[W]hen I opened Couplet Coffee’s Instagram page for the first time, I was dazzled by COLOR.
The same thing happened on their website. Couplet’s Twitter account reads like a romp through a Gen Z mind that occasionally drinks coffee. Their TikTok account is sort of about coffee—but it’s mainly about Couplet Coffee founder Gefen Skolnick.
Much of the content goes against conventional advice on how companies should handle social media, but as Couplet’s runaway success over the last few months has shown, it’s working.
Great Coffee Should Be Accessible
When she graduated from college and started Couplet, Skolnick leveraged her existing Twitter community to raise initial funding for the business. It wasn’t part of her plan, but as she mentions in her account of this process, the community she had built around her Twitter presence helped build trust in her. Skolnick’s social media voice is rooted in Gen Z culture but also has intelligent takes on the tech industry, being a founder, and start-up businesses.
She extended that voice into Couplet Coffee’s social media presence, creating a cute, inclusive, and approachable brand. When we sat down to chat about how she arrived at this voice for Couplet, Skolnick was refreshingly vulnerable about it. “I’ve been an outsider to the specialty coffee world for a while,” she started. It took her a “significant amount of time” to figure out the industry and the major players. From the consumer side, she witnessed a lack of accessibility in specialty coffee—from the jargon present on retail bags to the “bougie” reputation specialty has developed.
Skolnick steered clear of that for Couplet. The website has phrases like “Make it cute” and “Great coffee shouldn’t be douchey” displayed prominently. Some of this came out of conversations with friends who didn’t understand her obsession with specialty coffee pre-Couplet; the rest is her own desire to welcome in people who have been traditionally excluded. She compared her approach to other specialty coffee “behemoths” as different waves, thinking of Couplet as a new wave, signaling a significant change to come.
A Fourth Wave in Marketing
Marketing trends come and go, but Couplet is tapping into a lasting difference in how people interact with companies. Consumers tend to know when they’re being marketed to and when a brand is pandering. Couplet’s social media feels more real, especially to younger consumers, because there’s clearly an actual person tweeting and posting pictures, not a marketing strategy edited to within an inch of its life.
Couplet achieves relatability through the visible presence of the founder—Skolnick is all over the brand’s TikTok, for instance–and how the brand interacts with customers and potential customers. It’s not all about selling. Simple tweets like “gm bb” (good morning, baby) feel like a friend’s text. Retweeting jokes about shitposting, or being intentionally provocative or off-kilter, acknowledges that they’re on top of what they’re doing. Importantly, when they use the brand’s social media to poke fun at things, it’s always at their own expense, rather than punching down.
Importantly, Couplet encourages people to embrace the things and people they love openly. The brand has thrown the concept of a ‘guilty pleasure’ out the window. Skolnick’s own love for poetry (something maybe judgmentally considered strange for someone with a tech background) is present right in the name: there’s a two-line poem–a couplet–on every bag of coffee.
Skolnick described her approach to Couplet’s marketing strategy as “really intuitive.” For instance, she was bored of the traditional minimalist ad photography that puts products on a blank background, so she searched for new ways to do it. Couplet’s Instagram shows a different direction: Playful photos showing products out and about, having conversations with one another, including a montage showing a moka pot and a French press getting married on the beach.
Inspiration for the brand’s identity didn’t come from other coffee brands. “We do need to reinvent the wheel,” she said about her thought process behind it. Instead, she looks to streetwear, Gen Z culture, and Couplet’s customers for what they should try next.
Exploration and play dominate the brand. Skolnick reminds me that Couplet is still new, so they’re always trying new things to see how it works. “We’re just a fun brand, and we say what we want to say playfully and sometimes abrasively,” she says. “That’s the identity of Couplet.”
Despite occasionally being more straightforward than other brands might be—that’s what I took ‘abrasive’ to mean—Skolnick’s approach is never alienating. Unlike brands that use shock or deliberately create feelings of exclusion from ‘the club’ to sell a product, Couplet’s strategy seems to be disbanding the club entirely and making a real community.
‘Making it Cute’ Online And Off
Couplet’s pop-up Queer Art Show and Poetry Night, which occurs every other month, is one example of how the company stands by Skolnick’s founding principle that good coffee shouldn’t be exclusionary. Couplet has created space for people to come together and celebrate things they’re passionate about, like art, poetry, and coffee. The events are always packed.
Other coffee products Couplet sells, like the Mooka Pot and the Lover’s French Press, have ‘cute’ as their whole justification for existence. The ethos is different from years of sleek stainless steel design—like everything else Couplet does, these are meant to put the “fun” back into “functional.” The Mooka Pot, a cow print covered twist on the classic Moka pot, was one of the early products that Skolnick showed to Couplet’s social media followers first, letting them decide if Couplet would carry the product. The thunderous reaction—all heart emojis and “I need it!”—convinced her to put in an order. The Lover’s French Press, which is bright red with a heart-shaped window to see inside, was the next cute product Skolnick brought in.
After a long period of minimalism and ‘cool’ in coffee, Couplet is at the forefront of a new vanguard of coffee brands embracing maximalism and feeling cute. “I would love if brands were doing more hype-driven fun cool stuff because it’s felt stale for a while,” Skolnick mused. Couplet’s social media-driven rise in the coffee industry is proof that cool is out and cute is in. It’s high time we make coffee cute—not douchey.
Photos courtesy of Couplet Coffee
Valorie Clark is a writer and historian based in Los Angeles. She often writes about coffee, travel, social history, and the intersection of all three. When she’s not writing, she’s probably bending to her cat’s every whim.