"People knew us like a pop-up store pretty much," HyLo founder and CEO Jennifer Green said last week.
She's out to change that. Two weeks ago, Green, 26, and her partners launched HyLo Labs, putting an official title and structure to what the company started experimenting with about a year ago: producing videos to tell business stories that will do more than trigger sales.
The idea is to make such a visceral connection with consumers that they don't just make purchases from the featured business, they actually care about it and its survival.
"Transforming consumers into connoisseurs" is how Green puts it.
The firm's website, www.hyloboutiques.com, says its work crafts "experiences connecting brands to audiences who care about the human touch."
That's why Green, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a major in English and a minor in French, prefers to call HyLo an "experiential" agency.
That doesn't mean scratch-and-sniff ads. Video is the firm's medium, strategically placed - in this social-media age, most often with blogs and affinity-group websites. (Cost depends on the job: $5,000 for a video; website design typically starts at $15,000.)
Creative director Lendl Tellington insists that not a single word has to be uttered for HyLo's videos to accomplish their aim: a tactile link between the viewer and the featured brand/product.
"I'll take the image over words," said Tellington, a 26-year-old transplant from Baltimore. "I think that's how we communicate most effectively as humans."
Evidently. A wordless HyLo video for Cocoagraph, a predominantly online company formerly based in Philadelphia (now in San Francisco) that makes artisan chocolate bars printed with edible Instagram photos, went viral last summer.
The 46-second visual set to music - showing a couple and their two young children taking a photo and then sharing a personalized chocolate bar - appeared on such hot sites as Cool Hunting, Mashable/PSFK, and Bon Appétit. Cocoagraph's website crashed from too many orders, Green said.
"We saw we were able to unleash this power in the digital space we hadn't seen before," she said.
From that experience, the idea for HyLo Labs started to take shape. The initial focus, though not the exclusive one, is on food because "food is an easy narrative to enter into," Green said. "It enters all your senses."
To the principals of Avance, the restaurant expected to open by year's end in the former Le Bec-Fin space, HyLo seemed the perfect fit. They reached a deal to work together last week.
Not ready to reveal too much about the restaurant he and partner Chris Scarduzio have planned, Avance chef Justin Bogle said it is a project "based on individual relationships with people" - from the farmers who will be providing the meats and vegetables, to the suppliers of glasses, silverware, and plates.
"The concept behind the project is to be able to have the best of the best," Bogle said. "That means sourcing out each individual component of the restaurant, and HyLo is going to be able to tell those stories. . . . They have a grasp on . . . how to harness it, get it out there on a level that people in 2013 understand and want to see."
It won't be a once-and-done transaction. "Essentially, a partnership" is how Bogle described the arrangement with HyLo, which currently has four full-time employees and is breaking even. "It's definitely going to go past the opening. These stories are going to be evolving."
HyLo has no intention of abandoning its fashion roots. In fact, one-half of its studio is where partner Tina DeVita runs Shop HyLo. She uses that space to introduce her clients to custom clothing lines.
A devotee of HyLo's marketing philosophy - that relationships lead to business - DeVita uses wine, music, and attentive service to cultivate a customer following she says has also yielded friendships.
"Jen is building the hyperlocal client, and I'm the connector of what they want," DeVita said.
That the student he mentored has founded a storytelling business committed to building connections does not surprise Al Filreis, faculty director of Penn's Kelly Writers House.
"That's what we teach here," Filreis said. "There's no such thing as an inhumane poem or inhumane short story. Narrative by definition makes you feel empathetic."
Diane Mastrull: HYLO'S MULTIMOVES
is a creative studio at 242 N. Third St., Philadelphia, where the firm helps connect businesses with consumers, often by hosting events.
Hylo Labs takes
a visceral approach to digital content, blending outreach with media in an effort to create a lasting impression for a product or business.
Shop Hylo is a by-appointment clothing retail outpost.
Diane Mastrull: >Inquirer.com
Find out more about HyLo Boutiques