There Is No Instagram Filter For Authenticity

November 12, 2014
This is Spyhouse Coffee in Northeast Minneapolis. Unlike the coffee shop referenced in my story, photos of Spyhouse barely do its interior a lick of justice.

This is Spyhouse Coffee in Northeast Minneapolis. Unlike the coffee shop referenced in my story, photos of Spyhouse barely do its interior a lick of justice.


For my money, you won’t find a better coffee city in the Midwest than Minneapolis. Our fair city is speckled with brilliant little independent shops that not only produce world-class brew but also captivating atmospheres. This wasn’t always the case, but over the past few years, Minneapolis has made up serious ground (no pun intended) on the likes of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and New York.

Of course, coffee is only part of the equation when grading coffee shops. Like Delta blues or broken-in leather couches, a great coffee shop has soul, and that’s something you can’t fake, though many try.

Last week, I finally got around to checking out one of the newer coffee shops in town, which I’ll leave nameless. I had seen photos of the shop’s décor on Instagram — dramatic, daydreamy shots of the interior taken from just the right angle with just the right lighting. Painstakingly cool, every design detail considered. There must have been hundreds of photos on Instagram, some from the accounts of customers, but most from the shop’s account.

I went in expecting the Louvre of coffee shops. I walked out wondering if it was an elaborate prank by the authors of EpicPinterestFail.com.

What went wrong?

The shop had gone to great measures to be seen as an extravagant, on-trend purveyor of coffee and cool thanks to its carefully filtered and touched-up photography on Instagram. The only problem was, in person, the shop appeared closer to a sophomore art major’s dorm room. Five individual pendant lights were plugged into the same six-outlet jack. Paintings the size of jewel cases were stuck to cedar planks nailed to the wall. There were one- or two-inch gaps between the drywall and a doorframe. Steam and smoke from the kitchen fogged the shop windows to opacity.

All of these offenses would have been — nay — should have been perfectly forgivable. But the shop itself had raised my expectations through its own carefully curated photography. And, to be truthful, those gorgeous Instagram photos were enough to make me visit.

But because I was let down, it’s unlikely I’ll go out of my way to return.

Marketers have more tools than ever before to reach consumers and tell their story. But that doesn’t make authenticity any less important. No matter the platform or occasion, when consumers are persuaded to commit their time and money to trying something new, they want to feel their choice was made with information that’s indisputably true. When they feel duped, the disappointment can be enormous. In this instance, I felt lied to. The shop went to such extreme measures to look like something grander than it is.

Lucky for me, Minneapolis has plenty of other great coffee shops. #NoFilter