BGBS 027: Justin Moss | Bringing People Together and Making Them Smile
The Pineapple Agency’s founder, Justin Moss is a passionate marketer whose love for events and music festivals merged to create an experiential marketing company that has worked with Proctor & Gamble, Google, Insomnia, Under Armor, Converse and more. Justin is sharing his story of producing raves as a teenager to creating one of the largest music festivals before they were popular, with the NY Times calling Justin “ahead of his time.” Today, he’s helping brands create memories for their consumers with big bold activations, while giving them a better ROI for their marketing spend.
What we’re talking about
- Justin’s Journey From Having A Brain Tumor To Starting His First Business
- Learning From Business Failure To Following Your Passion
- How Experiential Marketing Creates Consumer Loyalty
Justin’s Journey From Having A Brain Tumor To Starting His First Business
Justin was always a rambunctious red-headed child, but at the age of 8 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and his parents were told he had 12 hours to live without surgery. Even at that point, he was tried hiding from doctors. After months of being in the hospital re-learning how to walk, Justin’s parents filed for bankruptcy, and they moved to Florida. While in Florida, Justin and his brother launched their first business by selling baseball cards. They weren’t simply trading cards though. They would go to shows and have a booth where they would make $2,000-$7,000 per show depending on their inventory.
Learning From Business Failure To Following Your Passion
While living in Florida and figuring out who he was as a person, Justin met a variety of people who helped shape who he became today. He discovered the street pharmaceutical industry and rave scene where no one was excluded and everyone was welcome. Justin produced his first rave at 16 and it was a huge failure. When the lighting and sound guy didn’t show up, Justin discovered he was seen to be invading on other promoters’ turf. If this happened today, Justin says he would simply call in a replacement and not waste his time. After doing a lot of behind the scenes work on events, Justin landed on the professional paintball circuit. It was here that he wanted to marry his love for paintball and events which turned out successful, but not in a financial way. Although his event had thousands of attendees, was the biggest music festival at the time, and even had Tony Hawk in attendance, it wasn’t profitable. Justin decided to make a move to Denver and along with 2 others, took his passion for creating music festivals and bringing people together and launched a new experiential marketing agency in 2007.
How Experiential Marketing Creates Consumer Loyalty
Justin cared about building events and experiences and it took customers a long time to get and understand what experiential marketing was. The turning point for his agency was one day while at Buffalo Wild Wings where he was the ultimate card shark…handing his business cards out to anyone who would take one. He received a phone call from a guy who worked at Google and wanted ideas for the Democratic National Convention. Justin and his team executed substantial activation throughout Denver for Google and YouTube and that was the beginning of his success. Ultimately, it wasn’t what Justin loved because his passion was far greater for music and concerts and giving a voice to the consumer for the brand. In 2014, The Pineapple Agency was launched.
Brands have guided our thoughts a lot of the way, but by creating experiences and leveraging emotional connections, you’re giving consumers a way to promote your brand and products. Now more than ever, consumers are empowered to say this is an amazing product or brand and I’m going to tell my friends about it. Justin says that if a brand is not at least participating in some sort of experiential campaign, then they will get left behind. Justin and The Pineapple Agency are bridging the gap between creating smiles and moments for consumers and giving brands a better ROI on their marketing spend than traditional social media would.
Is your brand creating experiences for your consumers?
- 46:11 – 47:05 (54 sec JM) – let me start off by saying…what I loved was this opportunity to create a new music festival.
- 51:50 – 52:44 (54 sec JM) – You’re also giving them a way to promote it….if that makes sense.
- If a brand is not at least participating in some sort of experiential campaign, you’re going to get left behind.
- I was a card shark…meaning I’d take my business card and hand it out to anyone who would listen.
- Do not let experiences fall by the wayside. Humans need experiences and interactions.
- We bridge the gap between creating smiles and moments and for our clients their marketing strategy and selling their products and services.
- You’re allowing a brand to get an ROI for dollar for dollar spend for less than what they get on traditional social media.
- Now more than ever, consumers are empowered to say this is an amazing product or brand and I’m going to tell my friends about it.
- Brands have guided our thoughts a lot of the way. If brands want the color purple to be popular one year, they’re going to do it.
- By creating experiences and leveraging emotional connections, you’re giving them a way to promote it.
- Everything happens for a reason, whatever that reason is.
Justin Moss 0:02
It was a success. And still to this day, it was a success in several ways, just not financially. Financially, it was a flop. But as one of my agents that we we worked with, and I won’t mention her by name, but you know, one of the things that she had told me was, Justin, if you never do this again, you did it. If you go to burger flipping, you produced the biggest Music Festival at the time, and she was right.
Marc Gutman 0:37
Podcasting from Boulder, Colorado, this is the baby got backstory podcast. Where we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big back stories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode
Baby got backstory, how a savvy marketer combined music festivals, action sports and branding to build an experiential marketing agency that serves brands like Coke, Vivian and Anheuser Busch.
Now if you like and enjoy the show, please take a minute or two to rate and review us over at iTunes. iTunes uses these as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on the apple charts. And ratings help us to build an audience, which then helps us continue to produce this show. On today’s episode, we are talking to my good friend Justin moss is you’re about to hear Justin is a passionate marketer who is fired up about events, music festivals and experiential marketing. Justin is the founder of the pineapple agency, which is known for creating big old activations for companies like Coke rivia n. Anheuser Busch, Procter and Gamble, Google Insomniac, under armor and converse.
