Shaking Up the Digital Marketing World
Erik Huberman, BSBA in Business Management ’08
Founder and CEO, Hawke Media
By Sue Kern-Fleischer
Erik Huberman has always been an entrepreneur. His first recollection of making income was at age six, when he sold some of his parent’s collectibles to neighbors. By age nine, he figured out how to make thousands of dollars during the Beanie Babies craze.
Fast forward just two short decades, where Huberman’s career has catapulted to tremendous success. The Eller graduate is founder and CEO of Hawke Media, a digital marketing firm that built its reputation as a full-service outsourced CMO by avoiding long-term contracts.
Huberman was named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 entrepreneurs and Inc.’s Top 25 Marketing Influencers in 2016. Last year, Hawke Media was also recognized as Built in Los Angeles’ Top 50 Startups in L.A. and Happy City’s Top Happiest Places to Work.
Frustrated with how traditional and digital agencies operated, Huberman started Hawke Media three years ago. Today, the Santa Monica-based firm has 80 employees.
“Hawke Media is more about people than most businesses,” Huberman said. “Most companies provide a product or a service. In our case, our people are also our product, so our culture is always our most important focus.”
Much of the firm’s success has been a result of Huberman’s ability to recognize weaknesses in the traditional agency model and provide a more efficient, cost-effective alternative.
“Everything we do for clients is on a month-to-month basis, meaning no long contracts, which is rare for the better agencies,” Huberman explained. Clients choose from a menu of services that are all a la carte.
“From social media ads to email and influencer marketing to web design, we can spin up expertise that the company needs,” he said. “The biggest differentiator for us, though, is the outsourced CMO component. Every company we work with gets a high-level marketing strategist who acts as both a strategy consultant and a project manager. This allows us to really drive the marketing function of a company, and keep on top of everything both internal to the company as well as new marketing opportunities that arise.”
Huberman credits his accelerated career track to watching his father when he was growing up in Ojai, California.
“My dad was an entrepreneur, so I grew up with the mindset that if I were to get a job, it was just to learn something so that I could eventually start my own business. I just assumed that’s what people did at a young age,” he said.
At age 16, he started researching business schools, and he was attracted to the University of Arizona, not only because it was close to California, but because the Eller College of Management ranked high among the nation’s best business schools.
Looking back at his time at Eller, he is grateful for professors like Marty Fox, who taught his strategic management capstone course.
“Marty really encouraged me, and I will never forget that towards the end of the year, he told me he wanted to stay in touch because of his expectations of me,” he said. Working with a cohort also was a great experience for him.
“There was one project we did together that was so valuable that I refer back to it time and time again,” Huberman said. “Our cohort consisted of five people from different majors — including finance, accounting, and marketing — and we had to come up with a business plan and pitch it. I still use the business plan we created as a benchmark for analyzing new ones.”
Now at age 30, Huberman has big plans for growth for Hawke Media. “We’ve been able to exceed our goals so far with innovative projects,” he said. “We have helped build an incubator focused on celebrity marketed products, we created a marketing artificial intelligence platform, we opened a retail store for e-commerce brands, and we are diversifying into real estate.”
A contributing writer for online publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc., Huberman is currently working on a book with William Morris Endeavor titled Greedless, which will outline how to be successful without being greedy.
Between work and leisure, Huberman travels on average six times per month. Finding time for fun is just as important as work.
“I love to travel and take advantage of what life has to offer,” he said. “Recently, I went heli-snowboarding with other entrepreneurs. I also love to exercise and play guitar. There’s a guitar behind my desk in my office and one sitting my living room, always ready to go.”
For those looking to start or grow a business, Huberman offers this advice for success:
“Luck and timing help, but it really comes down to one thing – get it done. Execute, check things off, move forward with projects, and see things through. I’ve worked with thousands of CEOs and founders, and the one thing I’ve seen that holds the successful ones together is that they all know how to execute.”
Photo of Erik Huberman courtesy Hawke Media.