How a Construction Guy in Austin, Texas Spoofed Instagram and Won the Social Game.

The idea formulated at a creative brainstorming meeting at Bandolier Media in Austin, Texas. They ran with it. Then it hit Twitter (@barbzlovescarbs). Then a popular Instagram meme influencer (@middleclassfancy) got in the game. And that’s when the tide turned for @justaconstructionguy.

The story:
Some chick going by @barbzlovescarbs on Twitter posts that “her dad” asked her what an “influencer” was. She explained the concept, and he says, “I can do that.” So, he creates an Instagram account to prove it. A few influencer tags and re-posts later and bam, he’s got over 500,000 followers in less than 2 weeks.

A picture of the actual BarbzLovesCarbs tweet that set the spoof in motion.

He’s just a simple, coffee loving construction guy working on the East Side in Austin, Texas posting his crazy-good photos of designer coffee in a thermos. Hhhmmm…

The REAL story:
Mike McKim, the owner of Cuvee Coffee in Austin, Texas, wanted to pump up the marketing for his local coffee shops a bit. He felt like the typical influencers were passé and wanted to “create” an influencer more akin to the customers Cuvee actually had, specifically in their East Side shop.

The East Side of Austin has been under massive amounts of construction for the last 10 years or more. It’s a perfect example of gentrification at its best (or worst). When Jeff and I lived in Austin, we spent most of our time on the East Side and even looked for a house there right before we moved to Palm Springs. But I digress. The point is, the customers Cuvee saw most often were, of course, the construction guys on the neighborhood projects.

Someone at Bandolier Media knew a construction worker. Omar Madani was their guy. They approached him, and he agreed to be the face, err the Influencer, running the Instagram account @justaconsructionguy. The catch? Omar wasn’t really running it. Bandolier was. Omar was paid for the photo shoots, and Bandolier handled the rest.

After @barbzlovescarbs posted her Tweet about “her dad” and the influencer convo, the account literally blew up. But not one person knows or will claim who Barb is and why she did it. Mike McKimm says he has no idea who she is.

By the time the account got to about 400,000, the jig was up. The internet had been spoofed—Omar was a marketing ploy to “influence” people to drink Cuvee coffee.

The thing is, it worked for Omar, not for Cuvee. Once the cover was ripped off the story, Omar took over the account. He’s partnering with other brands to promote their products (this happened in 2 weeks, I kid you not). Omar got to go wave the flag at the big NASCAR race in Iowa over Father’s Day weekend.

This will literally change Omar’s life (has already). But what about Cuvee?

They are left to explain why Barb lied (Omar is NOT her dad), deal with the backlash of people angry to have been tricked, and slink away tail tucked. Some people think it’s funny and “so 2019” that they were so easily duped and some are straight-up mad.

This is where Cuvee went wrong. They were paying for this influencer attention while this comment convo was taking place. Ergo, lying.

The Challenge.
Bandolier Media did too good of a job. It looked staged, just like every picture on the Cuvee account does. There’s no way Just A Construction Guy could take photos like that on his own. The social media savvy picked up on it in a big fat hurry. Now the discussion is, is it right to use influencers? Is it inauthentic? Is it really brand influencing if you pay that person to use your products or services?

Hollywood has been using product placement to raise capital for movie production since the beginning of time. Sleight-of-hand advertising. Instagram just offers a different stage, right?

If an ad campaign, stunt, spoof—whatever you want to call this—leaves most or even any of your customers, potential or current, seriously questioning your integrity (the comments are all there on both Cuvee’s and Omar’s accounts) is any publicity good publicity?

My take: nope. Most of the comments are along the lines of disappointment in Cuvee for dishonesty or what a genius marketing stunt it was by Bandolier Media. Either way, it did nothing to sell Cuvee Coffee. It just made them look bad. Omar goes on with his 540,000+ followers, and Cuvee stays behind with their 16,000 and a bad rep.

You reap what you sow in marketing…and in life.

Always behind you 1,000%-

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