Those are just a couple recognizable brand names. Pineapple agency is responsible for generating millions of unique media impressions, hundreds of thousands of event attendees and brand loyalists and 10s of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise sold. Justin stories is a wild ride and I can’t wait to share it with you. Justin was on the forefront of music festivals in the US. They weren’t always a thing. And even the New York Times called HIS EVENT ahead of our time. And this is his story. Justin, what is the pineapple agency?
Justin Moss 2:44
The Pineapple Agency is an experiential event marketing agency and I always like to say creative event agency as well because we work on we create live experiences that emotionally connect brands to their consumer and very authentic takeaways, but we also I have a background in concerts and music festivals.
So we work very heavily on music festivals currently where we work we work on 17 of some of the biggest music festivals in the world. Everything from operations to production to marketing so we’re we’re pretty diverse firm.
Marc Gutman 3:23
And I do want to get into that and talk a little bit more about what you’re doing today and how you got there. But before we do that, let’s go back let’s go let’s go way back was young Justin eight year old Justin, did he think he was going to be an experiential marketer? What was life like for you? At eight years old? Where’d you grow up?
Justin Moss 3:39
No, I did. I did definitely didn’t think I was going to be experiencial marketer or even in events. I wasn’t even I wasn’t a huge live event person. I was a rambunctious redhead. I was outside a lot. I rode bikes, I build handmade ramps and did crazy shit. Um, I had a lot of fun. I was very outdoorsy, um, I played a lot of sports.
Yeah, I was I was a you know a go getter. I started my first business when I was nine with my brother Brandon. But even then didn’t know that I was going to be a an event person or a business owner. But I was definitely a rambunctious eight year old and having, you know, overcome a lot of adversity really young from having a brain tumor to you know, my family filing bankruptcy. So just grew up really quickly.
Marc Gutman 4:35
Well, we’ll get into all that but brain tumor. Tell me about that. So, you you’re eight years old, new and you get a brain tumor?
Justin Moss 4:42
Yeah, it was. It was a pretty pretty crazy time. So I was having some severe headaches for for a long time and I was blacking out and my family kept taking me to doctor out Dr. And we were waiting for an MRI to become available because my mom at that time this is 8687 didn’t want me to have a CAT scan because she believed that the dyes that they put in your arm and your you know, that goes straight to your brain would cause cancer and that’s a whole nother podcast, but um, they finally it was around October 1987 doctors had diagnosed me with food allergies, specifically nuts and chocolate.
So for an eight year old, during Halloween, not being able to eat nuts and chocolate, I was like what the fuck? So, um, anyway, I there was a point in time I believe it was a over a period of 24 maybe 48 hours that I became really, really frail and fragile and passed out and my mom and dad had rushed me to the hospital. And they obviously you know, had no choice but to do a CAT scan. It might have been an MRI I really don’t know. And essentially they found a really rare tumor that is not normally found in children that was on my cerebellum.
And, um, basically, I they gave my mom and dad, you know, the news that if they couldn’t subside the tumor and make it smaller, that I probably had about 12 hours to live on, but obviously they had to try to subsided or go in immediately. So, um, luckily they were able to subside it to where they gave my mom and dad a little bit of breathing room this I was rushed to Monmouth County Hospital in New Jersey. And so what ended up happening is the doctors there on gave my parents a choice either have a normal neurosurgeon removed
The tumor and I say normal like there’s no neurosurgeon that’s normal. They’re all amazing. You know you got to be a special type of crazy to dig into somebody’s brain but on the other alternative was fly me to Philadelphia children’s hospital immediately and have a at that time a world renowned child neurology neurosurgeon removed the tumor. And at that time that neurosurgeon was one of the first to remove conjoined twins by the brain. And so basically my parents with guidance from the doctors decided to fly me to Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, which still today is one of the most renowned children’s hospitals in the world for brain tumors and and neuro neurosurgery. And so they I was flown there, I think within within less than a day, maybe 15-20 hours. Um, I was brought into surgery.
I was the first kid to go into surgery fully clothed, because as I told you earlier, I was a rambunctious crazy redhead, and I ran away. And they had to find me in a elevator and I’m not lying. And they didn’t strike me down or anything, but they got me into the the emergency surgery. And the last thing I remember is them putting the mask on me and me going to bed and then cutting my clothes off. And then many, many hours later, I came out of surgery. I was awake but not able to walk as the tumor was on my cerebellum. So that affects your your walking and your your balance. Yeah, and that’s, that’s where it is. I mean, obviously, I could go on and on and on. But that’s that’s where it ended. Sort of.
Marc Gutman 8:50
Yeah, that had to be terrifying. I mean, was there further treatment like your parents and your brother? I mean, that was going on there.
Justin Moss 8:58
Yeah, it was. It was pretty, it was, it’s pretty surreal if I you know, think back at it now. So my mom was induced with my baby sister on in Staten Island. My mom wanted to have all of her children born in the same hospital. So my mom was induced. And then she was rushed to Philadelphia for my surgery on so I had a new baby sister going into surgery. And then I basically had to learn to walk again. So not in the sense that I didn’t know how to do it, but my brain and my body were not working together.
So it was months of physical therapy and learning to walk and I wasn’t able to get discharged from the hospital until I was able to walk. And so luckily, I think it was about three months, I was finally discharged from the hospital. And um, you know, at that time my father was driving back and forth from New Jersey to Philadelphia pretty much every day.
Marc Gutman 10:02
What was his business?
