Employee Spotlight: Matt Pastorius, Business Development Manager

Meet Matt Pastorius, Gear Patrol's New Business Development Manager

Join us in welcoming Gear Patrol's latest Partnership's team addition. With enthusiasm, a fresh perspective, and diverse background in marketing and creative strategy, Matt's here to develop and grow GP's Direct Response advertising business. We sat down with Matt to talk all things sales, strategy, and skateboarding.

Welcome to the team, Matt! Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Pittsburgh and raised in New Jersey. My two favorite things on earth are performing on-stage – whether in a theatrical role or as the lead singer of my band – as well as snowboarding. Human connection and creative self-expression are my lifeblood.

What's something that really excites you about joining the GP crew?

Being surrounded by people, brands and products that inspire me every single day.

This wouldn't be a proper introduction if you didn't share with us your favorite piece of gear and why you currently can't live without it.

My favorite piece of gear has got to be my record player. It sat in my father’s garage for probably thirty years and isn’t the highest quality, but it works like a dream. I love its simplicity and tactile nature, but the sound that comes from vinyl records...there’s something so warm and refreshingly rough about it that can’t be replicated. I try to listen to a new record every day – it helps me slow down and really listen to the story being told.

You mentioned being a Gear Patrol fan prior to joining the team. How do you plan to translate your knowledge of a GP consumer into a sales-driven role?

Being an avid fan of Gear Patrol for nearly a decade certainly helps to understand and be able to articulate what Gear Patrol is in a natural way. But beyond that, I genuinely believe in Gear Patrol as the authentic authority in product journalism. I hope that this passion and conviction comes through in every conversation I have with partners.

You're coming in here with a fresh, new perspective. What's your vision for the future of the Partnership's team as we continue to build relationships in a virtual world?

I don’t have a traditional sales background, so I plan on using my experience in marketing and creative strategy to try different things and approach conversations with an open mind. Despite the fact that we’re building partnerships on a mostly virtual level for now, my goal remains the same: build strong working relationships based on trust, empathy and efficacy.

With our new normal, what have you been up to outside of work? Any fun hobbies or projects that you've been working on?

A bunch of stuff! I can’t sit still. Hiking, yoga, and skateboarding – even though I’d never skateboarded a day in my life until last year. Anything that gets me up and outdoors.

We're so happy you're here, Matt, and can't wait to see what you accomplish. Any last words?

To our partners: I’m not here to sell you anything. I’m here to welcome you to Gear Patrol and find the right solutions for you based on your goals and interests. I can’t wait to speak with you all! Go Steelers.

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Client Spotlight: Marco Prokop, Marketing, Events & PR Manager at Luminox

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your role at Luminox?

My name is Marco Prokop, I am the Marketing, PR and Events Manager for Luminox. I develop national marketing and communications strategy for our brand and products. I manage our partnerships and ambassador program. I coordinate with the sales team to develop promotions and point of sale opportunities for national retail and individual stores to drive sales and increase presence. I implement lead generation campaigns and report on the effectiveness of all marketing and communication efforts.

What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?

The most rewarding part of what I do is effectively communicating the Luminox brand ethos. This is proven when sales and awareness are a result of my marketing and communication activations. As a key contributor to a nimble and results-driven team, I am able to work closely with our production, design, sales and digital team to create products and release plans that are on brand, expressive and cohesive with our values and aspirations. The ultimate fulfillment is when this comes full circle and I see one of our new watches on the wrist of people I stumble across in daily life since it shows this individual believes in the product and what Luminox represents as a brand.

What’s been one of your favorite projects or campaigns that you’ve worked on with Luminox?

My favorite project has been increasing Luminox’s relationship with the Navy SEAL Foundation (NSF) and becoming official partners. The Navy SEALs have sacrificed more than one could imagine for this country and given credibility and importance to our brand. I am proud that through my work, I am able to return the favor and give back to this community that has provided so much for Luminox and our country.

