Have you ever gotten a DM on your Instagram from a company that wants to send you their product for free in exchange for a plug or post? I finally said yes to one of these inquiries and I had so much fun in the process.

We’ve all seen Instagram posts that are “Paid Partnerships” or “Sponsored Content” and there are certainly multiple variations of those. A couple examples are posts by influencers that have been paid by an agency because they have a large following and some are posts by accounts that have a targeted audience in exchange for free product. I’ve been approached by a handful of companies in the past year that want to send me free product in exchange for “product placement” or a post saying how much I like their product, and each time, I always ask myself: “Is this a product that I would use anyway?” and “Is this a product that is on-brand with who I am and who I represent on my Instagram account?” Recently, I received one of these messages from a company that makes a Cold Brew Coffee Maker. The kind where you add course ground coffee beans to something that looks like a French press and then after it has brewed in the fridge for 16-24 hours, you simply pour and enjoy. I thought about it and considered it. I asked them what their expectations were and they replied that they were a small business and wanted to send me the product for free in exchange for me doing one post about it while tagging them. There was also a special 20% link that they made for me to push out to my followers and the incentive of a cash prize if I had the most likes of my post (against a handful of other Instagram accounts that they made the same pitch to). I didn’t care about the discount link or the potential “prize” but I was intrigued by what sounded like a very easy solution for a “do-it-myself” caffeine delivery to my brain. I told them that I would do it if they gave me 100% creative control on how I would “plug their product”. I’m a creative director that lives on ice coffee year-round and if I was going to make a promo in exchange for a $20 coffee maker I was going to do it “the Joe Lyons way”. Those of you that have worked on projects with me know that I don’t do plain and mediocre. It’s not my style. I had lots of ideas.

The company sent me their state-of-the-art cold brew coffee maker and I received it the next day. It was a very simple, clean design that can be best described as a glass beaker inside of a stainless casing with a handle. There is another piece that is a stainless tubular chamber that inserts into the beaker that you fill with the ground coffee and then you top off the whole thing with water. Once it’s brewed (16-24 hours depending on strength preference), you simply take out the chamber of spent grounds and it’s done. Easy. I immediately started thinking about the most creative ways to make a post that was fun, candid and also fit into the overall theme and feel of my Insta page. Fortunately my page is an eccentric mix of all things creative that I work on both professionally and personally. My first thought was to involve my 4 year-old daughter in the project and show that this coffee maker is so easy to use that, well, a 4 year-old could use it. Something humored me about the thought of a kid making coffee as they started their day. That morphed into the idea of a princess tea party, which I have a lot of experience with, where I am drinking coffee and Makenzie is drinking her standard make believe tea. After making my first batch, I set up shop at the kitchen counter in my house. Makenzie and I made scrambled eggs first and then, iPhone camera rolling I asked her if she’d like some coffee (just to test her response). She quickly covered her nose and say “eww coffee is gross” followed by her running into the other room… Onto plan B it was.

I decided that my design studio would be a great place to shoot the piece since I have a kitchen area there and could shoot it in-between client projects. As I gathered my new coffee maker to head into the studio on Friday morning, I accidentally dropped it in the parking and it shattered everywhere. Perhaps this product partnership was not meant to be. Never one to give up or bail on a commitment, I jumped on Amazon, and ordered myself a new one. In hindsight, I just remembered I should have used the 20% code that was specially made for me to share… In true Amazon COVID-era “you never really know when you’re going to get it” fashion, I was pleasantly surprised that my coffee maker arrived the next morning.

I was up early this morning thinking about needing coffee and brainstorming ideas on how to do a fun shoot at my studio that would be unique but not take up too much of my time. I am running a business after all. I decided that if I could do a GoPro style video where the camera followed the coffee pot, it would be a really cool “ice coffee perspective” of being at a design studio. Awesome idea Joe! If only I had a GoPro… This is where being a slight hoarder comes in handy. I was able to gather up some scrap pieces of metal, nuts and bolts from the “workshop section” of my studio and I rigged a boom of sorts that attached to the bottom of the coffee maker (although I did need to drill thru the stainless) and came out 10 inches to a phone mount. The finished result came out better than I could have ever imagined!