Episode 82: Danya Klein, VP of Brand Relations at Preen.Me

There are those who prefer the scrappiness of startup life and those who thrive in traditional corporate settings. Then there’s Danya Klein, VP of Brand Relations at Preen.Me, who has successfully adapted to both scenarios. “Startups know how to think, innovate and be creative, but when they need to package and market their own product, it can be difficult. I think that’s where there’s a strong opportunity for marketers who have worked in corporate settings to add a lot of value.”

In this episode, she tells us how she went from marketing establishment beauty to the wild west of influencer marketing, and how majoring in Mandarin was her improbably random entry into the beauty world.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey there. Welcome back to the show. This week's episode features Danya Klein. She's the Vice President Brand Relations at Preen.Me. Danya and I met at an event for CosmoProf, and I can say that if I make myself a little bit uncomfortable, go up to someone I've never met before, and introduce myself, pretty awesome things can happen. I hope you enjoy the show.

Hey everybody, welcome back to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®. I'm super excited to be sitting next to Danya Klein, she's the VP Brand Relations at Preen.Me. Welcome to the show.
Danya KleinThank you so much. I'm very lucky to have met you in Vegas, of all places.
Jodi KatzYeah, I'm going to tell everybody how we met. So we were at a cocktail party for CosmoProf in Vegas this summer, and I just came over to you and said hi, and you said hi.
Danya KleinI was so happy and relieved that somebody was talking to me. You get to these mixers, you think it's a VIP event and like 10 people are going to be there, and it's 500, and you're just looking for a friendly, cool face in the crowd. Yeah, it was a pleasure to chat with you at that time.
Jodi KatzYeah, I was so happy to meet you because I've seen Preen.Me everywhere, right?
Danya KleinThank you.
Jodi KatzAnd I've never had a face to the name, and I was super excited to meet someone from that group and have someone nice to chat with.
Danya KleinIt's nice to know that even though our company is based abroad that we kind of punch above our weight a little bit in terms of our editorial exposure and that people have heard about us, so.
Jodi KatzYeah, well I feel like you're doing a really great job at that. That's important marketing to do, to make sure we know who you are. Even if I don't know exactly what you do, I knew that you existed.
Danya KleinYou had heard of us, yeah. Good.
Jodi KatzAnd I also just love the idea that I met someone that I like at one of these events because I always have a bit of nerves and fear around these things, like, "Am I going to have anyone to talk to? Am I going to stand there by myself with my seltzer?"
Danya KleinThat's exactly how I felt. I'd just flown in from Tel Aviv, Paris, Detroit, Vegas, had changed my outfit, run downstairs. To honestly have another woman who looks your age, has worked in this industry, kids, trying to worry about what you're going to be doing that summer vacation the same moment you're trying to meet 500 people at very intimidating conferences is a relief. You got it.
Jodi KatzI'm happy you're here visiting New York, so we get to have you on our show.
Danya KleinYes. Happy to be invited.
Jodi KatzSo it seems like there's a lot of travel for you.
Danya KleinYeah.
Jodi KatzLike what percentage of your time are you traveling?
Danya KleinToday, it's 30-40%. Yeah, I probably spend about three weeks in home base, which is Tel Aviv, and another week to 10 days abroad, and then back again. I know. It's nuts. We call it the frequent loser club. The more mileage you acquire, the further you are away from your kids.
Jodi KatzOh.
Danya KleinI'm quoting Noah Maytalv. Anybody, I need to give him credit because he came up with it, I didn't come up with it, but we call it that.
Jodi KatzRight. That's sort of ... but then you have all the miles for family vacations.
Danya KleinYes, exactly. That's how I'm here now. It's actually the Jewish holidays, so I, every year, bring my kids in to be with my family over Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, even Sukkot is a holiday they get off for. They have literally eight days of school in Israel.
Jodi KatzFor the month of September?
Danya KleinFor the month of September. I never even knew Sukkot was a holiday growing up here, so I plead ignorance, but yes, they are being spoiled, going to the likes of Target right now. For them, Target is as good as Disney World. We talked about your love of Disney World, my kids think that's about as great as it gets.
Jodi KatzTarget is close. It's number two.
Danya KleinThey have rows of Netflix characters that they've never seen brought to life before, like Ben10. Have you ever heard of Ben10?
Jodi KatzNo.
Danya KleinWe can talk about it offline.
Jodi KatzWell I'm glad that you're here. Let's just talk a little bit about travel. I really don't travel that often. When I travel, most of the time, I'm choosing to travel, it's not like I'm forced to travel.
Danya KleinLucky you.
Jodi KatzI know, it is lucky. Because I actually do like to be home, I like to be in my PJs, getting my kids to bed at night, just having my own routine, but I imagine it takes an important rhythm mindset wise to month after month keep it going, because don't you get sucked of energy when you travel?
Danya KleinIt's an adrenaline game for sure. In some ways, it's really freeing. I have young kids, I'm very attached to them, and I always dread leaving them, but then there's always that second I close the door, I'm skipping down the airport aisles, like, "Oh, freedom. No dish washing. No clothes to wash this week. That's great." But then it takes an extraordinary level of organization to run an international business and to come ... we set up sometimes between 25 to 30 meetings for me when I come in over the course of the week, so I have a meeting sometimes every two hours somewhere in New York City in order to touch base with my clients, and pitch new ideas, and to present research and capabilities, and it really takes a tremendous amount of pre-planning.