Justin Moss 10:04
My father and still is in his in the blinds business window treatments and has had retail stores and at that time he had carpet and tile stores as well. He has been in the business 45 years. Yeah. And so unfortunately, during that time, my father’s partner was embezzling money. And so, um, shortly after my tumor, my parents you know, made the difficult decision to file bankruptcy and move the family to South Florida to kind of start over and that’s um, you know,
Marc Gutman 10:43
What was that like as a kid, you know, like your parents filing for bankruptcy? Were you oblivious or did that like, hit you hard? I mean, I know as a little kid you pick up on a lot of things and certainly being part of a bankrupt family isn’t you know, in the cool sector of of young kid, young kid, labels.
Justin Moss 11:00
Yeah, I mean, I would say that I was a little bit oblivious, but I understood a little bit on where I grew up in New Jersey was very wealthy area. And, you know, my family, you know, at that time lost everything pretty much So you started realizing, you know, your friend’s parents are driving Mercedes is in Cadillacs and your family’s driving, you know, a 19 you know, a 20 year old car, you know, or can’t do landscaping in their house and you know, just little things like that.
But I didn’t understand really what was going on until I was much, much older. Luckily, we had, at that time, I had a really close family friend that I ended up staying with, to finish my eighth grade year and my mom and my dad, and I’m sorry, my mom and my brother and my little sister moved to South Florida and my dad stayed in New York City, working for somebody so he could build income, you know, to move everybody. So I understood that that was a little weird and that why am I staying at my friend’s house as, you know, an 11-12 year old kid?
But it wasn’t until I was much older, and understood the gravity of what was going on and that we had family friends bringing us food because my mom and dad were, you know, having a tough time. So, yeah, you know, it, you know, you look back at it now. And it’s, you’re like, I’m glad that my mom and dad insulated me the way they did you know, my brother and my sister were older than me. So they, they understood more, but they you know, everybody insulated me a little bit more.
Marc Gutman 12:44
Yeah, and it must have been tough, but, you know, also during that time, I understand that you and your brother Brandon started your first business together.
Justin Moss 12:54
Yeah, yeah. So um, you know, I’m even today I probably didn’t think this way back then. But I’m a believer in everything happens for a reason for whatever reason that is, and me and my brother were always big baseball card fans. I was I was a huge baseball fan growing up, and I collected baseball cards and we had a family friend that owned a pharmacy and, um, you know, back then hopefully a lot of your listeners will be around my age will know that pharmacies back then were more mom and pop. And they were not just pharmacies, but they were like small convenience stores.
And, um, this family friend every I don’t know, so often, you know, more often than none because, you know, I was in the hospital and at home, he would bring me boxes of baseball cards, you know, on open tops, Don Ross baseball cards, and I would open them. So I amassed this huge amount of baseball cards. And so my brother and I had been going to baseball card shows, you know, for a long time, which unfortunately, don’t really exist, but we’d go to these card shows, and go and buy baseball cards and sell ours. So what we decided to do was start a baseball card business, but actually setting up a booth at these card shows. So we bought all the showcases, and we started having our mom and dad, you know, schlep us from Pennsylvania to New York to all over jersey, setting up and selling baseball cards.
And then on one of the things we segwayed into, and I say pivot, I’ll say pivot, but back then I didn’t know what pivot meant. We realized let’s sell the baseball card holders so the big cardboard boxes and the plastic sleeves. And so we threw my dad, we came across somebody that was buying everything in China, importing, importing it here and we ended up buying baseball cards, supplies and going to shows and selling baseball card supplies. So that was my first quote-unquote, business.
Marc Gutman 15:03
When it came of that business? Did it have a name? Did it have an exit? What became of that?
Justin Moss 15:09
No, no, it didn’t have a name. It was it was, um, you know, we were fondly known as the two brothers at the baseball card shows, but no real official name and it just sort of evaporated nothing really. I can’t actually even I mean, obviously, there was no exit.
I think, you know, my brother and I just got older and my brother certainly got older and didn’t want to schlep around with his younger brother anymore. And we made a little bit of money and, and did good things. We actually tried to get into the bicycle business after that. So that didn’t go anywhere. But um, yeah, it just sort of faded away.
Marc Gutman 15:53
Which, like, how much money were you making? Are you making like real money? Were you making enough to do anything cool?
Justin Moss 15:59
Yeah, I mean, I think to two young kids, we were we were doing pretty well. I mean, we would go to a baseball card show and make anywhere from, you know, a couple of grand to, you know, 5/6/7 grand, you know, it really just depended, you know, it depended on our inventory. My brother was what kind of led the charge of walking around the shows trying to sort of buy and sell some of our inventory to get new inventory.
But look at that, at the end of the day, we had no idea what we were doing. We were just two kids making some change. And, you know, of course, at that time, my mom and dad weren’t like, well, you owe me for the gas and driving me there. And you know, all the costs that are associated with the business other than paying our fees to go to the card shows. Um, but yeah, I mean, it was it was fun, and I actually learned a lot but I wouldn’t say it was. I didn’t have any aspirations of becoming a global entrepreneur in the baseball card world.
Marc Gutman 17:04
Yeah, and you say you say pocket change, but man, like a couple grand at that age, like, I think in college I lived on like $20 a week. So to give a sense of like, I mean, that’s a lot of money. That’s really, really great. And so you guys have this, this baseball card business, you get a taste of what it’s like to have a business. Then what happens? Do you start another business once your brother goes on and does his own thing?
