What it looks like to be an influencer continues to evolve along with social media. Prior to the platforms’ inception and takeover, Coltrane Curtis, the founder of Team Epiphany, was already ahead of the curve on how lucrative influence could be.
In 2005, the Brooklyn native launched the 100 percent independently-owned marketing and brand agency, which creates experiential campaigns, content, brand stories, strategy, and strategic frameworks for big brands.
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Team Epiphany works with the likes of Nike, Audi, Coca-Cola, and more. One of the agency’s popular creative launch campaigns was creating #InsecureFest for “Insecure” — Issa Rae’s hit HBO show.
Ahead of transitioning into marketing, Curtis was an editor for Complex and an MTV television personality. The founder credits these roles with giving him access to the world of celebrities.
“My connectivity to [celebrities] really allowed me to understand that there were teams and people who built the celebrity that we celebrate today,” Curtis told AfroTech. “For us, what we wanted to do was be the agency who championed the voice of the network who builds celebrity. And ultimately those people became influencers and it became differentiating because most shops and most humans don’t have connectivity to that ecosystem.”
He continued: “What we do then, and now 18 years later, is leverage the network that builds celebrity and empowers the actual network to work for brands. For us, influence is about community, not the individual.”
What makes Team Epiphany stand out is its unique way of looking at influence in a different light. Focusing on the importance of seeing beyond metrics, the agency understands influencers need to build trust with those they’re influencing and brands should show an authentic sense of personality.
“What has happened with influencer marketing people, brands have taken the personality out of it,” Curtis said. “They have taken the true being out of it. It’s now a metric in a business. And so for us, we like to look at influence as a living organism.”
Being that Team Epiphany’s employees are 70 percent minority and over 70 percent women, the agency is rooted in not only influence but also multiculturalism. Running the business alongside his wife, Lisa Chu, Curtis and his team are dedicated to working on projects they’re passionate about that can create an impact in their communities.
In 2022, Team Epiphany worked on the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s campaign to increase screening and prevention of the cancer, which is highly prevalent in the Black community. The organization partnered with Charlamagne tha God, Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins, Vashtie, and Mel D. Cole.
Team Epiphany’s philosophy is that influence works best when you’re activating the entire community.
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“For us to be marketers and to be playing at the level that we are, it’s amazing to be able to give organizations like [Colorectal Cancer Alliance] the same services that we are giving the big clients that we’re working for,” Curtis said. “And that’s just something that may not happen if I was owned by a holding company or had investors. Right now, we’re 100 percent independently owned. That comes with a bunch of challenges, but it also comes with a lot of freedom to be who we are, to be happy, and to be impactful.”