And I think that actually, when I write my book one day, if I ever do, it will actually be about how you can be kind of an underdog, fitting somewhere outside the main hub, but you can punch above your weight, you can enter new markets, you can do tremendous business development if you're organized around your travel. Because if you really kind of go in ... a great reason to meet with people is that you're in town, you know? Or if you're just like, "Hey, you want to hear about our services and what we do?" Maybe not as interesting or compelling, but when you really have this FOMO of, "You might miss me because I'm only here for a week." You have a great opportunity to convert, and meet with people, and talk to them where you might not normally be able to do it, and I think that we've actually built a lot of what Preen.Me does based on the fact that we are really organized around our travel.
Jodi KatzSo there is this feeling that I get when I travel where, when I wake up in the morning, I have to take care of me and only me-
Danya KleinYeah, good for you.
Jodi KatzAnd that's a really satisfying feeling, this idea of taking advantage of the fact that you're in town to actually get those meetings that are typically harder to get, that's a really fascinating new business tactic. I mean, the only difference between that email and the meet with me email is I'm in town. It's sort of a fascinating impact that it has, though.
Danya KleinIt's tremendous. I mean, you have to definitely tailor it down to the reasons why to meet, in terms of new case studies that are relevant to that person, new experiences that you've heard about that might be relevant for them, plus that you're there, and I think that really helps converge. And I also call it the three punch rule. You let people know you're coming. Expect no response. And then you follow up with them again, and usually if you follow up with them at the beginning of the week, by the end of the week, hopefully you hear from the people it's most meaningful for, and you get to do that.

And then there's a whole science to confirming your meetings and making the most out of the time you're there, and that's how we do it. If you're going through cycles, I think it's really difficult to constantly be in a million cycles at once, to be doing business development, proposals, and outreach in that world, closing, and then executing those activities that you're doing all ... you have to do a little bit all at once, but if you're kind of in a focused cycle, which you have to be when you're abroad, which is right now, we're in pitching mode, next week, we're in fall out mode, week after that, we're in proposal mode, week after that, we're in kick off mode. It does create a cadence to the way that the team works and that you work that I think is sort of symbiotic especially, again, if you're not close by all the time.
Jodi KatzI didn't even know that was an option to control the pace.
Danya KleinThe pace sort of cycles around our travel.
Jodi KatzRight. Your business development is when you travel. When you're not traveling, you rest.
Danya KleinIt's off the gas. We do more generic, we do more kind of what you call content marketing, and we're sending out ... that's how you end up hearing about us is that we work with editorial publications like CEW, WWD, Business of Fashion, and one of our key learnings, and we'll talk about what we do also, but one of the key learnings from Preen.Me is that data is the most critical piece for editors to be able to find clarity and insight about what they're writing about. Also with business partners and brand partners as well, but it's really easy to collaborate with editorial partners when you can give them they key percentage or the key figure that helps really crystallize the story that they're writing that they wouldn't be able to get otherwise.