I worked with the NSF and our product design team to create two collaborative timepieces which paid homage to the NSF. The results were tremendous in awareness and success for both parties. Today, Admiral William Mcraven, a retired United States Navy four-star admiral who oversaw the covert special operations team that led to the defeating of Osama bin Laden, proudly wears one of our Navy SEAL Foundation x Luminox timepieces. The relationship with the NSF is stronger than ever and I look forward to our continued growth.

What are your thoughts on how our new normal is shaping events? How has COVID affected the way you’re strategizing or messaging, especially with events?

COVID drastically changed my approach to event marketing with many of my plans and ideas being cancelled or postponed for safety and regulations. However, I realize that human interaction is critical for building the identity and trust of a brand and creating life-long relationships with consumers. It is crucial not to lose that human interaction. Moving forward, my approach to events will be to execute smaller, experience driven events that have a virtual presence which will allow participation from anywhere. I am working with the Navy SEAL Foundation to execute a Navy SEAL inspired team work out challenge that will raise donations for the NSF. There will be two physical events, one in Coronado and a second in Virginia Beach at the Navy SEAL bases. Simultaneously, we will host the events virtually so people can participate on social media throughout the country.

Why’d you choose to work with Gear Patrol? How do you approach working with media publications?

I choose to work with Gear Patrol for two main reasons: Credibility & reaching the core Luminox audience. Gear Patrol is a taste-maker that outdoor enthusiasts, gentlemen and gearheads alike trust and look to for the best gear. I understand the importance for our brand to be considered credible and therefore, the need to associate ourselves with Gear Patrol. Gear Patrol continues, time after time, to deliver results. The audience Gear Patrol attracts and reaches combined with their ability to curate content and introduce the newest and best gear, influences consumer’s purchasing. This proven combination has led to great success in credibility and reaching our core consumer.

What are the essential pieces of gear that you can’t live without?

Essential gear that I cannot live without are my Shane Stoneman Twin Du Jour surfboard, my Quiksilver 3/2 wetsuit and my Luminox Pacific Diver watch. I start each morning with those 3 items, run down to the beach for a quick surf and ensure I make it back home on time to start my meetings. Life is short, every second counts.

With our new normal, what have you been up to outside of work? Any fun hobbies or projects that you’ve been working on?

The work from home mandate led me home to Minnesota for the remainder of 2020. During that time at home, I utilized my father’s workshop and furbished a sprinter van into a custom camper. I spent my evenings after work insulating, installing paneling, building a lofted bed and making the camper of my dreams that would allow me to explore our beautiful country. After completing the build, I drove cross-country and relocated to Santa Monica, California where I have been taking advantage of the endless summer. On the weekends, I have been camping in my van and surfing in places like Mexico, Big Sur and Northern California.

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black-and-white photo of Billy smiling, looking to the left of the camera.

Client Spotlight: Billy Garner, Senior Marketing Manager at Incase

We caught up with Billy Garner, Senior Marketing Manager at Incase, for the first Gear Patrol Debrief video to talk marketing partnerships, how the new normal is shaping marketing, and his essential gear. Check out the video below, and scroll down for the full interview.

Before we get into anything else, can you describe your role at Incase?

Sure. My main role is essentially implementing our overall go-to-market process and the stages of execution — for everything from new product introductions, to big brand moments and initiatives, to just really all of our campaigns and major communications that go out from the brand.

I'd love to hear about some of your favorite experiences at Incase, maybe a favorite marketing campaign?

This year has obviously been so crazy, but one moment that I would love to stop and highlight and have a feel-good moment about is our recent collaboration with a company called Bionic. Bionic is a sustainable and raw material innovation company that is addressing plastic and marine pollution, and essentially taking that pollution and creating a high-strength textile that we use through our different products solutions.

One thing that I loved about working with Bionic is that they are directly tied into the largest nonprofit for clean water called Waterkeepers Alliance. They actually go and set up foundational recycling infrastructure in third-world environments to help to collect all of the debris and plastic needed for the manufacturing process. In doing so, they really helped cultivate a community, create jobs, and really give back, versus us just going and buying fabric off the shelf. So, it's really tied into this overall feel-good, full-circle initiative.

