. The majority of popular dances have been choreographed by Black creators, but after years of not receiving credit for their routines, many went on “strike” this summer to protest the lack of recognition. Influencers who gained popularity by performing dance routines on TikTok are moving away from that content — Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae have pivoted to lifestyle vlogging.
Lifestyle influencers are also falling out of favor, and their once-aspirational content has been soured by their privileged behavior during the pandemic
But lifestyle influencers are also falling out of favor, and their once-aspirational content has been soured by their privileged behavior during the pandemic. An Insider poll found that all but one beauty YouTuber had a favorable public rating. The YouTuber, known as MannyMUA, has been distancing himself from the drama that once fueled the beauty community in favor of social activism content. Family vlogging, a wildly lucrative genre of lifestyle content, is being called out as exploitative as viewers express concern about the wellbeing of children featured in these videos.
Though Straight TikTok is still flourishing, it doesn’t birth trends the way it once did. Lifestyle content and choreographed dance trends are far from unpopular — plenty of creators are still successful in making traditional content. But fatigued by the last year of social distancing, and fed up with sponsored content, public demand for conventional lifestyle content is waning.
The content that comes out of DeepTok, however, can easily be imitated and passed around online. Dance trends were so popular because any user could replicate them. Trends like berries and cream are similarly imitated, adapted, and shared. The DeepTok content that was considered niche on TikTok last year is starting to take over the dances, family vlogs, and lifestyle videos that used to populate Straight TikTok.
Get used to DeepTok content. Virality is cyclical, and as TikTok evolves, so does the content that makes it popular.