We work a lot on those content marketing and story pieces, and we try to publish those through our LinkedIn, through our own channels, through our editorial partner channels, in those kind of off heavy marketing periods, if that makes sense, and as a combination of those things, you kind of do some soft, some hard, and have an always on strategy.
Jodi KatzOkay, this is very interesting. I'm going to think about this because I would like a better pace in our own business development, and I didn't even think that I had the chance to control the pace of it, but I'm going to talk to you about that offline. Before we jump into Preen.Me and how fascinating it is and your background, you mentioned something just now that I really want to talk about, which is confirming meetings.
Danya KleinOkay.
Jodi KatzAt the very beginning of learning how to sell anything, my friend Erin, who is a fantastic salesperson, she doesn't sell in beauty, but she's just awesome. She's like, "I don't confirm my meetings because if I confirm my meetings, it's a chance for them to say no, I'm not available."
Danya KleinYeah.
Jodi KatzIs that your philosophy?
Danya KleinNot anymore.
Jodi KatzAll right. Tell me what your philosophy is now.
Danya KleinMy philosophy now is that every minute is so precious, and that I cannot ... I mean, I can definitely agree with her way of thinking when we first started, but I can also tell you I showed up to a lot of meetings that were canceled when I was walking in as well. So now, I can't really afford that, so now I believe you should always check in the day before and make sure that person is free, excited. And if not, it wins me back an hour of my life, which then I have visibility to.
Jodi KatzRight. Okay, that's fair and I like that. And maybe I, too, am moving into that phase, but I kind of like that power play move, like, "Well, I'm showing up here. I'm just going to come."
Danya KleinRight. Yeah. There's definitely different thinking about what you want to share and what you don't want to share different phases of your business.
Jodi KatzOkay, so tell me about Preen.Me. What is it that they do?
Danya KleinOkay. So I think we've all heard the word influencer marketing, and maybe we've heard it Ad nauseam, but the company started out as a beauty community. Many know us from our original Facebook page that started in 2011, we had a million followers in the first year, which was as big as Sephora and Lancome at the time with zero funding, and we really ended up growing our own community of sharing at the time. Content creators, people who showed how to get up-dos, how to do this wonderful manicure, how to do this cat eye. We shared their content for them on Facebook, it got crazy engagement, Facebook was organic, we were still in our 20s then, right? And then everything shifted to Instagram, even Pintrest, Twitter before that. And we grew that group from one million to 2.5 million, rolling up our sleeves and learning what content creators and influencers were doing on each channel, and at the same time, creating a database, and mapping, and segmenting these influencers globally.

That's kind of when I came onboard to help systemize and monetize the business because it's great to be a great, robust beauty community, but how are you going to make money as a company? And what we really understood is brands back in 2012 were starting to dip their toe in influencer marketing, and said, "Okay, Preen.Me, you have access to this group. Will you do a mail out for us?" Our very first project was with a L'Oreal brand, Lancome, who we sent out their Jason Wu collection. There was tremendous excitement from these makeup content creators and YouTubers and Instagrammers, who, for the first time, were able to be gifted this wonderful collection. They created three, four, or five posts a person, and then we saw, okay, if this is what happens in a test, what can you do if you're more systemized about this and scale it?

So from there, we went to working with many brands, many manufacturers, many challenger brands, from Charlotte Tilbury, to Il Makiage, to many Unilever brands, to Darphin skin care, nail care, hair care. I think we have best practices for every single subcategory and how to drive content creators, particularly micro influencers and gifting programs. How to really create high quality content and help a brand grow their ambassador programs in social media. But of course, many people do that. I'm sure you've heard this pitch before, you know?

Many people do this, and we realized in order to really develop a specialty, we had to go behind and look at the numbers, and the numbers, they have great richness for because of the systems we built along the way, and we have developed a social insights and business intelligence unit that I humbly can say powers some of the largest deals in M&A in beauty today. And we're able to provide a unique perspective on the social business health of a company by looking at the volume of people that are posting, how they're posting, what are they posting about, the size of the different segments of followers posting on a brand to really diagnose opportunities, levers for growth, and it's really able to help big picture due diligence, when an investor is about to really go into a bidding process, but it also helps in the prospecting phase, and helps investors really understand [inaudible 00:14:08] and early stage brands that they might want to look in, dig a little deeper into.

So it's really a fascinating kind of work. I love doing it because I feel like it gives me a whole nother side of my brain to think about, but we love ... the influencer marketing is our bread and butter because I think it keeps us street smart, ear to the ground, understanding the trends, and we do it really everywhere in the world. Like I said, I just wrapped up an M&A meeting for a partner, his name I can't share, but around Asian beauty that's really interesting. These kind of projects I think are kind of at the pulse of how segmentation is really the future of how influencer marketing is going to be leveraged in beauty going forward.
Jodi KatzWell thank you for sharing that, and I really do want to dive deeper offline because I find your company so fascinating, but I want to talk about you now.
Danya KleinThat's so nice. Nobody else wants to know about me.
Jodi KatzWell I do, and I want to hear about your career in beauty. Please share for us how learning a new language led to a career in beauty.
Danya KleinIt's a funny story, right? Well, I guess I've already lent to the idea that I have a Jewish mother somewhere in the background. Very early in my college career, I was pushed by a very good friend who said, "Japan is descending. China is rising. You should study Mandarin Chinese. Go." And I took her word. Actually she lives a few blocks from where we're sitting today, so Candace Wong, thank you very much-
Jodi KatzThank you.
Danya KleinFor your advice. Exactly. And I can't say that it came easily. I'm not a language wizard, but I stuck with it. After three years at Washington University, I had basic Chinese, I went to live there for two years, and suffered even an emergency appendectomy there, where my appendix had to be whipped out, and I'm telling you-
Jodi KatzThat's scary.
Danya KleinIt was so scary. But it changed everything. It went from being a pursuit of trying to win over my ego and speak intelligently in Chinese to just having to survive in the hospital, and that's how I started to speak. It was like, "Oh, emergency surgery. Got it. Got it. Got it." You know? And it just changed me from being this nice, suburban, New Jersey girl, who could be a woman who could be able to be very adaptable, to live in 1997 China with the infrastructure that was available at the time, and it sort of made me interesting when I was finally pushed by my Jewish mother to move.

