DES MOINES, IA: Kum & Go is facing backlash from social media users who said they feel “duped” after the convenience store chain enlisted TikTok star Kyle Scheele to conduct a fake “prank.”
Scheele, a Springfield, Missouri, author and motivational speaker, posted a TikTok video this month in which he created a massive cutout of himself jamming out with a pizza guitar that advertised a fake “Kyle Scheele Meal” and placed it in a local Kum & Go store.
The video went viral and led to the brand creating a real Kyle Scheele Meale, which consists of a 12-ounce Red Bull and a pizza sandwich. The meal costs $5, and Kum & Go donated $2 of every meal, up to $10,000, to the charity No Kid Hungry. Red Bull also matched the donation total.
In the video, Scheele makes it sound like he planned the idea himself and that Kum & Go reached out to him after it saw his video to “get the ball rolling” to create the meal deal. But Kum & Go director of brand marketing Matt Riezman told PRWeek that the convenience store was in on it all along.
TikTok user @the_double_t posted a video on Sunday about the campaign, calling it a scam and saying that Scheele and Kum & Go should issue a statement.
“I realize these companies want to have the same type of viral success that Ocean Spray and Frank’s RedHot and companies like that have had,” said Double T in his video. “However, those campaigns were natural, they evolved, they came into being. You guys took an idea, planted the seed in the public from the beginning that this was yet some kind of natural, other-occurring thing based on someone’s impulse to do something funny. And the only reason why you are not facing a boatload of backlash right now is because it benefitted a charity.”
He added that Kum & Go, which operates 400 stores in 11 states, and Scheele might also have violated FCC terms because they didn’t disclose this was sponsored content from the beginning.
@the_double_t We want a statement, @kumandgo and @kylescheele. #foryou #kylesheelemeale #marketing #scam ♬ original sound - Double T
Another TikTok user, @nerdyblasiancosplays, said that she went to Kum & Go for the meal and felt lied to.
@nerdyblasiancosplays Didn’t stop us from going to Springfield @Kum & Go but I still feel lied to @kylescheele #itwasrealtome #kylescheele #kumandgo #DealGuesser ♬ Yelena Belova gets emotional aka dont say that - Behan the Scene
In comments on her video, which has been viewed 143,400 times and liked 11,000 times, TikTok users state that after hearing the whole story they unfollowed Scheele on the platform and “took back” their likes on his videos about the prank.
Some Twitter users are also criticizing the campaign’s lack of transparency.
I should have known but that whole Kyle Scheele Meal tiktok saga was all a BS ad campaign by Kum n Go but like… where’s the disclosure that we’re being advertised to?— sky! (@Rahlyx) November 28, 2021
Enjoy the ✨FTC✨
Scheele also violated the principle (I can’t speak to the letter) of sponsorship transparency by only acknowledging the sponsorship on the posts AFTER the meal became “real” within the fake narrative. https://t.co/y6gEDF2U96— Myles McNutt (@Memles) November 28, 2021
Finding out the Kyle Scheele Meal thing at Kum&Go being a staged sponsorship from the beginning has ruined my morning. Like, OF COURSE it would be Kum&Go that would use an internet celeb’s popularity to promote something as “viral” when it was just a manipulative plot. BOO!— Movie Daddy (@movie_daddy_1) November 23, 2021
On Monday, Riezman said that the chain “understand(s) that Kyle has plans to address his fans directly. Accordingly, we do not have anything additional to add.”