Justin Moss 17:26
Yeah, so we tried to get into the bicycle business, and my brother and I were calling the different bicycle companies. And once again, nothing really happened there. And then I’m, like I said, we ended up moving to South Florida and my life really changed a lot. When we moved to South Florida. It was it was a very different experience. I had understood a little bit more about what had happened with my family. Um, I went to a school that was a very, very different than what I was used to In the sense that was much more cultured, a lot more diverse mix of people. I didn’t have any friends. I was very, for many, I’d say, at probably, least till I was 14, or 15. I was I had several different identities in the sense that I didn’t know who I wanted to be.
I didn’t know if I was a skater. I didn’t know if I was a thug. I didn’t know if I was an athlete, you know, I wasn’t sure. And I was, you know, all the kids that I grew up with in New Jersey, I grown up with them, you know, from preschool till Middle School. So that’s what I knew. And then moving to Florida, I was meeting all these different groups of people I didn’t know and so, but I’m actually glad because I believe that moving to Florida, really shaped it definitely shaped who I am and what I do for a living now. For sure.
Marc Gutman 19:00
Yeah, so what was the next business? You started? Like? You’re in Florida? Did you just start looking for ways to make money or to flex that entrepreneurial muscle?
Justin Moss 19:10
Yeah, I mean, how honest Do you want me to be?
Marc Gutman 19:14
As honest as you want to be.
Justin Moss 19:17
Um, yeah. So I had discovered the street pharmaceutical industry, and, um, took a liking to that. I think it was because I became friends with everybody very, very quickly. And, you know, I, I always had this knack for, I guess, somewhat being a leader or a seller also, you know, a salesman and so, through that very quickly, I had discovered the rave scene. So for you or those that don’t know what that is, it’s it’s basically the underground music scene for electronic music or as they call it.
Me or had brought me to the love of producing and producing events and I absolutely fell in love. And so my next business was I became a rave promoter. And I started promoting on raves in 1990. My first one was in 1996.
Marc Gutman 21:22
So how old are you? Just to give some context?
Justin Moss 21:24
I turned 40 in May, last May.
Marc Gutman 21:26
No, no, no. How old were you? When you when you produce that first rave?
Justin Moss 21:29
I’m sorry. Oh, God, I was what? 16-17 maybe I was 15-16 I’d have to do the math, but I think I was 16.
Marc Gutman 21:38
That’s not very old. I mean, what that first one looked like like, How big was it? Like how much overhead was there? Like, was it a sizable event?
Justin Moss 21:46
It was a flop. It was okay, let me back up because it was a flop because we need no money and we lost money. But so it was called Old School jam. And I had rented a warehouse in Fort Myers, Florida and old skate park, it was a skate park warehouse. And I had booked all the DJs now Now, mind you, I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew a lot of people, but I didn’t know what I was doing, you know, and there’s a lot that goes into even a small rave. And so what ended up happening was, I drive to Fort Myers. And and, you know, I think a lot of business people can can relate to at least some part of this story. I go there and what we do, it’s called loading and loading in a show. Excuse me, so we’re getting ready.
We’re loading in the show. And my lighting and sound guy never showed up. So he was the same person from from South Florida. He never showed up. And so for hours and hours and hours, I’m panicking, and I’m calling him and I’m calling him and I’m calling him and no answer no answer. He never answers called his roommates, no answer.
So I don’t know maybe seven, eight o’clock. Call The DJ start showing up now we’re talking about not superstar DJs like you see today, but they were, you know, one DJ was from Atlanta, you know, we had some pretty, pretty nice sized DJs You know, I think the total budget was like 12 or $15,000. And basically what ended up happening is we couldn’t open and we had no sound we had no lighting we had, I would say at least 1000 people in the parking lot waiting to get in. And so it was a complete failure. It was it was a flop and, and, and
Marc Gutman 23:34
how’d that feel, I mean, how’d that feel? You had to like go like, I can imagine that moment. Like you’re you’re thinking this is going to be this incredible success. You’re doing the thing you love to do. I mean, talk about that moment. Take me back to that time where you like, had to like Who did you tell, like, Did you get like, you’re gonna I’m imagining fire festival, you know, like, did you did you have to like, Who did you tell us? You have to get on a car and yell Hey, you know,it’s the Not gonna happen, like, like, what happened?
Justin Moss 24:02
Yeah, I mean, um, I mean, from an emotional standpoint, I was beside myself, I I screamed, I cried, I yelled, I wanted to punch somebody in the face. I you know, just every emotion possible. I felt like a moron. You know, I was a new promoter. You know, nobody knew who I was. Um, but yeah, I mean, yeah, I essentially at some point, I had to make the decision to call it you know, and say, everybody go home, you know, it’s, it’s not happening and, um, you know, every, you know, there were people that, you know, high five, me and people, you know, the DJs were all sympathetic. And, you know, later on I found out that I basically got screwed over by other promoters and that’s why the lighting and sound guy never showed up because I was ascending You know, invading on their turf and taking business away from them. And that’s, that’s a whole story. But But
Marc Gutman 25:08
now what is that story? What happened? They like, they pay that guy off or they pressure him not to show?
Justin Moss 25:13
Yeah, they they basically pressured him not to show and, you know, he did it. And years later years later I did another show not years 1998 I did another show and I actually, um, this guy and I sort of had talked throughout the years, you know, and and he ended up doing the lighting for this show in 1998 for free to sort of make up for the show that he screwed me on. And so, but yeah, I mean, he basically got muscled into not showing up.
