Justin Cooke is Founder and CEO at Tunepics, one of the world’s fastest growing social networks. The multi-sensory platform allows users to share music with every image, which others can respond to using an ‘emotion wheel’. Prior to the platform’s launch, Justin founded ‘360 disruption agency’ innovate7. Before that, he was CMO at Topshop, following a six-year stint at Burberry. Other companies in his repertoire include Stella McCartney and Tom Ford. We caught up with Justin to hear about his career so far and his aspirations for Tunepics
What does an average day at Tunepics look like?
I wish it existed—every day brings varying degrees of excitement, exhaustion, dreaming and debating. Being a start-up you are always one week away from being broke, and that’s happened a few times. You learn to take each day as it comes but to never stop believing. That’s why we’ve been arranging this interview for six months! (Sorry!)
Since the platform launched in May 2014, what’s been your most stand-out moment?
Probably seeing users that I love and admire use the platform. Jamie Oliver, Richard Branson and Sir Paul Smith are all on it, and there are young artists and musicians that I’m listening to that just find it and instantly understand the power of music and emotion.
The Evening Standard has called Tunepics the “first British social networking hit”. Is this an important concept to you?
I think it’s exciting that people see us as a British success story—we have always had the best artists, writers, musicians and actors and I think we can have the best technology too.
Snapchat is starting to be taken seriously as a marketing tool, alongside a multitude of other social channels. Do you see Tunepics becoming part of this marketing mix?
Yes I do, but we’re still a very young platform with a really engaged user base of 16 to 25-year olds. Any of the brands who have been successful, like Snapchat, started by focusing on their product and the individual user. The rest always follows.
Music streaming is a lively topic at the moment, particularly with the re-launch of Tidal. Where does Tunepics stand on issues like the regulation of music streaming?
Downloads are still dominant but streaming is growing so rapidly. I think ultimately the user should be given the choice of whatever they want, whether its higher quality, saved, offline or downloaded. As long as the model is built correctly, it’s all part of the evolution of something we all love and need in our lives, so everything needs to co-exist.
The idea of mixing colours, images and music is pretty emotive. How do you view the role of emotion in social sharing?
We think we can redefine emotion in the digital space. Everything is so one-dimensional at the moment, which doesn’t make sense when you look at how we live our lives and the way we interact with other human beings. We were one of the first apps on the Apple Watch and we see a real opportunity to connect people in a totally new way. Imagine if you could send a song to someone and see its impact on their heartbeat, or if you could feel someone’s tears through the Taptic Engine on your wrist. All of the senses are connected, so when you play someone a song or show them an image it ignites your sense of smell or touch. That’s really powerful. What’s amazing is when you can see that 200,000 people in Taiwan are listening to Adele at 4.23pm and it makes them feel inspired—that kind of data is so valuable. Imagine if we shared that with Apple and Spotify and how it could help curate music purchase habits.
What was your first job in the marketing industry? How have things changed since then?
Well, my first job was a Saturday job in the Gucci store on Bond Street, and then I worked my way up from Tom Ford’s office to CMO at Burberry within about 10 years. I don’t think much has changed—I think it’s up to the individual to adapt, change and disrupt what we know to be true, and to be the magical touch when everything is flat.
Looking back over your career, is there any one project or campaign you’re particularly proud of?
So many, I’ve been so blessed. I think Art of the Trench because it was the beginning of redefining Burberry in the digital space. At Stella McCartney we made a show invite that was a Mr Men book, and I just thought that was so cool and unique. So Stella, and of course Tunepics, because it’s the culmination of everything I’ve learned and worked on.
What other brands’ marketing strategies do you admire and why?
Airbnb because they have such a great product. And Uber because they wiped out the competition in a crowded market that nobody else thought to disrupt. Both so simple and effective.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the current state of digital marketing?
It’s time for change—never stand still.
Interview by Estelle Hakner