When I moved back to the US, get out of the house, find a job, go network, and I was able to meet Jeanette Wagner, who was the head of Estee Lauder International at the time, and this crazy story, her husband had had a heart attack in the hotel I had worked at. This is, again, in a crazy year when nobody even went to China, and I think she was so grateful to meet somebody who had actually heard of the hotel. She was so grateful he survived, she was so surprised by chutzpah to have actually lived there, and she basically assigned me to work on Clinique at the time, which was their most ambitiously positioned brand to succeed in China. Estee Lauder, to their credit, kind of seeded their brands early into the department store structure in China, and obviously Clinique and Lauder were a big part of that picture, and I was able to work on the early product development, and partnering with the affiliate managers in Taiwan, and China, and Japan, in order to get the product mix a little more focused on their needs.

So I went from being a college student with an appendectomy in China to working on launches like Active White and some of the Antigravity franchise that Clinique had, their acne solutions range, and it was just a really exciting time to be at Clinique. We were kind of having banner wins in a lot of big categories, and I kind of backed my way into being a beauty marketer from this China experience.
Jodi KatzSo I think this was so cool when you told me this story about being a 22 year old, working on the brand, and you're sharing this story with me during our pre-interview call, but in retrospect, wow, I was so young, and I was able to have such a big impact on product launches at such a huge company. Share that story because I think it would be really meaningful to our younger listeners.
Danya KleinYeah, I think a lot of it was luck and having a wonderful mentor. So again, I want to shout out Ronnie McMahon, who was a wonderful boss and mentor at Clinique, and she really valued any contribution because we were so scarce on international resources at the time, and she was so completely ... she was so willing to give me exposure, and at the time, we were working on the Stop Signs launch at Clinique, and I was able, as a very young ... I think I was even a presidential intern, I think that was my original title at Lauder at the time, to participate in these discussions with Jim Nevens, who was the head of global advertising, and just was unheard of. They just shot a campaign for Asia Pacific that was about stopping the signs of aging, and the original image, shot with Irving Penn, the preeminent still life photographer at the time, we were being part of this discussion with was mind blowing at the time, but I don't even think I got it until I married a photographer. He's like, "What? You got to work with Irving Penn?" I'm like, "Yeah, we got to give him briefs."

I wasn't there on set, I will say that, but when we saw the first outtakes of the shoot for Stop Signs, what came back to us was a picture of a cupcake with four white candles blown out, and everybody was sort of looking at it, going around the meeting saying how nice it looked, and I'm like, "Hey Jim, sorry, but Stop Signs, four candles, white, blown out. In Chinese, that kind of is a symbol to death. Suh is the word for death in Chinese. It's also the number four, and it has this meaning of the end. Four candles, white. White is the funeral color. Blown out. It means it's all over. I don't think that's what you want to tell a woman the first time she's experiencing Clinique anti-aging skin care."

