Alex from Target went from being a cute, Bieber-esque cashier to an Internet sensation in less than 24 hours with a little help from social media.
On Monday, internet memes featuring the Texas teenager in his Target uniform flooded Twitter and the hashtag #AlexFromTarget, a reference to his employee tag, began trending as teen girls swooned over the 16-year old.
The "cute checkout guy" photograph earned him 500,000 new Twitter followers and landed him an interview with the popular talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Alex from Target, his full name is actually Alex Laboeuf, said he was overwhelmed and was surprised by his new found fame.
But a Los Angeles start-up known as Breakr has claimed responsibility for the Alex from Target phenomenon that has taken the internet by storm - insisting it was part of an intricate marketing experiment.
In a LinkedIn post titled "#AlexFromTarget: The Power of Fangirls" published on Tuesday, Breakr CEO and founder Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares claimed the meme started out as social experiment to test the power of teen girls when it comes to making content go viral using social media.
"We wanted to see how powerful the fangirl demographic was by taking a unknown good-looking kid and Target employee from Texas to overnight viral internet sensation," he wrote.
According to Breakr, the experiment began with a London "fan girl" who posted a photograph of Alex on Twitter using the hashtag #AlexFromTarget. They followed up the tweet with a Youtube video parody and continued to promote the hashtag. In the space of 24 hours, Alex had gone from being a complete unknown to going on national television.
"We saw two sides of the conversation happening with people joining in to support the hashtag just to trend it and the other side of people getting upset that a guy with good looks could become "internet famous" with no work, " he added.
Responding to his claims, Alex and the "fan girl" (@auscalum) who first tweeted the picture denied any collaboration with Breakr or that they agreed to take part in the experiement in the first place. Alex from Target later tweeted he only found out about the photo when his store manager showed him and did not agree to have his picture taken.
A Target spokesperson added: "Let us be completely clear, we had absolutely nothing to do with the creation, listing or distribution of the photo. And we have no affiliation whatsoever with the company that is taking credit for its results."
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