And you know, I would say that is, you know, one of the life lessons and business lessons I learned. You know, of course now being a seasoned event producer, I would have just gotten on The phone and called other lighting and sound companies, you know and said, hey, I’ve got this warehouse and I’ve got money, come bring a lighting and sound rig and I wouldn’t have spent hours and hours trying to get ahold of this guy because clearly at some point, I should have been like, this guy’s not showing up, either he’s in a car accident, or he’s dead, you know, or whatever, you know. Um, so you, you you live and learn, but it took me a little bit of time to sort of get over that, for sure.
Marc Gutman 26:32
Yeah, so how’d you bounce back, which when was your next event?
Justin Moss 26:36
So my next event well, so my next event that I fully produced was in 1998. But prior to that, I had been sort of doing underground. No pun intended, underground sort of work and where I was investing in other promoters or other parties, and not you know, my name is wasn’t given my production, you know, name, which at that time was end two productions didn’t um, I was just sort of behind the scenes if you will.
And then in 1998, I partnered with my buddy Vinnie, and another partner, Todd, who Todd ultimately was my partner in several different businesses. But we produced a very, very successful event in Miami, and yeah, we killed it. So yeah, my career just kept going. And we picked ourselves up.
Marc Gutman 27:32
Yeah. And so you’re starting to promote events and do that, but then you also get into paintball, right?
Justin Moss 27:39
Yeah, yeah. So um, you know, I I got into paintball when I was 12 when I moved to South Florida, and I ended up playing in playing professional paintball, and amateur paintball, basically, overall competitive paintball for over 14 years. I went into the paintball business. I opened a paintball field in a store, here in Denver, Colorado when I when I moved here, and ultimately merged my passion for producing fast concerts and live events too painful to kind of move into my next venture, which was music festivals.
Marc Gutman 28:23
Yeah, but before we get into that, like, what is professional paintball?
Justin Moss 28:27
Oh, it’s amazing. It’s, it’s. So um, without going into too much detail in story, the professional circuit has evolved much a lot over the last, you know, 20 years. But when I first started, the core event was basically Capture the Flag, either five man teams, which would be five on five or 10 man teams 10 on 10 and we played on huge fields. In the middle of the woods, and it was captured the flag and then as the sport evolved, they moved into more of a, what they call a speedball setting. And the whole transition was to try to get paintball on TV.
And TV was not friendly could not be friendly. In the woods, you know, there was a lot of, you know, a lot of, you know, hidden objects, you know, the cameras couldn’t get good angles. So, speed ball basically developed and was a much faster paced sport. But essentially, you have a group of humans that are have paintball guns today, the paintball guns shoot anywhere up to 20 balls a second, and you’re battling it out on a field, five on 510 on 10, or seven on seven on the circuit, you know, spans different cities and states in the United States and then goes over to Europe with a sister league so I played all over the world. Professional paintball.
Marc Gutman 30:01
Yeah. And like, you know, what I’m interested in is like, what is the professional part look like? I mean, is this like, kind of like, you know, reminiscent of the movie dodgeball?
Are you guys you know, do you have groupies? are you flying around in jets? Or is it more like I mean, like, what is profession?
Like, what’s the professional circuit? Yeah, as you call it. what’s what’s the circuit look like for pro paintball?
Justin Moss 30:23
Yeah, so it’s definitely not NFL. It’s more dodgeball for sure. There are definitely groupies. I did not have any. But there are groupies on the so tournament’s themselves are made up of amateur and Pro. And so the amateur goes from rookie to amateur to pro and the pro circuit right now today I think is made up of 18 or 20 pro teams. Mind you. I’ve been out of it for several years now, but I’m usually what you what you had in the sport is you had one person that either owned a paintball field They’re owned a paintball business or in one case, there was a doctor that his kids played paintball and he was very wealthy and he started a professional paintball team and funded the team.
A lot of times what happens is all your expenses are paid for, to travel and then you have sponsors within the paintball industry that pay for some of that, but also get you equipment. And then when you when you divide up the winnings, and back then the winnings were not very much they were anywhere from 15,000 to 50,000, depending on the sport or depending on the tournament, but you got to remember for 10, 12, 15 guys on a team, you know, it wasn’t a lot of money to be honest.
And most guys that made the money in the sport like I had a very close friend that back then was, you know, considered the Michael Jordan of the sport. I think he made at one time three 400 grand a year, which is real money for sure. But that was Based on him working for a paintball company, and then also putting his name on products and getting, you know, $1 or $5 per product sold, so it wasn’t your true essence of, Hey, I’m signing up for this team and signing a $400,000 contract.
Marc Gutman 32:16
Yeah, so you’re buying your own drinks pretty much every night.
Yeah, that’s what I’m gathering. Yeah. And so, so we can move on from Paintball in just a second. But I do have one question. Young Justin moss, the paintball pro paintball Pro. What were you known for? What was like your signature move? Or what were what was your role on the team?
Justin Moss 32:35
Yeah, I was known for being very small and fast and pretty. I don’t want to say crazy, but I guess a little crazy in the sense that I was what you call a front player and fun players are kind of like a running back. In football where we are sometimes sacrificed. We are running straight down the field where Moving to the most forward position as fast as we can.
So there were times that what we also had a bass player for instance in the back player was sort of your on field coach and so for instance, they might say Justin or we had codes but for you know for for clarity or ease I would say Justin gota you know, the steak and I would run as fast as I could to go to the snake or one of my you know, plant one of my signature moves was to run as fast as I could out of the box which they called it you know, the the flag box at the start of the game, and try to shoot as many people as I could running as fast as I could down the field while the rest of my team came behind me.
So you had players that would the opposite the opposing team would focus their guns on me, while my team would focus the guns on them and essentially You know, advanced the field and win the game pretty quickly.