That's awesome to hear. In a previous Debrief, we actually talked about Gen Z marketing trends and the confluence of social justice movements and sustainability, and how important it is to incorporate those trends into our marketing strategies. So, it's really cool to hear about the things Incase is doing.

Yeah. So, looking forward, since 2012, we've been introducing different sustainable initiatives every year. This is something that we were really excited to get behind and really grow, and we're looking into 2021 for more opportunities to not only make better product, but help incorporate more sustainable fabrics and textiles to make sure that, one, our products are living for a long time, and two, it's actually having a better impact on the end users. It's a massive, massive undertaking for a lot of brands and it's something that's really exciting and that we feel really good about.

Work from home has definitely posed as a really interesting challenge for marketers this year. So, I'm really interested to hear a little bit more about how COVID has changed the way you're thinking about strategy with regards to Incase. How has the pandemic shifted that for you?

Sure. In March, when everyone got hit pretty hard, one thing that we did, and I think one thing that we did really well, is we took a brief moment and just paused to really look around to see what was going on. Within that, we really started taking a look at our roadmaps and our different campaigns that were coming up. We wanted to make sure that we were amplifying things that really spoke to the moment and actually helped people transition into this time. Luckily for Incase, we naturally make products for mobile livelihoods and keeping creatives on the go. We feel that shifting things like concentrating into MacBook protection, versus travel, those types of moments for us really help. We felt really great being able to provide solutions for people that really didn't know what the next step was.

We continue to look at our overall roadmaps and really see, how can we continue to keep people in this very mobile lifestyle, very create anywhere, keep people creating and doing the things that they're great at. I think the tools that we offer, and that we're pushing, and that we reactively switched to focus on, are the things that actually help people get there. So, outside of that, I think from a creative standpoint, just messaging the moment and making sure that we are showcasing how our products are being able to be used from home, or on the go, or really focusing on those use cases that are relevant to today. So, going into 2021, again, focusing on organizational systems and protective solutions that really keep your essentials safe, and keep you creating is, without a doubt, what we're trying to go out there and do.

It sounds like you are really taking into consideration listening to the consumers when you're thinking about these models. Obviously, if the consumer is now at home, you're going to try to make their lives at home a little bit easier. It's awesome to hear that Incase is using that audience focus in their marketing strategy. I think that's also tying back to what you were talking about before with incorporating environmentalism into your marketing strategies and everything like that. It's very timely, and I think that's something that is really rare, I think, and really awesome to see.

Yeah, I think one thing, too, that working from home has really afforded me, is taking a moment now that I'm not directly in an office and now we have this new type of work schedule, is in such uncertain times, reconnecting with myself to find the inspiration in my day-to-day. Working from home has allowed me to do that, whether it's going for a run during lunch, or taking a little hike, or going swim in the ocean, to really reset myself, get back to work and really focus on different creative projects. That never really happened before.

I think it's really important that we take this time, try to focus on self betterment, and really take some time to yourself, to reconnect and rewire some of the things that maybe you weren't able to do before.

Again, for me, it's been great to just have some of my own time, on my own time, to do the things I love. It really has refreshed the whole reason why I like to tell brand stories, or connect with consumers. It starts here, and so it's been great to have that kind of time for myself, for sure.

I want to talk a little bit more about the storytelling aspect that you were discussing. How do you think about media partnerships, and what are some reasons that you've partnered with Gear Patrol specifically?

Two parts of this, I think it's really important these days as we do shift to more of the digital experience, for brands to really own and concentrate on their own channels. But two, really lean into these amazing media channels to act as an organic extension of the brand's arm and to help really amplify these stories. Personally, before I even started working at Incase, Gear Patrol, I checked it daily. I think a lot of people across all different industries really look towards Gear Patrol to find new things, recent happenings, new technology. These partnerships are so important for us to really attract and find new customers, and have those customers engage and find new audiences with our products. You guys have really helped us get there.

