“Morning Mantras” is a new mobile Instagram Effect that uses augmented reality (AR) technology and short bursts of Morgan Harper Nichols' original poetry to promote Starbucks Coffee for Nespresso Vertuo Machines.
While people still feel unsafe because of the surge in the COVID-19 Delta variant, “Morning Mantras” focuses on finding inspiration where many of us are: home.
“I can have a whole new way of sharing my art,” says Nichols, “in the safety of my home and in other people's homes.”
Speaking to the key motivations behind these mantras, Nichols said she believes in the power of a few words: “Just repeating those words, and seeing them in a beautiful way to remind us, ‘Hey, we’re all in this together and we're all going to continue to bloom like we were meant to.’”
When users access the Instagram Effect on their phones, they are asked to aim the Starbucks logo at a flat surface, like a desk or kitchen table. From there, a clear mug full of coffee floats up toward the surface beside a Nespresso capsule. Painted butterflies and flowers (also designed by Nichols) buzz and sway, surrounding “Make Room for Gratitude” or another of Nichols' 10 available mantras.
“I am an artist and a poet, and like many people, I need daily inspiration or reminders in some capacity to keep me going,” added Nichols. “That's a lot of what motivates my work and what motivated me to say yes to this project.”
Many of Nichols' Instagram posts involve a brief selection of original poetry, which often embrace a positive, therapeutic outlook on life.
Which is to say, she is well versed in affirmations and daily messages. They are included in her app, “Storyteller” (also the name of her first book), and a project she developed over the pandemic.
In her garage, Nichols paints mantras on pieces of paper and sends them out to her online community for free. Each week, she randomly selects users who sign up via a link in her Instagram bio. “It's become a generosity practice for me,” she said. “Just to help me stay grounded.”
Nichols’ second book, How Far You Have Come, was published this past April. Usually, she would be on a book tour right now, but because of the ongoing pandemic, she is home with her family.
COVID-19 has prompted hundreds of artists to sign with brands. In June of last year, Rolling Stone reported that United Talent Agency, whose clients include Chance The Rapper and Post Malone, signed 165 brand partnership deals. They expected to close twice as many deals as in any other year.
With 1.8 million Instagram followers, it is no surprise that a massive brand like Starbucks would seek Nichols out, however hesitant she is to call herself an “influencer.”
“If I can influence somebody in this world, in this time, to sit down and play with watercolor on a Wednesday just because, and write a poem, yeah, okay, I'll take the title of influencer,” said Nichols, recounting a recent message from a fan. “I am where I am today because of people who inspired me to write amidst uncertain times.”
Nichols was 20 years old when Instagram began. It has since become a huge part of her life, and she continues to find ways to see the good in it.
While Nichols had never written poetry with an Instagram Effect in mind, she says the technology intrigued her.
“You have to just listen to your heart,” she adds. “And notice when your childlike wonder and curiosity is rising up when someone's reaching out to you.”
Nichols says the AR experience more or less mirrors her current life, “which is staying home, writing, and brewing delicious coffee.”
“Morning Mantras” are accessible and easy to share with anyone who has a smartphone. Which means that Nichols’ words, accompanied by the Starbucks and Nespresso brands, will likely reach millions.