Marc Gutman 34:07
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you are you into paintball? and I’m guessing just based on some of the winnings or we’re talking about, you’re like, yeah, this is cool. But this probably isn’t the future for me, this probably isn’t gonna help me achieve my goals or be I’m not gonna be long for this world and you’re, you’re getting into producing music festivals and you produced your first major Music Festival at 22. That must have been that must have been a big, big moment for a young kid.
Justin Moss 35:36
Yeah, it was it was you know, once again, if I if I every single emotion that a human can have in that year happened to me. But yeah, I was I was, um, you know, technically at the forefront of producing multi day, multi styles of music festivals in America. I was double by the New York Times is ahead of my time.
Now obviously in America we had Woodstock and us fast and staples of the music festival world, so I would never take anything away from those guys and girls that paved the way. Um, but at that time ’01-’02 our festivals in America were very jam band related. So the dead we’re doing, you know, three day festivals with campaign jam band festivals were popping up with camping, but we didn’t have a lot of multi day multi style festivals you had Lollapalooza, but at that time was still very much a tour. Coachella launched in 99. But it was a flop and nobody really knew who they were but they were except for on the West Coast pretty much.
And so I started really kind of seeing what was going on in Europe and Asia and Europe had been at that time probably 10 maybe 15 years ahead of us in music festivals, maybe not quite 15, right 10 years ahead of us, they had some major major festivals like love fast and Leeds and reading and just big, big festivals and and so what I wanted to do and then where I got this idea was, I wanted to marry my love of producing an event and paintball and my love for paintball was how do we get paintball into the mainstream? And, you know, people had been trying to do that for years and years and years. And so what I thought of was, well, skateboarding is in the mainstream now. BMX is in the mainstream right now. Moto X is in the mainstream right now. And of course, music is in the mainstream. So let’s bring them all together and have a fucking Music Festival, and so on in 2002.
I launched Well, the festival actually happened in April of 2002. It was called Beyond extreme sports Music Festival. Calm I had raised a bunch of money from at that time a.com millionaire and ran remember this is in 2000, 2001 and.com millionaires were not really a huge thing. There wasn’t a ton of them at the time. And we produced a festival that we had five stages over 75 artists we had Stone Temple Pilots, outcasts, ludicrous. Snoop Dogg method, man, third eye.
Marc Gutman 38:38
How’d you do this? So like, you’re 22 I imagine you’re 21 when you’re getting this thing going, maybe even younger. You get someone to give you a ton of money. And you’re getting these huge I mean, like how do you pull this together? That’s like crazy.
Justin Moss 38:51
Yeah, well marc, we’re gonna need another couple of hours. So I’ll try to streamline at the best I can, but Essentially, just like in 1996, when I didn’t know what I was doing producing a rave in 2000 2001 2002, I knew what I was doing producing something. But I had no idea how to produce a multi day music festival that we were trying to get 40/50/60,000 people at. And my background producing underground shows, you know, it was didn’t transition very well because we were not used to producing big outdoor shows with big stages.
We never booked big huge bands like at that time Stone Temple Pilots was one of the biggest rock bands in the world, you know, and so, we really cut our teeth on making a lot of mistakes, getting a lot of people in the music industry, on our side somehow and believing in what we’re doing. Doing and we we bullshitted our way to making it happen.
Marc Gutman 40:06
That’s crazy to me. And so that went off and and was a huge success.
Justin Moss 40:11
Yeah, so it was it was a success. And still to this day, it was a success in several ways, just not financially, financially, it was a flop. But as one of my agents that we worked with, and I won’t mention her by name, but you know, at that time, she was an agent for a huge huge ban that we had on the lineup. And, um, you know, one of the things that she had told me was, Justin, if you never do this again, you did it. If you go to burger flipping, you produced the biggest Music Festival at the time. And, and she was right.
I mean, we brought some of the biggest artists together. Tony Hawk was there doing a whole extreme sports area. We we It happened, there was thousands and thousands of people there. But we did a lot of things wrong. And because of that, we lost a lot of money. And essentially, we were going to do it again the next year. And that was sort of the business model. And it still is today that it takes two to three up to five years for a festival to become profitable, and build brand awareness.
And we had always thought that and we thought that it was going to be longer because once again festivals in America were not, you know, as they weren’t really a thing. And what ended up happening was our investor got into some legal trouble. We made some mistakes, and then ultimately, we just had to move on and close the company. And that’s when I moved to Denver.
Marc Gutman 41:52
Yeah, and then so where does your career go from there? So you, you’re close the company, you’re, I imagine you have a little bit of your tail between Your legs here. It didn’t go the way you wanted. You just shut down what you thought was going to be your future. You moved to Denver. What next?
Justin Moss 42:09
Yeah, I definitely was. I’m pretty devastated. You know, I, I that that time and still very much today. My passion is music festivals. My love is bringing people together in mass gatherings like that. And I just I had an opportunity that developed very quickly to open a paintball field in a retail paintball store here in Denver. And so I did that very quickly. Um, so I didn’t transition very, I mean, to give you an idea, you know, Joe, but I have to show happened in April, April 12th, 13th, and 14th. I had moved to Denver July 4 weekend and opened my paintball field I want to say by the end of July, August, so trip Additionally, I moved very, very quickly.
On the idea of moving here was, I do another business paintballs still very much my passion. I could take the time to decompress, figure out what I did wrong, figure out what I did right? And raise some money and do the festival again or create another festival. And so I started doing that and I did some shows here and there while owning the paintball field, some smaller club shows I consulted on some bigger projects as a festival consultant as festival started gaining some popularity and momentum. And I was just never able to raise capital. I was never a very good capital raiser. I happen to fall into this investor originally, um, and but my partner in the music festival His name’s Todd, still very, very dear friend of mine.
