If this red backpack looks familiar, you’re probably among the million or so people who have seen it in their social media feeds. But going viral happened mostly by accident. This is the story of how grassroots social media influencer collaboration accidentally created the most famous backpack on the internet.

Since fall 2015, Brooke Willson (@brookewillson) and her Eddie Bauer Bacon Pack have been around the world and everywhere on social media. Images and mentions of the pack have been included in dozens of posts, earning over 50,000 likes and comments and topping one million impressions—and all for the cost of the pack: $99.

That’s a huge win for the brand but wasn’t the original plan.  This publicity began with the launch of a different product—leggings. The plan wasn’t to showcase the backpack at all!


Not every influencer activation has to be a formal hashtag campaign driving conversion. In this case, legendary outdoor brand Eddie Bauer activated social media influencers to help launch a new activewear series, Motion™.

For the project, Eddie Bauer sent Willson a backpack full of new Motion activewear. She posted sneak-peeks of her adventures while wearing the new series, sparking interest and comments about the products in the photos. Eddie Bauer also ran Willson’s images in its own social feeds.


After the launch project concluded, Willson continued to use the products. While not part of the original scope of work, this type of organic product placement is not uncommon.  Over-delivery is one of the unique superpowers that social media influencers bring to the table and one that marketers seldom find elsewhere.

Over the next few months, images of the pack found their way into dozens of posts and stories from influencers, partners, and publishers. A tourism organization used the images in a blog post. Other non-competitive brands posted and shared. Even a Popular Science article included it with a mention of Eddie Bauer. The little red backpack was popping up on screens everywhere.

Some number crunching revealed impressive results:

• 1M+ impressions

• 50K+ engagements

• 35+ social posts

• 1 blog post

• 1 editorial placement


Photographer Andy Austin works with a number of brand partners and social media influencers and sees the long-term value created through the partnerships and collaborations that take place naturally in the outdoor and creative industries.  

"I love working with brands that my crew and I would be using regardless of whether we were partners,” Austin remarks. “When a relationship with a brand starts to feel like family, that's when you start to see products showing up in photos and in posts organically. It's great native advertising for the brand, and it's the result of building an authentic relationship."

In a time when consumers demand authenticity, this type of native advertising is invaluable. It raises awareness and interest for products and fosters affinity with brands themselves. Millennials may hate ads, but they don’t mind relevant, promotional messages that add value to their lives. That allowance has created a sweet spot for relevant social media influencers to deliver real value to their partners.


In the case of Willson and her backpack, the stars aligned in a way that couldn’t be planned for—some might even say luck was involved.  

While we don’t suggest leaving your marketing up to chance, developing real relationships with content creators and networks of influencers is a great way to invite good luck to find you.

It’s been said that it’s better to be lucky than good. This little red backpack shows us that sometimes you can be both.

- Animas Media

See more of Brook Willson (and her Bacon pack) at Andy Austin can be found at