Obviously, we have a really robust, organic PR strategy as well, but our retailers also have really just loved these types of partnerships that we have, because as people aren't shopping more in the stores, people are going online. It really helps to be able to give those mentions of who the brands partnered with at the retail level and give those little mentions within different articles or activations with Gear Patrol. It really helps them out as well. So, again, we can't say enough about these partnerships, especially as we move into, everyday, more of a digital landscape.

Of course, Gear Patrol wouldn't be anything without the gear aspect, so we want to hear a little bit more about what's some of your favorite gear, what can't you live without?

Totally. As a quick brand plug, I'd say, for Incase, because I'm the same as the consumer, right? I've had to shift at home, and I'm moving around, and I'm finding any inch to work from, whether it's a park, coffee shop, home, I'm all over the place. So, definitely number one is my Bionic organizer, which helps with all things cable management. I'm constantly changing my load out with that.

Number two, my EO backpack, it's helped me, in the times that we're not locked down, go on little quick trips. So, maybe we're not traveling internationally right now, but if I want to hit a quick road trip or something like that, it's been a great tool for that.

Over the summer, like I said, getting in the ocean during lunch, Yucca fins helped me body surf or free swim in the ocean, have been essential. They're a local company here in Orange County, and I'm super stoked to support them. I would say, my daily EDC knife, the Benchmade 940 Osborne, if you go on to YouTube, it's just like, that's it. So, I would say that's a great tool. I only open boxes, I wish I was a lot tougher than that, but I just open sample boxes since I have everything coming to my work from home space. My Solomon Sense Ride 3 trail shoes, again, getting out there, running on lunch breaks. My Schott leather jacket, yeah, those are probably the things that I need. If you say, that's what you get, those would probably land on that list.

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Tips and Tricks from Gear Patrol’s Coordinating Producer

We caught up with Gear Patrol's Coordinating Producer, Nick Caruso, on what's ahead for video and podcasting at Gear Patrol this year. Read on to learn about Nick's industry experience, how he sees video and podcasting evolving at Gear Patrol, and his advice to any brands looking to start a video or podcasting program this year.

So tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you join the team, what roles have you held and what do you do at Gear Patrol?

I was lucky to be around in the *ahem* earlier days of GP as a part-time freelance writer–started at the end of 2012. As the site rapidly evolved, the newly formed Today In Gear column became my beat. I also did some automotive writing at that time.

After a couple-year hiatus, I returned in 2016 as Motoring Editor, and also oversaw Today In Gear, which by then was an absolute juggernaut in our daily content roster. I came back in the middle of production for GP Magazine Issue Two, which was spectacular and unlike anything I'd ever been part of. I also worked heavily on partnerships content and was involved in nascent video/social media stuff.

After staying in that Editor role for a few years, I made the shift to my current role, which hadn't really existed at GP previously. I'd worked in television production early in my career, so it was a question of combining all my skills and focusing on our new video strategy, which has been both very fun and very challenging (which is also fun). The team has evolved and shifted a lot since then, and now we're heading into Podcast territory – true to form, we haven't let much dust gather in the past couple years.

Screenshot of Nick Caruso speaking on camera

What is one of the most challenging or rewarding projects that you’ve worked on?

To say the pandemic has affected video production would be an understatement, but we figured it out. By last spring I was regularly hosting our This Week In Gear video series, normally shot in our amazing in-office studio with multiple cameras, a lighting grid, and a dedicated camera/sound operator. When the world changed in mid-March I didn't want to lose that momentum, partially to keep producing content for our equally displaced and disrupted viewers, and partially to keep myself on an even keel.

Within a couple weeks, I was up and running in my apartment as a one-person production team/circus: tripods on my bed, desk lamps for lighting, sound...issues. That process informed the next, much larger set of challenges: remote production involving the whole video team, other colleagues, and guest presenters.

We had several complex video projects to bring to life over the summer, so working remotely with everyone I essentially had to redesign our entire production process. In short, videos were produced in real-time via Google Hangouts and Slack. The whole crew–Video team folks, our Content team presenters, and beyond–really dove in to make it work, and to great success.

What’s a learning that you’ve taken with you from role to role?