We had really reached out to a couple of consultants. And, you know, once again, I was still pretty green in the business world, realizing that a lot of consultants were bullshitters. But we ended up finding a consultant that, in the long run turned out to be a complete bullshit, you know, but he brought us together and created sort of this two day working session and brought these two guys in from from another digital marketing agency at the time. And we were basically creating a new music festival. You know, this was 2004 2005 and we were trying to figure out, you know, what was going to be the next big Music Festival and through that session, we had come up with a concept.
But But what really happened that was really exciting was, like I said, the country Sultan ended up being, you know, not a consultant and just not a good person. But the other two guys, you know, we became very close with and ultimately, I started basically a backup they had come to me and said, Look, we do digital marketing. There’s all sorts of great stuff happening. You guys know live events, you guys built something amazing and you know, still continue to produce amazing things.
Let’s put that together and look at this new emerging marketing strategy called experiential marketing or if you really want to get down to the roots, guerilla marketing or PR stunts, and why don’t we create a new agency that focuses on experiential marketing and so I started my first experiential marketing agency in 2007, with with three other partners.
Marc Gutman 45:56
and so it sounds like a great idea, you know, Let’s start an experiential marketing. We love this stuff. But who are your first customers? How did you start to get customers? Like what did that look like? Were you immediately good at it? Was it a little rough in the beginning?
Justin Moss 46:11
Yeah, it was. Well, let me let me start off by saying that I did not love experiential one I, I actually didn’t even care for it. What I cared for was building events and building experiences. And it took me a very long time to really get an understand what experiential was and what marketing was because you got to remember, I came from the event world, I came from concerts and festivals, which was very different than marketing a product, whether it’s digital or experiential, because my product was the band. My product was sometimes the brand of the festival, but mostly the band if I’m booking m&m, they’re coming to see mmm and that’s what I have to market and so I was very resistant, but what I loved was this opportunity to create a new music festival.
And while I’m creating this new music festival, and going out and raising money or whatever it was that I was going to do to get this music festival in the ground, I was going to be able to produce things for clients. And so we we struggled with finding clients, because we were, we had great branding, we had great material, but I would say I and another partner were the only real sales guys if you will, the real guy to go out and getters and you know, the other partner was of strategist and can talk the game, but ultimately me and the other guy had to get people on the hook.
And so what ended up happening which kind of turned the corner for us and it this is crazy, but I was basically at Buffalo Wild Wings and at the time, I was a card shark Meaning I handed my business card out to anybody that would take it and listen, I got a call. I don’t I don’t, I can’t recollect the timeframe, but I basically get a call. I let’s call it a few months later, and it’s a gentleman and he’s like, hey, it’s Glenn. You know, do you remember me? And I’m like, I know. He’s like, well, I’m working with Google. And I’m, we’re working on the democratic national convention for 2008 in Denver. And I wanted to know, if you can, you know, come up with some ideas and whatnot.
And so, long story short, we came up with some ideas, we use their ideas as well and we executed a pretty substantial activation all around a few different areas around Denver for Google and YouTube.
Marc Gutman 48:59
And so that must been an amazing opportunity, an amazing break for the business.
Justin Moss 49:03
Yeah, I mean, it was it was incredible. But, you know, look over the years we we ran the company until basically 2014. My one partner Todd ended up leaving and then I ended up buying out another partner. And then we did some amazing events. We won some awards, but ultimately, it just wasn’t it wasn’t what I loved it the way we were operating wasn’t anything I enjoyed at the time, you know, once I kind of grew up into the industry, but, you know, unlike my statement earlier, I learned to love experiential marketing and I learned a lot about it and I learned to have just as much passion for experiential marketing as I did for music festivals and concerts.
Because of, sort of, I guess part of it was because it was easier for me to get a brand to buy into me creating an experiential campaign for them versus me creating a festival. But at the same time, I just really love giving a voice to the consumer for the brand but also for the consumer and not talking at the consumer but talking with the consumer about a brand or about a product or service. And that’s what experiential at the root is. And so I you know, today started the pineapple agency in 2014. And absolutely have never looked back.
Marc Gutman 50:36
Now, let’s talk about that a little bit, that angle of experiential as the voice of the consumer and that it’s for the consumer, like, why is that so important?
Justin Moss 50:47
Um, for several for several reasons. One, you know, if you look back at the history of marketing and advertising and then I’m not going to pretend to be a student of it, but You know, brands have guided our thoughts, a lot of the way you know, if brands want the color purple to be popular that year, they’re gonna do it, you know, and they’re gonna make it popular and you’re inundated with it from TV to radio. You know, of course, now you have internet, you know, the small screen TV, and you can’t get away with you can’t get away from it. It’s it’s everywhere.
It’s, it’s, and you know now, by creating experiences, by leveraging those emotional connections, you’re not only giving the consumer a choice to attend those connect those experiences and those live interactions, but you’re also giving them a way to promote it, and a way to promote the brand and the service and the product through social media. Through connectivity, whether it’s text messaging, or, or whatever. And so, you know, now more than ever, consumers are empowered to say, you know what, this is an amazing product. This is an amazing brand. And I’m going to tell my friends about it. And oh, by the way, I was involved in this experience that was produced by the brand. But it connected me with the brand and made me feel like I was important and it wasn’t about brand it was about this experience.
