Meet the 'ZinePak Girls: Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe
In the middle of a recession, when the average American is only buying mp3s and digital magazines, Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe decided to create a tangible product for the ultimate music superfan. (Photo Courtesy of Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe)
Before being introduced to the ‘ZinePak, I thought I was one of the few people left in the world that still preferred to buy a CD rather than download an mp3. Half of my preference is due to my history with failing external hardrives, the other half is that 75% of my media ends up getting autographed. But, when I heard about the ‘ZinePak Girls, Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe, I was so ecstatic that someone was still producing a tangible product and their success proved my species of CD-lover still existed.
For those who don't know what a 'ZinePak is, it is the ultimate fan experience. It is a compilation of music, a magazine, and customizable merchandise. Each ‘ZinePak release is unique and adheres to the theme of the product. For example, the release for Rascals Flatts included guitar picks, Phillip Phillips's included postcards, and Selena Gomez's even had nail tattoos. Also, the ‘ZinePak is not just for music releases. Companies like Dove and Dr.Pepper have even created one, and they will soon be expanding into other genres and even iBooks.
Despite the drop in sales in both magazine and CDs, their company has seen a 400% growth in sales in 2012 alone with a total amount in 10 million dollars in consumer spending. This might have something to do with their number one distributor who goes by the name of Wal-Mart. Due to their success and innovative advertising techniques, Advertising Age’s 40 under 40 honored them this year. These girls have proven that even in a struggling economy, that with a good product and strong business skills that they can still be successful.
Q&A with the 'ZinePak Girls
What made you guys decide to create this product in the middle of a recession when the products you were utilizing have both seen losses?
Brittany- We love that experience. We both think of when we were younger and picking up an album, an LP, a cassette, or CD. With those booklets, you could feel a real connection with the artists. I remember when if I was a teen and remembering being disappointed if it was just a 4-page booklet with a track listing and nothing more inside. [A decline in sales in magazines and CDs] is not because of a lack of interest. We wanted to come up with a new fun way for fans.
How did you get your big name clients?
Kim- They had approached us. It was pretty much a domino effect, which was really exciting for us. It was fun to have big names like The Beach Boys and Kiss to want to work with you. We’re really looking forward to finding superfans in film, other aspects of entertainment, and the fashion industry. It’s not about the head of labels and the movie studios. It’s about the fans. Everyone responded really well with Scotty McCreery’s ['ZinePak]. His fans loved it so much, he did it again with his Christmas album.
In the process of establishing a scholarship and internship program for girls?
Brittany-The more we were talking about together about our idea, we realize there was a need for girls to achieve their dreams and make it to the big city. We’re in the process of working out all of the details. The idea is the to create almost the Carrie Bradshaw experience. One or two writers in college live in the city, we’ll take care of all of their travel and living expenses, and immerse them in the culture.
Looking at the Billboard Power 100, there’s only one woman in the Top 50. Why do you think women are not at the top just yet unless they are a performer?
Brittany- Well, to be completely honest, it is an under representation of women on both sides. It shows you how old-school some companies are. If it wasn’t Billboard putting that list together, I’m sure they would have come up with a completely different list. Certainly there is a need for strong female representation, not just in music. Only 1.8 percent of businesses that are owned by women ever reach the one-million-dollar revenue mark. That’s a study that American Express does every year. When Kim and I learned them, were were shocked and also really upset. The number for men is much higher.
Describe the 'ZinePak. How do you decide what goes in each release?
Kim-The really great thing about ‘ZinePak is that it’s completely customized. We think about what the super-fans are going to love. We try to go for the very best package for that group of fans. 100% [of the products put into the ZinePak] are made in the USA. All of our printing and every insert item is produced domestically. We’ve formed relationships with over 35 suppliers and small business owners across the country.
In the past, they’ve included keychains, postcards, guitar picks, photos, CDs, nail tattoos, and much more.
What’s your latest project?
Brittany- Our latest project is with the ACM [Academy of Country Music]. It’s a project that we’ve done for three years now. It’s our best one yet. It’s two CDs with 35 songs from big superstar artists such as Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, and Miranda Lambert. It’s a powerhouse piece and one we’re very excited about. It’s always fun to work with that many artists and platform brands.
What has the feedback been like from the customers?
Kim-We love the feedback. [We love when] every time we can see what the fans are writing on Twitter, Instagram, and even Youtube videos of fans opening the package. You can see what everyone is thinking. We call it “Twitter-stalking”. We look for people saying anything at all about the project. We have been very blessed and fortunate that the feedback is very positive.
Brittany-The preference depends on the artists and the fans. We did a package for Selena Gomez and put in nail tattoos. The tweens loved it. With Phillip Phillips, his lead single being “Home”, we did postcards all about writing home. It really depends on the product. [For the ACM ‘ZinePak], we’re including a ballot so the fans can vote along experience it during the show, and predict for the big night. We’re also including a bumper sticker that says “Country Lovin’ ".
Where do you see this company heading towards?
Brittany-400% gross in revenue and even more gross on the release. There is over 1.25 million ‘ZinePaks in circulation. In terms of where we’re going, to take the ‘ZinePak experience and share it with fans in other areas so that superfans of movies and video games can get the same experience.
What are some of your favorite products/innovations you’ve seen in the industry?
Kim-We’re really excited by the fun innovations that people have been using the in the iBook and obviously technology offers so many opportunities. We’re working on a few iBook releases that will take advantage of the product in a whole new space.
Is there any artist in particular you would love to work with?
Brittany-I would love to work with Garth brooks. That is my dream. I love 90’s rock and The Goo Goo Dolls.
Kim-My absolute favorite would be Jimmy Buffet.
Brittany, Kim, and staff showing off five of their 'ZinePaks.
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