So we actually went back to the drawing board, re-shot the campaign with a beautiful, colorful cupcake, lit up. It was so much more powerful, also, at point of sale to have some color in the shot, and we took it from there. And I just think the key takeaways there are obviously you always have to be respectful in how you speak up in how you're first starting your career, and you always have to sort of measure the audience, but you have to be able to speak your truth. If you're able to have that insight that can change the course of a business, you have to be able to vocalize at the right time, and when you're able to do that, I think that can help you accelerate in your career trajectory.
Jodi KatzRight. The fact that you felt empowered to be able do to that is a really big deal because I'm sure as people are listening to this, they're thinking about ... many moments in my own career and in our listener's careers that maybe speaking up wouldn't have gone over well, but yet, the insight could have altered a business. So you kind of launched Clinique in this marketplace, skin care for Clinique, in a way that equaled death. That would be probably really challenging to turn around, right? But yet, you held that insight. This is really a big moment. But that, I think speaks to feeling empowered, and knowing that the people you report to-
Danya KleinHad my back. Yeah. I think that had a lot to do with it. There's always big fish, small pond, small fish, big pond, and I think that at that time, I was able to be bigger fish in a smaller pond because Clinique International was a smaller, more family team. Sometimes, when you're in these big organizations, it would just be impossible to do that, and I recognize that, but I think in my own career, I'm very grateful. I've worked on Clinique, I worked on Calvin Klein Fragrances as well, each of these large companies with many, many people, and many stakeholders, but I think I thrive best in a place where I can be ... have a stronger ... share a voice, and be able to be more nimble, and that's why I love the startup environment of Israel and Tel Aviv.
Jodi KatzAnd how have you brought that forward through the rest of your career? You had incredible mentors and bosses. Where did you go from Clinique when you started to have a team of your own?
Danya KleinTo start to have my ... I was really fortunate that from Clinique, I was kind of plucked to move over on La Mer and Jo Malone, and those were brands that were just acquired, and Lauder ... I think that La Mer maybe had one counter at Bergdorf Goodman, and Jo Malone was actually still, [inaudible 00:23:01] still on the brand. So I think that these were tremendous experiences, and I really give the Lauder HR team a lot of credit for being able to place me correctly as well, because I had a passion for skincare, a luxury touch, and an ability to work nimbly in a small group.

And I think that was really the first stage where I was able to shine a little bit more within a small group versus helping La Mer transition from being sold out of somebody's garage and at Bergdorf Goodman, and really crystallize the story of Max Huber and help put pen to paper and create the first collateral materials and really explain the brand to working hand in hand with Jo Malone to really get her story of being an esthetician that created fragrance products, that the fragrance products actually became the brand, and I think, again, having this small team, so collaborative, being able to roll up your sleeves and make an impact primed me for being able to have these incredible experiences, do this across a few different companies, and then have the courage, I think, when I became a mom to want to be able to create my own schedule, to be able to ... In Israel, it's possible to have a power point, an idea, and chase a dream, and solve a big problem in the world.

I'm not saying necessarily we're solving a huge problem in the world, but being able to have flexibility, work closely with people that respect each other, that have each other's backs, that know that somebody is always going to be there to catch you, you can move very fast, very nimbly, and get a lot of stuff done. And I personally find that really rewarding. But on the other side, I would never, ever downplay the importance of having a strong corporate background because this gives you the organizational skills, the writing skills, the P&L management, the budget management, the forecasting management, all these thinking that are such a great balance, and that a lot of startups don't have, because they know how to think, and innovate, and be creative, but actually when they need to package and market their own product, it's really difficult, and in that case, I think there's a really strong opportunity in a lot of these Silicon Valley cities across the world for marketers who have worked in corporate settings to add a lot of value.
Jodi KatzThat's so interesting you say that because I feel like many times, the feedback I get, just anecdotally from friends and new friends in the business is that the people with that experience, some more old school experience, feel kind of very lost and alone in this marketplace now because it is a little Wild West, so having this point of view that actually there is such strong value in that experience for startups may be a little uncomfortable, but it's very different to go from having a very nice, voluptuous budget to work with every year for launches to going to no budget, being scrappy, it's very hard, it's not for everybody. But it's interesting to think that those people who kind of feel like they're not super valued because of their experience can actually go to a startup and [inaudible 00:26:25] strong value for their experience.
Danya KleinI believe so. I really think that you have to look. I even know of a company who started from kind of a CMO placement job because they know a lot of these startups don't have that marketing ingrained inside of what they do, so there's a lot of innovation, there's a lot of business development, but when it talks about really thinking about how do we speak about ourselves, how do we start to really scale some of the activities that we've done, I think there is a discipline, but that person who is making that change needs to think about, there are just no layers to hide behind anymore. You have to be ready. And when you're talking about founder led companies, it has to be totally symbiotic. It's really about ... I think it's passion, it's team, and that's really everything. And I think that is the secret success to what we do at Preen.Me is that the group of people, my partners, founders in the group that have been with us from the early stages are just so committed, and so excited, and always willing to flex all the time. Everything is in constant motion. Nothing is settled, ever, but the idea is if you find that exciting, even at my age, you can kind of have a rebirth I think in your career.
Jodi KatzCool. Well Danya, thank you so much for joining us today, and for our listeners, please visit us on Instagram @WhereBrainsMeetBeautyPodcast, and tell your friends.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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