And, you know, versus, you know, here, put a coke in your hand and love it and drink it and then go to the store and buy some because you loved it and drink it, if that makes sense.
Marc Gutman 52:47
No, it makes perfect sense. And I think that’s a great way that you articulated that. I mean, to me, so much of branding is that you know, especially in the modern era of branding as we’ve turned and we have to control Have the brand over to the consumer and in control of telling the story to the consumer, now we can influence it, we can give them some information. But ultimately, everyone is out there with their own magical storytelling device in their hands, as well as just the way they do it with their own the old fashioned way with her mouth in their minds, but they’re out there telling that story to give them that platform is a great way to further the brand story and allow customers to do an authentic way.
Justin Moss 53:29
Absolutely. And And, look, I’m opinionated. And those that know me know that. But I’m also you know, as I’ve said many times very passionate so that sometimes can clog my opinion. But with that being said, I’m a firm believer that if a brand is not at least participating in some sort of experiential campaign, and I experiential these days is a is used a lot and that could be a Anything from a PR stunt to building a better experience in your tradeshow booth for a b2b, a product launch a PR stunt. Uh, you know, it could be so many things.
But I’m a believer that if you’re not involved in experiential in some way, then you’re gonna get left behind, you know, and you’re not, you’re not going to be around, you know, similar to the way the website you know, today, you know, in the 90s if you didn’t have a website, it was like, yeah, you don’t have a website, you know, today, could you imagine any brands larger small, not having some sort of presence on the web? It’s, it – wouldn’t happen.
Marc Gutman 54:42
Yeah, no. And so, experiential is the new internet.
Justin Moss 54:46
I mean, to a point, I mean, I guess Yes. I mean, if I’m being honest, I think that experiential is is is is just as important right now. And you know what, it’s funny. You know, we’re talking in April of 2020. And we’re obviously in this this crazy world right now, you know, with this pandemic, and I actually have a letter that is going out in a couple of days to, you know, sort of an open letter to not just my clients but the world, in in that do not let experiences fall by the wayside.
We are living right now in these last four or five weeks in a world of digital more than ever, digital live cast, digital, you know, concerts, digital marketing, whatever. But humans need experience they need interaction, and event planners, experiential marketers, live musicians, we need to come together and bring experiences back faster and more powerful than ever when this pandemic is over. Because that’s the way the world is going to stay together.
And come together even more through live experiences through hugging, through sharing that goose bump moment, watching the Rolling Stones on stage being at an experience for Google or Under Armour, you know, that’s how we’re going to come together again.
Marc Gutman 56:16
Yeah. So thanks for sharing that. That’s awesome. I’m fired up. I actually got some, some goosebumps just, you know, thinking about it, because it is tough. And, you know, you’ve mentioned this several times about how important experiences are how important it is for us to share them as a collective audience.
Like, like, what do you love so much about both experiences and experiential marketing?
Justin Moss 56:41
Yeah, so in layman’s terms or my layman answer is, I love the smiles. I love the, the, the moments that you know you’re creating for these, these people. every concert, every festival every experiential campaign, big or small that I have the ability to be at my I go on stage, I stand in the background in the corner. I watch I watch the smiles and I’m I I love it.
I think that that’s what I was put here to do. bring people together and make them smile. And I think from the more strategic business marketing guy that Justin is, what I love about it is that you are once again giving the voice to the consumer, but you’re allowing a brand to get an ROI for dollar for dollar spend for less than they get on traditional media. On they reach KPIs. I believe faster even though they’re harder to track through alignment. experience than, say, a TV commercial, but they reach their KPIs and their goals faster through a live experience.
So we bridge the gap between creating smiles and moments. And for our clients because we’re partners, their marketing strategy and selling their products or services ultimately, you know, so hopefully that made sense.
Marc Gutman 58:29
total sense, it makes complete sense. Thank you for sharing that. I really appreciate that. So, looking forward, Justin, what’s what’s next for you in the pineapple agency?
Justin Moss 58:39
Yeah, so um, you know, luckily, during this crazy madness, we’re still working on we’ve got some great projects in the pipeline. Some have been postponed. I’m looking, I’m expanding the agency. I’m looking to potentially add one specific vertical of adding more fabrication in house and more digital marketing in house. So that, you know, we’re already doing digital marketing for every campaign we do, but maybe potentially as a standalone strategy. And then we’ve got a very cool unique Music Festival. That Yes, if you remember from earlier I created many, many years ago, that is even more relevant today.
I am a believer that this festival could potentially change festivals forever, or at least interaction with festivals from a consumer standpoint. So I my goal is to push that really forward this year, and then who knows the world The world is the world is an amazing place. And, you know, there you know I’m just living it. I’m just living is having some fun and creating some some cool shit, you know? And that’s that’s what we’re here for. And that’s what I’m going to continue doing.
Marc Gutman 1:00:07
Yeah. So Justin, that going back and thinking back to that young, a nine year old Justin, what would he say if he saw you today where you’re at what you’re doing?
Justin Moss 1:00:18
What would he say? He would? Wow this is this is a good one Mark? I would say I would say he would, he would say, Wow, you you really you really did something great for not just yourself but but humans. You You really, you really you really took your your your passion to the to the masses and the next level and applaud plod me my team, you know. And I think the other thing it says, Wow, you made it past 21
Marc Gutman 1:01:03
And that is Justin moss of the pineapple agency on a mission to bring people together and make them smile. Thanks, Justin. You certainly brought a smile to my face. And thanks for sharing your story. Well, that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstorm.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode. Big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can’t deny