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PURPLE, Executive Vice President, Beauty & Wellness

Kathleen Barnea Spink

Written by The World's Best Events

Kathleen Barnea Spink currently serves as Executive Vice President and leads the Beauty & Wellness division of PURPLE, the global lifestyle agency that represents the world’s leading luxury brands and houses, alongside the new wave of cutting-edge talent and creative design. She’s been at PURPLE for almost 11 years, joining the firm when she moved to London (from NYC) to head up their beauty department. She moved back to NYC six years ago to be part of the launch team for PURPLE NY and subsequently PURPLE LA. Kathleen grew up in Israel, speaks three languages and is a graduate of New York University. She is a mother of three boys, ages 6, 4 and almost 1.

Can you tell us how you got your start in the industry?

I started in the industry almost by mistake. I was studying at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Studies, which “made” you do an internship. I’m really dating myself here, but I went into the employment office and pretty randomly picked an internship in PR, because everyone I knew kept telling me that I should work in PR, so I thought, “What the hell, I’ll try it,” even though I didn’t know much about the industry. And, of course, that ended up being the beginning of an incredible and deeply fulfilling career for me.

What are the trends that are changing the face of beauty Industry? 

Quite a few. I’m seeing a lot, both from within my roster and across the industry, of science led skincare. People are looking for products that work and want to see results. Also, I think echoing the fashion industry, people are investing more in what they buy, focusing on buying higher quality products vs. products they will use once and throw away.

What does a beauty brand need to do to connect with its customers in 2020? 

It really depends on the brand and who it sees as their target consumer. The brands that I’m seeing create the biggest buzz in the luxury landscape at the moment are brands that are taking a multigenerational approach to their marketing. It goes without saying that the market is saturated and marketing efforts seem to frequently focus on the 21-35 age group. To market effectively, brands need to widen their focus, and find ways to speak to different generations in its own language or simply use language and marketing that appeals across generations and genders. People truly don’t see themselves as a specific age now, they see themselves as part of a specific lifestyle.

What’s a typical day for you? 

I know this answer is a cliché and I am shuddering as I write this, but truly every day is different. I manage our luxury beauty and wellness portfolio, and my days consist of strategizing across departments, sitting down to consult with my amazing team, touching base with our London & LA office, creating event concepts, meeting with clients, and of course meeting with editors and influencers—the list truly goes on.

The one thing that I always strive to do every single workday (and, who am I kidding, on vacations too) is to put aside time every day to clear out my inbox. It’s something that when I cannot manage to do, truly creates anxiety for me.

Can you describe a few events you’ve worked on recently? 

Well, a very memorable event was the recent launch of an incredible skincare brand to the market, Noble Panacea, who launched in style at The Metropolitan Museum this October. The brand was founded by Sir Fraser Stoddart who was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his lifework research of molecular motion and has since overseen the development of Noble Panacea. He sees chemistry as an art, which is an overarching pillar of the brand and the reason we did the event at The Met.

In October, we also launched the EDITION Hotel in West Hollywood. It is an incredible property that is truly a gamechanger. One of the huge pillars of the hotel is wellness, and in addition to having an (as always!) incredible launch event, we also worked closely with the hotel to create a fully immersive wellness retreat weekend, that truly showcased all of the highly curated wellness experiences that the hotel has to offer. October was a busy month!

Has social media changed what you do?

I don’t see it as a change, I see it as an evolution. The role of a PR is storytelling, and for a long time the main outlets were magazines and newspapers. At some point that grew to include digital magazines and standalone websites, and now this has continued to evolve into different influencers using social media as a forum for communication. Who knows what is coming up next…? I’m excited to see. The key is to always maintain fluidity and an open mind to progress, otherwise you become old-fashioned and obsolete.

What do you most enjoy about your work? 

For me, I’m lucky to say it’s the people that I work with that makes every day incredible. Here at PURPLE we have an incredible team, and we are lucky to work with some of the most interesting and revolutionary clients in the business, who are also helmed by incredible teams and people. I consider myself lucky every day to be surrounded by so much inspiration.

What or who do you turn to for inspiration?

I do believe inspiration comes from everywhere and I’m truly inspired by all the travel I have been lucky enough to experience in my personal and professional life and from reading voraciously about the world OUTSIDE of beauty. I think it’s easy to get too insular in your approach, so it’s important to look outside of your vertical and see what is driving excitement in other industries.

In terms of people, where do I begin… Caroline Lynch, founder of PURPLE, is a constant inspiration to me and I’m still grateful for the day she hired me 11 years ago. At the risk of this sounding like an Oscar speech, in my personal life I’m inspired by my husband, my 3 sons, and my family and friends.

How are you different from your competitors?

That’s a hard question to answer! I believe PURPLE as an agency has a strong focus on luxury and, despite being around from around 25 years, hasn’t wavered from that—which I think is rare in this industry. Secondly, I think our collaborative mindset truly sets us apart. That said, I have a ton of respect for my competitors and think there is room for everyone in this marketplace.

How have influencers influenced events?

As I mentioned above, I think that they have broadened the scope of who we are talking to and the mediums in which we get our message across. Also, many of them are very glamourous, so they often bring some extra panache to events! They always come dressed to be photographed.

What do you need to succeed in this industry?

In my opinion you need a hunger to succeed, a knack for teamwork, a detail-oriented mindset, a great personality and a can-do attitude.

What makes a great event? 

A great event gets the intended message across. That’s it. The point of an event is often to “launch” something effectively and to the right audience. Sometimes it can be a simple intimate conversation and presentation, and sometimes there are more bells and whistles, but overall, it’s important not to lose the focus of WHY we are doing this event.

How have things changed in the beauty and wellness industry since you started? 

Although at first I didn’t solely focus on beauty PR, I have been working in Beauty PR for 17 years now…! It goes without saying that the rise of clean beauty (both green beauty and clean science), and the transparency of ingredients, is becoming more and more important, as is overall packaging and environmental impact.

Also, I’ve seen a shift from big brands only approach to the industry truly clearing a path for niche newcomers with a strong point of view. Lastly, the word wellness landed in our collective vocabularies less than 10 years ago, and holds so much weight, yet still feels very undefinable. It’s an exciting world to be a part of, and to continue developing and defining collectively.

What keeps you going?

My amazing team at PURPLE and my 3 sons. I’m lucky enough to have a job I love and a family I love to come home to. To me that is a dream come true and I’m grateful for that every day.

Events and experiences have become a new type of currency. How are you setting your own benchmark for this part of your business?

I think we are being thoughtful about each launch or milestone and we ask ourselves, “What feels right?” We want to be deliberate vs. extravagant about what we do. Sometimes less is more, and of course sometimes… more is more.

What makes a great guest? 

Someone that covers the launch or the event!