Having exceptionally high standards isn't a bad thing. Treat those standards gently and with respect and you'll find creative and successful ways to achieve them. Be firm in your conviction but flexible in your approach.

We talk a lot about "quality" at Gear Patrol, and approach our ambition with a collaborative, joyful mindset and a willingness to compromise when appropriate. To achieve your best, there's no time to dwell; you've got to analyze what doesn't work and change those aspects moving forward. Be proud of your work, but not so precious you can't flex.

Of course, it also helps to surround yourself with incredibly talented people, and we're lucky at GP to have a uniquely capable and talented crew.

How do you see video evolving at Gear Patrol, and in the media industry? What’s next?

I feel like live streaming video still has huge potential for media brands in particular. It's been a popular medium for a long time, of course–Twitch, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Discord etc.–but I think the rising popularity of Clubhouse in particular is really fascinating.

What's essentially an archaic call-in radio show format has been formalized and digitized for our current era, and I think brands and media outlets need to think about concentrating heavily into that space–not only streaming audio, but video too. Clubhouse is basically an interactive podcast; the potential for a formalized, recurring, interactive video podcast is really enticing.

What advice would you give to any brands looking to kick off their own video or podcast strategy this year?

At the risk of sounding trite, start small and keep it simple. It's possible to organize and produce complex, fully developed, large-scale stuff from scratch, but the ROI on totally swinging for the fences with a complicated, mega-high production value initial project is likely quite low. Most of the time, it's better to trust your own authenticity. A genuine, simple product is always better than anything forced.

For example, our thing at GP is products, and we are made up of people who really, really know product culture. So, our forthcoming podcast will essentially be "our staff discussing product culture." That's not the sexiest description, but if you know GP, you know it's going to be really great. When we develop a large following, we'll start adding to the mix–there's no reason to pack it all in right away.

By no means am I discouraging innovation or experimentation with new mediums, topics, or strategies–if a brand or outlet is 100% delivering on its core mission/purpose, it has the "content capital" to experiment. And it's possible that experimentation may lead to absolute gold! There's just no way to totally predict what people will love until they already love it.

With our new normal, what have you been up to outside of work? Any fun hobbies or projects that you’ve been working on?

My stress outlet involves four wheels and sharp corners. Over the summer, I picked up a 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport–the XJ's last year. 150K miles, original owner, zero rust, no abuse. I've been working pretty steadily to restore it myself, and have done a ton of work. There's always more to do, and it's hard wrenching on a car in Brooklyn! But I'm proud of my 4x4 brick and I could (do) talk about it incessantly.

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a large walnut table surrounded by black office chairs, with a whiteboard in the background

2021 Insights from Gear Patrol’s Director of Business Development

What do you do at Gear Patrol?

As the Director of Business Development, I oversee new business efforts across Gear Patrol’s commercial department. My primary focus is our advertising business, where I specialize in our new & emerging brand categories and manage our direct response efforts. As a destination for product discovery, Gear Patrol continues to grow in these areas, as we bring new partners into the fold and introduce their products to our audience.

Did you notice any trends in 2020 that you think will continue into 2021?

Maybe it was the constant distraction of the world around us, but whether it was Substacks, Twitter threads or podcasts, easy-to-consume content ruled 2020. Podcast consumption and newsletter subscriptions spiked during lockdown and provided consumers a steady flow of content in bite-size increments, and gave brands the ability to connect directly with them in a more intimate way. Both podcasts and newsletters don’t show any signs of slowing down as we move through 2021, and I’m excited to see how content creators differentiate themselves in an increasing competitive space and how advertisers immerse themselves in this medium.

What about any trends that will be different from last year?

Last year we saw shorter planning schedules, as brands were forced to be more reactionary to ensure their messaging timed up with the moment. The agility a publisher could provide became more important than ever. While I do see condensed timelines and the need for flexibility continuing this year, I expect to see brands more balanced in their approach, blending their planning to account for both reactionary moments and proactive initiatives.

If you could use one word to describe your mindset for this new year, what would it be?

Hopeful.

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