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STMNT Studios Founder Lukas Schulz Shares Insights on Navigating Influencer Marketing as a Brand

Lukas Schulz’s journey took him from a Bavarian village to the heart of Silicon Valley’s creator economy. The unexpected path led him from shooting personal vlogs to founding STMNT Studios, a thriving video production company based in San Francisco.

Lukas emphasizes authenticity as key when working with influencers, urging brands to give creators freedom. “Let the creators be the creators,” he advises. “It’s a lot about transparency, honesty, and communication.”

For entrepreneurial success, Lukas stresses finding your motivating passion, persevering through inevitable challenges, and building a supportive community. “Building that is paramount to any person’s success,” he says of cultivating a network around you. His collaborative approach from concept to delivery has elevated video campaigns for brands. 

From Small-Town Germany to Video Production Powerhouse

Lukas’s transition from small-town Germany to the Silicon Valley tech scene was an unlikely one. “I’m originally from Germany, and I grew up in a small town in Bavaria, so it’s a bit south of Munich, right on the border of Austria and Switzerland.” He moved to the U.S. in 2014 to take a sales and marketing job, initially planning just a short stint.

That career move paved the way for his current role as founder and Creative Director of STMNT Studios, a video production company based in San Francisco. But his path to the creator economy was circuitous.

The now-creative director traces his passion for visual storytelling back to 2014 when he began shooting photos and behind-the-scenes videos while traveling for work. “I would just love to record my travels. I loved it when there was motion happening in the image. I loved the composition…putting this together into 15, 30, 60-second segments that would just tell a little bit of a story.”

As the vlogging trend exploded on YouTube, Lukas found inspiration in creators like Casey Neistat. “I was like, hey, you know what? I can do this too.” His photography side hustle started paying off, literally, when a friend hired him for a $500 video gig. “Now this check [was] in my hand, and [I] was like, wow, this is…being paid for something that you’ve created yourself.”

In 2018, Lukas took the leap to launch STMNT Studios full-time. Reflecting on the initial challenges, he says, “What I should have done is start this as a side hustle first…Make sure [income] comes in consistently so I can, you know, pay rent and…not be financially stressed.”

Success required expanding his skillset by “building a team and a community” of talented creatives like designers and art directors. “That takes it further down the road of the business. But building a team and a community around my skill set and having their skills add on to the project [made] me grow so much as a person and the business itself as well.”

Producing Successful Video Campaigns for Brands

For STMNT Studios, Lukas cites a three-pronged approach to measuring the success of their video productions for brands. First and foremost is client satisfaction. “One is, is the client happy? Are they happy with how everything went from concept to execution?” he says, emphasizing that exceeding client expectations from the initial creative concept through final delivery is paramount.

The second barometer is the happiness of the production crew itself. Lukas strives to create an enjoyable environment on set by ensuring reasonable work hours and proper compensation. “We really try to pay everybody fairly and make sure that we cap everything at a ten-hour day so people get home to their families.” According to him, it’s a success if crew members are proud enough of the final product to showcase it in their portfolios.

Lastly, analytical metrics like view counts, engagement rates, and return on investment provide quantified measures of a campaign’s performance. “Those ads that we created perform right. And that’s what most of the time, unfortunately, counts the most.” Lukas cites a recent example promoting NFL player Matthew Stafford that aired during high-profile games and alongside his Netflix documentary. When the numbers show the videos drove a positive return, that’s a clear win.

While data reigns supreme in today’s marketing world, Lukas doesn’t lose sight of the power of storytelling, revealing that STMNT takes a comprehensive approach from scripting the initial concept through to the final edit. “We can storyboard this. We can script this for you…Then we film it, we produce it, we edit it, and we color grade it.” He believes this cohesive, narrative-driven process elevates video productions for clients.

Finding the Authenticity Thread In Influencer Marketing

While STMNT Studios doesn’t directly oversee influencer marketing campaigns, Lukas understands the importance of authenticity and transparency when creators partner with brands. “Being authentic is the most important. It is hard to be authentic if you’re trying to sell somebody something, especially if it’s a brand deal.”

He cites the example of influencers promoting skincare products, a category they frequently work with. “It’s like this very classic, you know, how to use a moisturizer…And surely you like that, and you surely might use the product yourself, but it’s hard. How do I tell somebody to buy it exactly without telling them?”

This conundrum gets to the heart of the authenticity issue in influencer marketing. Lukas believes it hinges on clear communication between the creator and the brand. “It’s a lot about transparency, honesty, and communication of the influencer to make sure, ‘Hey, I’m using this product. I like this product. I don’t need you to buy it. I’m just telling you that this is something that I’ve been liking.'”

Equally important is allowing influencers the freedom to connect with their audience naturally. “It’s about the brand being okay with the influencer being authentic…Don’t make them say certain lines or words, or [authenticity] just gets a bit buried.”

Lukas advocates for an open, collaborative approach. “The client sends the brief, the creator says, ‘Here’s what I think.’ And then this needs to be an open discussion.” After all, both parties want the same thing – views for the creator that translate into sales for the brand. As the video maverick summarizes, “Let the creators be the creators.”

Cultivating Community for Entrepreneurial Success

For burgeoning entrepreneurs, Lukas emphasizes the importance of perseverance and finding your “why” – that core passion that drives you. “It takes a lot of grit and dedication to make it happen. But the reason why we started it in the first place is because it fills us to a certain degree with something, and that’s something you have to find.”

He advises leaning on that sense of purpose when inevitable struggles arise. “If you think about that little something that it gives you…you can always overcome those by thinking about this tiny little moment, this tiny little thing within you that made you start in the first place.”

However, the journey doesn’t have to be solitary. In fact, STMNT’s founder learned early on the value of cultivating a supportive community. “At the very beginning of my career, I was very isolated. It was as a freelancer; I was just working for myself…when there was no team around, it felt a bit lonely at times.”

Now, he advocates building a network that inspires, challenges and uplifts you, whether that’s “peers or mentors or anybody in this world essentially. Building that is paramount to any person’s success.”

This community can span diverse backgrounds and disciplines. “If you are on this journey trying to make a business work, make sure you share it with the people that you like and go out there, network, and have and build community through that with the work that you do.” As Lukas concludes, “There’s so much around that I can only urge people to go after.”

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David Adler is an entrepreneur and freelance blog post writer who enjoys writing about business, entrepreneurship, travel and the influencer marketing space.

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