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Highsnobiety Visits August, 19 2014

Highsnobiety Visits | Team Epiphany NYC Headquarters with Coltrane Curtis

Lofted in the heart of Midtown, Team Epiphany enjoys an expansive open-floor plan, plenty of natural light and large communal workspaces. If you’re unfamiliar, Team Epiphany is responsible for handling some of your favorite projects in the creative world from KAWS to Nike. Headed by Coltrane Curtis, we sat down to learn more about his team and the man behind the booming business. See the space above and don’t miss our interview below.

For our readers who are unaware, please introduce yourself and Team Epiphany.

I’m a marketer, strategist and an influencer’s influencer. I grew up in Brooklyn, finished high school in New Jersey and went on to Morehouse College to study marketing. I got my foot in the door at Ralph Lauren before becoming one of the first employees at Ecko. I moved onto working for Complex as editor of XL, then as an on-air MTV VJ and I founded Team Epiphany in 2004.

Team Epiphany is a brand solutions agency with five key disciplines: strategy, social media, experiential, public relations and talent procurement. As of last October, we’re officially a bicoastal agency – with our headquarters in Manhattan and an office open in Portland.

Your team represents a part of the business that sometimes stays under the radar. Can you tell us a little bit about what exactly Team Epiphany does and represents? 

We work on Nike, Heineken, Tanqueray, Moet Chandon, HBO and many, many more. With each of our clients we’ve found that our work is able to evolve across our spectrum of capabilities. Sometimes that means acting in a strategic capacity and maybe being a little bit below the radar, and usually that means getting to flex our muscle across all the disciplines we’re great at.

We know that clients come to you because your agency speaks to the “right” consumer. What factors do you consider when targeting the “right” consumer?

It’s not necessarily about whom we target, but about the respect we give our target – as well as the people who influence them and our clients. The key is in the mutual respect on all sides. We always try to speak our consumer’s language and be mindful of what stage they’re at in their lives.

How does everyone at the agency stay inspired and in tune with the times?

This is partly why our new hire process is so notoriously difficult. We ask our employees to not only be experts at their craft but also to have a leverage-able interest and cultural aptitude. That’s what makes us experts in culture. A lot of people are “on trend,” but we’re always early.

Is the physical office space and environment a major factor in this? What about New York as a city?

You have to create an office environment that flourishes with your corporate culture. An open office gallery-type space might not be the best fit for every agency but it’s ideal for us. It allows us to collaborate – to put all the most knowledgeable people together seamlessly to work on a project.

More on the new hire process, what makes a successful team? 

Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s difficult for a reason. A successful team comes from the basic fact that it’s just that – a team. There’s no employee more important than the other. We all collaborate and respect each other and that’s what’s at the heart of a great team.

Our team is also very much a family – between not being timid to argue our points to each other and choosing to spend time together outside of the office. That certainly sets us apart from other agencies and could very well be a management nightmare elsewhere, but here it works for us. We’re able to come together every day as a team and a family and produce the best work for our clients.

You’re an iconic figure in our culture and across the Internet. Does this give you a leg-up in the marketing world?

First of all, thank you – I’d never use the term “iconic” in describing myself. I just hustle and I’m older than most. Does that give me a leg up? It’s a blessing and a curse. Yes – because the celebrity, influencer and brand relationships I have make me an extremely effective, efficient and on-strategy marketer.

On the other hand, I worry that there’s a perception that I’m good at one specific thing when the truth is that I’m a well-rounded marketer and that allows me to speak to a much wider variety of targets.

Tell us about your ongoing #SUMMERFRIDAYS events. It’s exciting to see people in the industry giving back and spreading inspiration. 

It started from a need – we know that our target consumer doesn’t always have the resources and urge to go to the Hamptons every weekend. In 2009, we teamed up with our Pepsi client to roll out the inaugural series of Summer Fridays. It’s since grown into the most successful summer event program in New York City. With the help of our partners for this year’s #SUMMERFRIDAYS series – JBL, Chevrolet, Evian, Heineken, MHUSA and Complex – we’re able to make the program bigger than ever before with new, unique offerings for attendees.  We also now have plans to expand nationally with Complex next year.

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