Ben Trinh’s “First and Featured” Lifts the Veil On Your Favorite Influencers
Summer is upon us, and while it may seem like every Instagram influencer and Twitter personality is on a tropical vacay, us Angelenos are stuck in a perpetual gloom. The jealousy is real; now more than ever we might be commiserating about how these social media star’s lead fabulous lives, only as a result of their 500k followers.
However, a new podcast might have you thinking different about your faves you hate to love. First and Featured, a brand new podcast hosted by Ben Trinh, founder of marketing firm Bredfor and the head of entertainment and brand marketing at Postmates, is lifting the veil off of the biggest influencers to date, including but not limited to Alexis Ren, Josh Peck, and Brother Nature.
The “First Collection” of podcast episodes debuted last month, allowing listeners to sit in on hour-long, intimate conversations featuring Ben, co-host and producer Marvel Alexander and their honored guest.
We know, more influencer content. How could you be bothered? But some of the podcast’s greatest moments, like when Josh Peck shares about his overcoming Jewish stereotypes, or when Brother Nature shares about his loneliness in Pennsylvania (right before he met Canela), and especially when King Bach admits that he only goes to the movies alone, make First and Featured stand apart as a podcast who’s true focus is to uncover and put a spot light on the most authentic parts of these viral sensations.
Ben spoke with us about the motivation behind First and Featured, what he hopes listeners take away, and how he thinks about social media.
BTI: When did you know you wanted to produce First and Featured?
Ben: For the past half-a-decade or so, I've been working in the tech space, but under the entertainment and influencer marketing umbrella. From a career standpoint, I've [created] a large rolodex. [I’m] very grateful to have met a lot of folks, whether they are celebrity tier, YouTube tier…folks with a large social following for quite awhile now. And I've always wanted to dig in deeper than the surface corporate level partnerships. On a personal level, I've always wanted to find out who these people truly are behind the social media numbers.
I grew up doing a competitive slam poetry, which is kind of on the nerdier side. I continued to do that in college and I would write my own poems and haikus and all that fun stuff. One of the reasons why I started this podcast is … I hadn't [written] a poem in a while. That's what I do. There's this quote that stuck with me: “When you're consuming, you can't create.” So to consume less, you must create more. They're mutually exclusive. Literally when you're creating something, the other part of your mind that consumes shuts off, and it's vice versa. I really wanted to get back into creating things, and this podcast was a good way to do so.
I wanted to release it like a music artist, I looked at it like an album. The first collection has 8 tracks, one being the Intro, and then the other seven tracks each have a feature, kind of like an album has a feature of different music artists. That was my approach to releasing it. I started out with Alexis Ren. I go alphabetical, so I don't play favorites. Every following Monday I release another track off of this, quote unquote, podcast album.
BTI: Who is your primary audience?
Ben: The audience is really, really interesting, because a big chunk of the audience obviously comes from the talent’s following, which already is diverse. The person that's following Josh Peck is not the person that's following Brother Nature, and that person is not the person that's following Alexis Ren. There could be some overlap but maybe not. And the other chunk of it, because of my network and my following, are folks that have a nine-to-five tech job from Silicon Valley. A lot of the folks that listen to it come from the more traditional working worlds, not exactly the social media following people would think of.
BTI: What are you trying to provide for your listeners?
Ben: We want to invite guests on the podcast that of course [have a] probably large social media following, we want to follow that theme, but at the same time we want to keep the guests very diverse. That was the goal. We wanted to hear from different people in the entertainment industry with a very large social media following. We can crack what people might think they know about them and allow them to truly tell their own story.
I really want to make sure that we are unraveling stories that people want to know. The folks that we're talking to now about recording sessions for the next collection [are] EDM artists and major DJs, all, all the way to folks that have hosted TV shows before. We would love to have a WWE wrestler star on there. There are so many niche audiences out there, the WWE is an example. Those are die hard fans. You could say the same thing about Esports, you could say the same thing about the beauty industry. And so I think the goal and the plan right now is to make sure we curate a very diverse group.
BTI: What are you learning from the guests you have on First and Featured?
Ben: There are some obvious [things] like what kind of music do [they] listen to, but there are some very difficult and hard to answer questions on there. I will try to dig deeper and ask what was the low point in [their] life and after that, why, and how did [they] get past that? I love the questions that talk about relationships too. What does love mean to you? Have you been in love before? What was that falling out like?
