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Founder’s Chronicle: Kim Kaupe, Founder of ‘ZinePak

By:   Date posted: March 11, 2013

'ZinePakWhat is ‘ZinePak, and how did you get started in the field?

‘ZinePak is a fan-centric entertainment company whose release configuration combines a small-format magazine (48 to 120 pages of original editorial content) with one or more discs and exclusive merchandise items. These items combined together in one engaging, exciting package provide a richer and more compelling consumer experience, giving fans up-close access to their favorite entertainers.

‘ZinePak partners with labels and brands to create original editorial, design and merchandise items for each release. Every ‘ZinePak is created to cater specifically to “super fans” of the featured artist or artists.

How can individuals in the marketing/advertising industry (i.e. agencies, CMOs) use ‘ZinePak to create either more impactful end-results or enhance in-house performance?

Agencies have contracted ‘ZinePak to create custom content packages for their brands to use at retail and on site at events. A ‘ZinePak allows consumers to engage with a brand in a tactile way that gives them value they will take with them, whether it is actionable (recipes), practical (coupons) or plain fun (fashion and celebrity).

A great example is a promotion we did with Unilever for their Dove brand in October 2012. We partnered with Dove to create a custom publication called Bold & Beautiful, which featured empowered female entertainers for their Self-Esteem Awareness Month and was geared towards girls and their mothers. The editorial was filled with tips and tricks in beauty and fashion, exclusive interviews with some of the hottest artists in music, such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Nelly Furtado, and brand messaging. The ‘ZinePak also featured a 12-track CD filled with superstar female artists, $6 worth of DOVE coupons and two sets of nail tattoos.

The ‘ZinePak was used as part of “Buy 3 Products, Get the ‘ZinePak Free” promotion for Dove and was available for individual sale.

What is your view of where ‘ZinePak stands in the marketplace today? Where do you see your product/service/company in 3 years? What problem are you solving?

Currently our main niche has been in music. We did 24 projects in 2012 (with all but one of them being music related), and worked with artists like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, The Beach Boys and KISS.

In 2013, we plan to expand ‘ZinePak into new verticals, such as sports, video games and movies, as well as in different locations, tours, live events and VIP packages.

‘ZinePaks are a perfect configuration for superfans of any medium, as there is always a person in someone’s life who can say, “My son is obsessed with the Mets,” “My wife loves Paula Dean,” or “My brother owns all the Iron Man movies and collects his movie stubs!” ‘ZinePak caters to these fans by giving them all-access editorial, images and media that they can’t get anywhere else.

As an entrepreneur, what impact has branding had on your venture’s success so far? How do you approach marketing? With whom do you collaborate to get your message out to your target audience?

When Brittany and I first started ‘ZinePak, we saw ourselves as more of a B2B company. However, as we started to grow, we realized we were getting more and more messages from fans who had seen specific artists’ ‘ZinePaks. We realized we could release them for other artists. Fans were falling in love with the format as a whole and wanted to learn more about different artists, so they would pick up their ‘ZinePak as an all-inclusive package.

We have mostly been a word-of-mouth company because we really feel like the product speaks for itself. We have no formal PowerPoint, song and dance or canned speech. When we meet people for the first time, we bring in past ‘ZinePaks, put them on the table and watch as our clients’ imaginations run wild with content ideas, insert possibilities and tie-ins. Our clients are the experts in their field, and a ‘ZinePak just gives them the configuration to transfer that enthusiasm and knowledge to their fans.

What entrepreneurial ideas and start-up lessons can advertising professionals apply to creating breakthrough work?

If I could give advertising professionals three rules to break to allow innovative ideas to shine through it would be:

  1. Lose the red tape: Before shooting an idea down because “it will never make it through legal,” allow the thought to fully develop. You have no idea where a 3-minute tangent will take you.
  2. Ideas come from everywhere: Interns and fans have given us some of our most innovative ideas. Sometimes the ideas can come from people who don’t have the word “creative” in their title.
  3. Leave at 6 p.m.: Advertising agencies seem to think outlasting each other at the office means you are working the hardest, when in fact it’s the opposite. Creative ideas, inspiration and life experiences happen OUTSIDE of your 5-by-5-foot cube.

Many advertising professionals find themselves interested in entrepreneurship. What advice would you give to someone with marketing skills interested in starting a new venture?

Read, read, read. Subscribe to Inc. and Entrepreneur. Subscribe to blogs. Read business news. Sometimes people have a false impression of what starting a business means, (Thanks Facebook movie!), and these outlets will let you in on the real challenges, wins and obstacles entrepreneurs face. If you can join networks or free meet-up events, that’s a great way to get into the circle without leaving your corporate job (until you’re ready to).

Thought leaders in marketing regularly reinforce the idea that agencies (and other marketing-oriented organizations, too) should collaborate with startups. Do you agree? Why? How would you like agencies to collaborate with your organization?

‘ZinePak would welcome any collaboration with agencies. Sometimes when brand managers are in the weeds and thick of it, it’s hard for them to see the whole forest. The positives of partnering with a startup like ‘ZinePak is a fresh view and new configuration to offer to your clients.

I always tell agency-folk you have to look at the pros and cons of every situation just like they taught you in elementary school. Cons of taking on fresh ideas from a startup? They stink, and your client doesn’t like them. Pros? Your client thinks you are a genius, buys the idea, your boss thinks you discovered a new planet and you get a raise and cushy corner office. Well, maybe not the cushy office, but you get the point!

kim-kaupeHailing from Conde Nast Publications, Kim described her years there as a combination of “the best scene from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ combined with the worst scene from ‘The Hunger Games.’” Enduring the slash and burn recession of 2008, Kim learned that nothing kept you on your toes more than the fear of imminent disaster and the opportunity to create something fresh and new. After two years at Conde Kim’s itch for change could no longer be ignored. 

After a few months at the DDB-affiliated agency Fathom Communications, Kim quickly realized that it was not the right match. Fortunately she discovered the “ying” to her “yang” Brittany Hodak, whom she had met at the agency. Over drinks in a bar they hatched a plan to play up their strengths, backgrounds, and contacts and the idea of ‘ZinePak was conceived.

Brittany and Kim started working on ‘ZinePak in March 2011, leaving the comfort of their corporate benefits and job security behind. They completed six projects in the first year of business, but knew that it was only the start.

Connect with Kim on LinkedIn or on Twitter @zinepak.

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The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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