My fifteen minutes of @Caribou_Coffee fame

I make a pretty decent cup of coffee.  From what I remember, anyway — I haven’t made more than one or two cups at home in the past month.  Instead, first thing every morning, I walk down the street to Caribou Coffee.  The baristas are the first people I see every day, and they know my usual — a medium dark roast with room.  I’m not getting anything fancy (at that hour, anyway), and although it’s a short hike from my place to Caribou, I literally cut through the parking lot of another coffee shop to get there.

I recognize how crazy that sounds.  So what keeps me going back to Caribou day after day?

My name on a Caribou cup

At the top, the cup reads: "Trivia nights with friends, Rachel P." You are in the presence of coffee royalty. Also this smoothie tasted better than it photographed.

Adding to my general addiction to coffee, Caribou does a great job with marketing.  Their slogan is catchy: “Life is short. Stay awake for it.”  Their Facebook and Twitter accounts keep me up to date on sales and events.  The website, like the store itself, includes a trivia section and a section for suggestions.  And the new frequency cards were call-the-family newsworthy.

If I sound like a poster child for Caribou Coffee, it’s only because I am.  A few months ago, Caribou started a “What do you stay awake for?” campaign, and my submission is featured on the large cold cups.  The day I got an email saying my name would appear on “millions of cups” was one of the best of my life, at least until the frequency cards arrived.

Do I just love the product so much I couldn’t help but participate in their marketing campaign?  Or is their marketing campaign so good, I just couldn’t help but want to participate?  I honestly think it’s a little of both.  I don’t mind hitting the “like” button for a product I actually love, and I don’t mind a daily bit of marketing if it comes with a bit of fun.  And a bit of caffeine.

Who are you?

As recent news has taught us, once you put something online, it’s not going away — and it can seriously damage your reputation.  We can go back and forth all day about why someone like Anthony Wiener would put, ahem, that online — but the truth is he’s not the only one risking his career through twitter.  As the world gets increasingly tech-based, an individual’s online identity and online reputation is almost as precious as one’s real-world identity.  There’s no longer a disconnect between who you are online and who you are in real life (or “IRL,” as the kids say).

On the lighter side, there are a whole bunch of snarky websites out there just waiting to catch your Facebook mistakes.  But on the more dangerous side, it’s possible to tweet your way out of a job.  At the same time, it’s impossible to avoid having an online identity.  So how do you find the happy medium?

My first line of defense is having a super common name that makes me tough to Google (side note: what a phrase, right?).  But after that, it’s all about realizing that no amount of “privacy settings” really makes anything on the internet “private.”  I learned this through trial-and-error — after all, Facebook came about while I was in college.

A young fashionista ahead of her time

See what I mean? Me, circa fifth grade, dressed like a flapper for no reason I can identify. This picture will now be on the internet forever.

It’s not so much that I have dark secrets as a history of weird haircuts and odd fashion choices that are always just a few clicks away.

So now, the answer for me is to protect my reputation online as I would IRL. In neither universe am I above making a dumb joke at my own expense, but I’m also not going to ruin what I’ve worked so hard for: a reputation as an educated, employed, responsible young adult who finally found a haircut that more or less suits her.

Won’t get fooled again

When I was young, my parents got me a subscription to the magazine Zillions: Consumer Reports for Kids.  It was a lot like the adult version — various products were put through tests to see if they lived up to expectations — except all the products were for kids, and some of the testers were kids.  I don’t know why my parents got me this; maybe to hint that in the future I would be making my own Barbie purchases and should try to be better informed about the competition?  Anyway, I remember almost nothing about the toy comparisons — and almost everything about the other main feature of Zillions: exposing the trickery of advertisements.

Most impressive to me were the food ads.  Even a kid knows the picture of a Whopper on a Burger King commercial is nothing like the real thing — but it wasn’t until I read Zillions that I understood why, and I found the deceit mind-blowing.  Fake food? Vaseline? Sandwiches propped up by toothpicks and covered in glue?  Speaking of glue, that’s not milk in those Apple Jacks.  Every time I saw an ad with a “scam” I recognized, I pointed it out to my family members lest they be duped.  This went on for at least a year; surprisingly, my parents did not renew my subscription.

Today, I spend a lot more time complaining about the trickery of online spam and scams than pictures of too-perfect hamburgers.  Almost everyone knows that there is no such thing as a “miracle product;” advertisers have had to turn to other means to get our attention — celebrity endorsements, humor, social media, etc.  I like to think we’re all a little more discerning, even those of us who weren’t raised on Zillions.

Then again, this remains my favorite commercial of all time.  And my running shoes are Nikes.