Forbes Agency Council members work with a diverse set of clients across numerous fields. To share their expertise on everything from marketing to branding and more, we’re profiling Forbes Agency Council members here on the blog. This week: Coltrane Curtis.
Coltrane Curtis is the founder and managing partner at Team Epiphany, a full-service consumer marketing agency that specializes in creative services, social media, brand strategy, influencer engagement, public relations and experiential work. Founded more than a decade ago, Team Epiphany now has more than 55 employees and offices in New York City and Portland, Oregon. Coltrane, who has previously worked as an MTV Style VJ, the vice president of marketing at Marc Ecko Enterprises and the editor-at-large of Complex magazine, now counts Heineken, HBO, Converse and Glenfiddich among Team Epiphany’s many clients.
How did your career as an agency executive take off, and what do you attribute your success to most?
I think the term “take off” is a trap. We’re on our way up, but our accession can only be attributed to innovative and effective work. The challenge in our business is not winning, but rather the opportunity. New business is and always will be our kryptonite. It’s not that there is a shortage of opportunities, but there is a shortage of opportunities that are the right fit.
For me, one of the seminal moments was when we transitioned from trading our ideas and work for office space at larger companies to opening our own offices. As an independent family-owned business, we’re proud to be able to afford the overhead costs of opening and operating our Portland office in 2013, our New York City headquarters in 2014 and our upcoming Los Angeles office, opening in January 2017.
How do you keep yourself creative and driven regardless of how busy you are day to day?
To the core, I’m a competitive person – almost to a fault. I want to win and I want to win big. That drive is what keeps me going. I want to put new and innovative work in the world that challenges me and my team to continually excel in this industry. If it’s been done, we don’t want to do it. If it’s good, we want to make it great. You can say that I’m always on, because my professional and personal world are merged into one. My wife, Lisa, is also a managing partner, and my staff is like family – hence the huge “family business” mural in our Manhattan office.
What do you see as the future of media strategy or advertising?
There needs to more of an emphasis on earned versus paid media. In the future, brands will understand that brands don’t influence people, but rather people influence people. To do that, brands can’t look at influencers as a tool or an amplification device. Meaningful relationships with those “difference makers” will trump the traditional pay-to-play model. Media strategy and advertising will not be standalones; they’ll need to support influencer and experiential marketing.
What is your best PR, marketing or advertising tip for businesses?
Invest in relationships with key stakeholders of the communities you’re looking to activate in.