BTI: Which interviews and podcast episodes have been the most enlightening?
Ben: Karen [Yeung]…is super successful, one of the top and one of the original OG beauty/makeup YouTubers, but I knew her from college, before she had followers. Now she has over a million subscribers and she's an internet sensation. But in college, I remember sitting with her, (I talked about her with this on her podcast), I remember sitting with her in the cafeteria of UC Davis. She just got a job at Yelp as an account executive and she was pumped, but I remember … she was weighing the offer and saying, “Well, I really wanted to chase YouTube full time, and I'm just really scared, but the money would be nice.” And I think three months into her job, she quit. She found the courage to quit and went to YouTube full time, moved down to Los Angeles [and] got signed by Ipsy.
Brother Nature’s story is super hilarious. He's the most viral person I can think of in the past couple of years on the internet and he's still going. Everything he posts with animals gets 50,000 retweets. Josh Peck was great because I watched Drake and Josh religiously growing up. That was my show, and when he walked into my studio…in my mind while he was talking, I just was like, this is just like me watching the show. He’s the exact same person, he hasn’t changed.
BTI: Your podcast focuses on social media influencers. What about social media intrigues you?
Ben: I personally think I'm living in the wrong generation. I actually don't like social media. Before I started posting and promoting this podcast, I stopped posting a lot on my feed. I can't wait for Instagram to get rid of likes and follower counts and all of that because I think it's a little toxic. When I look at the landscape of social media and influencer marketing on the talent that’s on this podcast, the goal is really to let my peers know that they're just regular people.
If a friend of mine finds out I'm getting coffee with Josh [Peck], they freak out because he's a movie star. But the conversations we have are very normal. He drinks water like the rest of us, he will chew his food like the rest of us. In the King Bach [episode] he talks about how he goes to the movies alone. That's just a reminder that, yeah, he has 20 million followers on Instagram, he was the most followed person on Vine, he has his Netflix specials and whatnot, but he's an introvert, and although he's a big personality and he's a comedian on Instagram, when the camera's off and when he's not in front of his own, he likes to get Chinese food by himself.
BTI: Your cohost, Marvel Alexander, adds really poignant, thoughtful commentary to the episodes. How did you know the chemistry would be there?
Ben: [Marvel and I] met at Jon and Vinny's on Fairfax, had lunch, and we kind of hit it off immediately. I'm big on vibes and people's auras, and we just immediately connected. It's funny because when he walked in, he's this 6’9” gigantic dude, but he's a teddy bear. He's the most nice and intelligent person that I've met in Los Angeles since I've moved here a year ago. So it's refreshing. He makes everyone feel comfortable when they walk into our studio, which is very important. He is a former DI college basketball player, and then he turned in to his … he turned to his passion, which is music. He's a rapper, singer, producer. He's actually produced a platinum single for ASAP Ferg, the song “Shabba.” He's such a unique character.
BTI: Your background in entertainment marketing definitely makes you equipped to interview these influencers. How did you get into the industry?
Ben: [As a student] at UC Davis I was a Lyft ambassador. To sign up as Lyft ambassador at the time you would go on their website, they would give you promo codes. If people use your promo code, you get paid cash and they get a free ride. When my friends would go out to nightclubs and stuff, ‘cause that's what we did in college, I would hang outside for a little bit longer giving my promo codes to people, making sure they don't drink and drive, and I would get paid off of that. Instead of going to class I would go to bars around UC Davis and I would go to restaurants and bars around Sacramento and basically print out promo code cards and leave them on the bars. I ended up graduating and making enough money to pay off my tuition.
Lyft hired me full time…because there was no ride sharing in Las Vegas, it was all taxis. That's how I got into entertainment marketing because my job in Vegas quickly turned [from] just giving people promo codes to locking down partnerships with nightclubs and taking care of black car rides for the DJs performing, the VIPs [and] the celebs that would come in. That's how I started building my rolodex.
Then I started working with Postmates, bringing influencers to them. And they brought me on full time because they thought the brand of Postmates fits really well with entertainment and influencers and talent, which I totally thought so too. Now I'm two years into Postmates, super happy. My job here is to try to make the brand cooler than it already is. [First and Featured] is a little side project that is actually blowing up. It's not really little to me anymore. It's something that I want to put more time into.