The Brand Dilemma

As Texas’ first craft coffee roaster, Cuvée Coffee began in 1998 as “an experiment in craft” — a modus operandi that guides the company to this day. It’s seen in everything from their products (they pioneered the world’s first nitro cold brew in 2011 via a widget-activated Nitro can) to their Direct Trade model, which means they work directly with growing partners and pay fair prices to cultivate sustainability. According to Cuvée Coffee’s website, “the tinkering never ceases,” and this ethos has served them well. The roaster’s best-selling coffees are available all over the U.S., and its Austin-based facility now houses a coffee bar and world-class cold brewery.

However, as with most small businesses, social media marketing has presented a challenge for Cuvée.

Thanks to the company’s previous community manager, they had a presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but when that employee relocated, they struggled to dedicate the same attention to social media efforts. Additionally, TikTok presented an opportunity to reach a new audience, but the team lacked the bandwidth and resources needed to explore this.

For a small company like Cuvée Coffee to make a big impact on TikTok — a platform that has eluded even larger coffee brands with multi-million dollar marketing budgets — they needed a creative partner who shared their experimental spirit, would be dedicated exclusively to social media efforts, and could work within their budget. Enter Bandolier Media.

The Bandolier Approach

After a Bandolier client and mutual acquaintance introduced the media company to Mike McKim, Cuvée Coffee’s founder and CEO, the two groups met to discuss the possibilities. And the match was a win from the beginning. The Bandolier team came prepared with fresh, innovative ideas for TikTok content and offered the expertise needed to execute them.

Bandolier started by creating a TikTok account for Cuvée Coffee and coached McKim in posting over a dozen branded videos — like McKim attempting a “garage door pour” challenge set to the Rocky theme song or shotgunning a can of cold brew. The coffee roaster’s audience responded favorably, but Cuvée wasn’t getting quite the visibility they were looking for. So, during what was a difficult year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bandolier decided to experiment with publishing playful and slightly irreverent content that would provide levity for their audience and boost engagement.

When Bandolier’s creative director suggested a “Will It Espresso?” series in which McKim would grind a random food item in the espresso machine, pour himself the resulting shot, taste the concoction, and post the entire video to TikTok, the team figured, “Why not?”

“I’ve always operated on the concept that I wouldn’t want to produce something I wouldn’t want to watch,” explains Louis Montemayor, Bandolier’s co-owner and creative director. “I always found the process of coffee being made interesting, soothing, and fun to watch. So I thought, how do we make the process our own — and make it a little weird?” Thus, the “Will it Espresso” series was born.

@cuveecoffeeWelcome to our new series, “Will It Espresso?” This should be a lot of fun. ☕️ Suggestions and ideas are welcomed! ##coffee ##espresso ##willitespresso

♬ original sound – Cuvée Coffee

@cuveecoffeeWill it espresso? Ep 3 : Red Peppers 🌶🤔 [Part 1] ##cuvee ##cuveecoffee ##willitespresso

♬ original sound – Cuvée Coffee


Cuvée Coffee’s content — and mere presence — on TikTok serves as a differentiator from what McKim refers to as lackluster competitor brands.

“Most coffee companies do the same thing — it’s a boring industry,” he explains. “So, instead of doing like everyone else — preaching about why we’re great and where our coffee is sourced — this is a way to have fun and meet our consumers and fans where they are.” The new approach, including the “Will It Espresso” series, presented some risks — like subjecting McKim’s tastebuds and equipment to Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, for instance — but those risks paid off.

Cuvée Coffee’s TikTok account, which was launched in May 2020, now boasts 18,000 followers (and counting) — a good number of whom are in their teens and 20s. The average number of views on Cuvée Coffee’s TikTok videos doubled and at times tripled after the company launched “Will It Espresso?” and engagement has also increased.

Its top two most viewed videos are Red Peppers (440.2K views) and Xxtra Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (231.1K views). Not bad for a family-owned coffee roaster from Austin.

In the past year, Cuvée has gained invaluable insights about young coffee consumers and their behaviors on TikTok. “A handful of people in the industry will send me private messages saying they think it’s hysterical,” says McKim. “My favorite comment was, ‘I want you to know that my 14-year-old daughter thinks I’m the coolest dad on the planet because I know you. She showed me the video and I said, “Oh, that’s Mike!”’

Such insights are attractive to coffee buyers and present opportunities for the company to collaborate with other brands. Chester Cheetah even contacted McKim and asked to share one of Cuvée Coffee’s videos to their Instagram account.

“I love working with Bandolier Media,” says McKim. “I love their spirit, their ideas, their scrappiness.” His message to any brand considering working with Bandolier? “Whatever you’re setting as your budget, double it without batting an eye. This is the right team.”