We interviewed Curt Cuscino CEO of HypeLife Brands agency, a Gold winner of the Agency Of The Year competition.
We spoke with him about this vibrant specialization and interesting niche. Curt has exposed his views and knowledge of the industry from the demographic he knows best: Millenials and the vertical his agency serves B2C Startups and D2C brands, but read for yourself.
Introduce yourself. How did you get into marketing? What are your passions?
I’m the Founder and CEO of HypeLife Brands, a progressive brand development + startup marketing agency specializing in helping B2C and DTC lifestyle startups and challenger brands powerfully engage Millennials. In other words, we work primarily with, and alongside, Visionary founders and entrepreneurs to build, launch, and grow their startup concept…often starting from little more than their Big Idea.
It has been 20 years since I started my agency, and over the many years, we’ve evolved and adapted constantly, just as I often recommend ALL businesses, large and small, MUST do in order to remain viable and constantly aimed at success. For example, while social media marketing is only a small sliver of how we help our clients, when I first started my agency in 2001 “social media” wasn’t even a thing. Now, it is very prevalent, matured and definitely a double-edged sword that we lead our clients and help them navigate to help avoid all the many pitfalls and “busy work” it can create while utilizing quality over quantity tactics and effectively leveraging each platforms’ advertising channels when it is strategically appropriate.
We’ve accomplished a lot in the past twenty years, and I’m very proud of that, and all the awards and published work + accolades we’ve received over that time too, as a testament to our carefully-curated, senior team.
Personally speaking, outside of work here in Southern California, I’m a husband, a father to two awesome little boys, a huge technophile (an early adopter), and an audiophile (I love music, film, art, and design from all over the world). Since I was 12 or 13, I’ve always had a hand in the music industry too to some degree…writing, recording, producing, performing live, DJing, etc. These days (well, over the past 3+ years), I’ve built a radio show focused on bass music that’s carried on numerous stations across the U.S. with a 1.6M+ FM radio listener footprint, and heard in over 100 countries via the podcast version of the show.
Why do you call HypeLife a startup marketing agency, venture builders, brand architects, and marketing change agent?
HypeLife Brands specializes in working with entrepreneurs, startup founders, and leaders of new brands who are really about creating — at least at some level — disruption towards positive change in the world we all share.
So we aren’t your typical marketing, advertising, creative, brand, or tech -only agency…we’re a unique combination of all of these aspects because they are all critical in their own right — and must work in concert together — when it comes to building, launching, and growing a startup successfully in the modern, digital age. We’re positioned to cover this terrain 360 degrees for our clients.
So with that in mind, yeah, we build new ventures, we’re brand architects, and we’re change agents…enhancing existing marketing approaches from brands at market, and bringing change through powerful marketing approaches for new startups looking to enter the market.
As an agency specializing in helping entrepreneurs and early-stage startups, how has your customer base reacted to recent events and how have you helped them over the past year?
We did have a couple of clients heavily impacted by the challenges COVID-19 has brought to every business’s doorstep. Some of our other clients have been in startup building mode, and customer traction + growth marketing mode so in a way, time almost freezing for the past year has been a major advantage for them and us.
What are the common misleadings when coming to build a brand identity for your target clients?
There’s a lot, honestly. A few of them though are:
- Building a startup (read: a new business) starts with a logo and a website.
- This is absolutely false, and the wrong place to start…building a startup from the ground up requires strategy and planning first. Heard that saying that says “an ideal process is 90% planning and 10% execution”?
- While it’s variable to some degree, it’s really true
- A startup will become successful (and be in the black) in six months.
- Almost never true (unless a more-substantial-than-most-startups have to work with at a pre-seed stage). The reality is that building, launching and growing a startup from the ground up is a multi-year investment, will take well into six figures of investment in the first two years alone, and isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s really for someone who’s a true leader, a visionary, and entrepreneur at heart…it’s either in the DNA or it’s not.
With the ever-growing importance of digitalization, how do you empower your clients to go digital?
We work to empower our clients in the digital space from day one, as it is really where the interactions in this day and age — the things that build a relationship between a brand and the humans that end of up hopefully loving it — happen. It is a primary point of focus, especially with all the channels that exist in the world for users (read: people) to connect with brands, and the fastest arena to achieve micro-conversions, brand advocacy, and ultimately monetization opportunities, especially when it comes to marketing for startups.
Your startup marketing agency focuses on providing marketing solutions for new brands and startup clients that aim to reach Millennials. Please tell us more about why and how your agency focuses on this demographic.
Over the past 20 years of business, we’ve worked with clients and companies of all shapes and sizes: B2B, B2C, and DTC (direct to consumer). Outside of the B2B companies, our consumer-focused clients have all shared a common thread of being focused on driving ROI (sales, and so on) through making connections with — and understanding the culture of — the largest generation on the planet, which is the Millennial generation. As they possess the most buying power and will drive the direction of the world we all share for decades to come, along with our deep understanding of above and below ground Millennial culture, it only made sense for us to specialize in this arena to help our lifestyle-focused clients understand, navigate and empower this generation through what they have to offer. We made this decision long before Millennials were a talking point in the media too, for those reasons.
How about the upcoming generation Z? Do you have any plan to catch up with this new generation and to guide your clients to reach this audience?
At this time, HypeLife Brands will remain focused on the millennial generation as our continued primary focus, as realistically, this is where the major, massive buying power will continue growing and remain for decades.
While Gen Z is interesting and unique, it’s not something any of our clients to date have been interested in (nothing sustainable there from a fiscal / ROI standpoint) and has yet to be part of any brand or marketing strategy we’ve developed for that reason. Additionally, we’ve had nearly a decade now of study and specialization in how to authentically engage millennials, so it would only make sense for us to continue growing with them as they continue to age and mature.
At 72+ million strong in the U.S., there’s still so much untapped potential there too.
US Resident population repartition by generation (Source: Statista)
You can learn more about Hypelife Brands by consulting their Ad World Masters profile. If you got a new business idea and Millenials are your core target audience, get in touch directly with Curt or let us introduce you to him.