Gen Sadakane is the Co-founder and Creative Director of the globally known photo community, EyeEm. Believing that connecting with people is the key, he is constantly looking for new ways to bring creative minds together.
Through the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdowns that have been bracing the globe, Gen Sadakane has learned that it is okay to slow down as long as your company remains in its key direction.
Learn about how he believes brands should stay more in the background in order to give consumers a better experience and how to create your own brand, in this episode of ‘Off the Record’.
Starting Off (1:05)
Having initially studied philosophy and visual communications, Gen has had worked in a lot of career fields and various positions. Starting an internship in the advertising industry, Gen found his interest in all things creative — whether it be the colors or designs used to communicate something.
Gen believes that the origin of his career path is the constant ambition that he has to create something. After having worked for Jung von Matt, Volkswagen, and Mercedes, and seeing how the agency world evolved, Gen felt it was the right time to start EyeEm. Ten years later the tech startup has evolved into a successful photo community with over 25 million users.
Two years ago, Gen started the Berlin Photo Week which has become a very successful event series in Berlin, with over 35,000 visitors. Currently, Gen is doing a lot of brand workshops in order to keep his creativity going and inspire others.
The Commercial Development of EyeEm (6:15)
EyeEm was founded on the basis and knowledge of four creative minds — Gen, Flo, Laurenz, and Ramsey — who all originate from different fields of interest. The mutual aim and passion behind the start-up were to create a photo community where people could connect.
While the four founders focused on different fields within EyeEm, they all took on the mutual role of reaching out to clients and gaining the recognition of bigger brands.
As the founder of a company, it’s easier to access the agency big guns and the clients. And, it’s also more convincing.Gen Sadakane
Gen believes that a lot of commercial success will come if the founders are proactively contacting relevant people. The constant hustling is the key reasoning behind why EyeEm was able to build and grow their commercial success and create their own relevance in the market.
Connecting like-minded people, I think that is what motivated me as a creative person and gave a lot of insights.Gen Sadakane
Getting Out of your Bubble (9:48)
For Gen, it is extremely important to now always hang out with the same circle of people. Not only for his personal energy level but also for his inspiration, Gen is very enthusiastic in terms of meeting new people and growing outside of his comfort zone. From creative minds to entrepreneurs, learning what other people have to say is a great way that Gen gets new insights and new inspirations for what he wants to do next.
Trying to avoid the trend that everything looks the same, or everyone is talking about the same things Gen is always looking for new, interesting people to start a conversation with.
Creativity and performance-based thinking are two essential aspects of a company. However, it is important to keep in mind that without creative influences the ideas behind the performance.
Everyone is talking about performance but if they do not have a clue about what the product is or what the direction is, the performance will be bad.Gen Sadakane
Struggling during Lockdown (19:30)
Currently, Gen is lecturing at the Miami Ad School in Berlin. While he finds it rewarding to inspire the younger generation, Gen does not see himself lecturing for the rest of his life.
However, he does not only see the lockdown as a struggle. Rather, he views it as a time for an opportunity where many people can start getting creative and put themselves out there through founding companies or fulfilling their lifelong passion.
I think it’s the best time to start something new.Gen Sadakane
How Sustainable will the Future be? (21:20)
Flash forward 5 to 10 years, Gen is hoping that things will become more sustainable. In relation to the lockdowns, it is now the right time become more calm and stop hustling so much in a different way. As a entrepreneur Gen was hustling 24 hours, however, with the world going through a weird time he has realized that it is okay to sleep longer and enjoy life a little bit.
In the future, Gen hopes that people will become more mindful and conscious that it is okay to take time for themselves, as long as you are getting your tasks done.
In terms of the future for companies and agencies, Gen believes that it is okay for a company to be only 20-30 people. Crediting it more as a family size, where you know the names of the coworkers and what is happening.
Sustainability in Ads (25:51)
Encompassing lean marketing strategies highly depends on the company and what objectives they are aiming for.
While there are brands that don’t do any advertising — for example, Tesla — it is important for companies that rely on ads that they do not make them too generic. The future of advertising could potentially integrate the use of billboards. While it is not purely the approach of the future, it could be used in an interesting way, especially with more people driving cars — especially electric vehicles.
Gen hopes that the future of advertising will present the idea of the product more and not push something onto the audience — less is more. A clear communication strategy is extremely important for this.
FAKE AGENCY (30:36)
The FAKE Agency is a passion project founded by Gen’s wife. Seen more as a communication house, rather than an ad agency, the FAKE Agency focuses on giving middle business help in establishing the direction they should focus on.
It’s super important for startups and bigger brands to get the one direction. There are so many brands and startups that don’t know what their own product is.Gen Sadakane
At EyeEm Gen frequently saw in his employees, that when they were confronted with the question ‘What do we do?’, everyone would answer something different.
Through doing workshops with the key stakeholders of a company, the FAKE Agency is helping businesses focus on their strategy and brand to align it with future strategies.
Berlin Photo Week (38:54)
The goal for Berlin Photo Week was to bring brands to a place in a more subtle way. Believing that brands need to learn to stay more in the background, Gen thought that a creative fair would be a great place to merge brands with creators.
By creating experiences and Instagram-able situations, people were focusing more on the cool content of the brand rather than just who they are.
Listen to the Full Story
Are you interested in learning how to follow Gen’s path?
Check out the advice he gave when asked our three questions!
#1 What do you think all marketers should know?
Marketers in 2021 should know that clients, customers, and users are also human beings. When you create a campaign, you should test it on normal people if they are understanding what you are trying to tell them.
Sometimes marketers are in a bubble, influenced through performance and KPI’s, and don’t see the bigger picture.
#2 What do you think every brand should stop doing right now?
Brands should stop wasting money on non-sense campaigns. Marketing directors and people taking care of the marketing spendings, should talk with different people inside the team, or even outside of the team in order to get more insights.
As many marketers are driven by KPI’s and performance, it is frequent that campaigns have a high level of engagement but are not driving sales. And, this is a waste.
#3 If you could spend €1,000 on a marketing campaign for FAKE Agency, what would you do?
I would give it to people who need the money before spending it on Facebook and Instagram. In the end, it wouldn’t be a typical ad campaign — I would spend it on merchandise. I would want to make a hoodie that is a bit more long-lasting.
€1,000 is enough to buy ads. It was my spending for Berlin Photo Week 2019 where I got more than 30,000 people into the Kraftwerk. At the end of the day it is not about the amount you spend, but how you spend it.