It's a Matter Of...Thought Leadership
Collaboration Over Competition With Deanna UtroskeSeptember 14, 2021 BeautyMatter
September 14, 2021
There's a fine line between collaboration and competition. Conceptually, they can coexist and they're not mutually exclusive.
Strategic alliances can be powerful, but they are also constantly evolving because cooperation has limits, and you have to defend against competitive compromise. Deanna Utroske, a beauty business content specialist, sits down with Kelly Kovack to discuss how she navigates this paradigm, and how she approaches cooperation with an open heart and a generous spirit.
[beginning of recorded audio]
Deanna Utroske [00:00:12]: Hi, I’m Beauty Business Content Specialist Deanna Utroske, and to me, it’s a matter of thought leadership.
Kelly Kovack [00:00:26]: There’s a fine line between collaboration and competition. I’m Kelly Kovac, Founder of Beauty Matter. Conceptually, they can coexist and they’re not mutually exclusive. Competition is easy to define, it’s grounded in one party winning and the other losing. Collaboration is harder to define and only truly works when intentions are aligned. Strategic alliances can be powerful, but they are also constantly evolving because cooperation has limits and you have to defend against competitive compromise. There is power in the ability to navigate this paradigm. Deanna Utroske is an editor at Cosmetic Design. She is the consummate collaborator who approaches cooperation with an open heart and a generous spirit, always willing to share her knowledge, her contacts, and her time.
Hi Deanna, thank you for joining us today.
Deanna Utroske [00:01:28]: Hi Kelly. Thank you so much, this is awesome.
Kelly Kovack [00:01:30]: Yeah, I suppose many people might view us as competitors, but there’s a fine line between collaboration and competition, and I’m a reader of Cosmetics Design, have been, you know, for a long time, and I love your insights and the way you write. So here we are. I’m always happy to collaborate with anyone who wants to collaborate. If you want to compete, I’m happy competing too, but I prefer collaboration. So thank you so much for taking us up on the invitation.
Deanna Utroske [00:01:59]: Absolutely, absolutely, and I love that you framed the conversation that way because I am much more in favor of collaboration than competition, I think as we conventionally know it. Especially, try as we might, even if we were trying to do the exact same thing, we would each bring something very different to our readers or our audience wherever that is, and I think there’s value that can come from a lot of different directions in this industry, so I love that.
Kelly Kovack [00:02:24]: No, I mean, I absolutely agree, and you know, I kind of feel like you kind of find your people. You know, it’s always very apparent whether someone is a true collaborator or not, it kind of comes out in the wash. So, you know, even, I know over the past year, you reached out and were like, hey, you want to get on the phone and just chat? And I was like, that’s really cool, and we had a fantastic conversation. So, at that moment, I was like yes, we should definitely do more together.
Deanna Utroske [00:02:56]: Yeah, no, and I’m glad you responded to the invitation so graciously and took time to speak with me. I actually had the good fortune of speaking, it turns out to be with hundreds of people, just with phone calls or video chats, especially throughout 2020. I mean, we all know, right, we weren’t doing conventional business travel, and I mean, I normally travel to at least one trade show every month, if not four or five sometimes, you know, depending on that part of the calendar year, and that’s how I talk to people. And just without a lot of those, whether they’re scheduled or serendipitous conversations, I needed to stay connected and I was really grateful for everyone like yourself who said yeah, let’s chat, let’s do something together, let’s keep the conversation going even though we’re not in the same space right now.
Kelly Kovack [00:03:42]: I think you were much more organized about it than I was, but I kind of admire that. But you know, you’ve become such a well-known voice in the beauty industry, and honestly until I was prepping for this conversation, I had no idea that you just started your career in beauty in 2014. So can you share your backstory and how you found your way into the beauty industry?
Deanna Utroske [00:04:08]: Sure, sure. You know, it’s curious that we started by thinking a little bit about – I think you mentioned something about my writing and the style of writing I do, because that’s how I think of myself. I bring it up because I am a writer. And I was thinking about that more and more lately because everything I do starts with writing, even like thinking about having this conversation, I made tons of notes, right? I’m a natural writer and I’ve really to appreciate the fact, too, that I think I’m an essayist. You know, it’s something that resonated with me very strongly with me very strongly when I was young, maybe junior high or high school, probably when I was required to write quite a lot of essays, but it’s really a format that I enjoy and it’s a big part of what I do today. You know, I mean, like I said, if it’s a presentation, I’m writing. If it’s an article, I’m writing. If it’s a video, I’m scripting it, I’m writing it most times, or even if it’s just an interview, you know, if I’m on your side of the microphone, I outline the questions that I want to have in the same sort of fashion that you do. And I’ve always been a writer. Like, I was looking through some papers with my family that they had saved from my childhood, I think the last time I was visiting, and there were actually drawings of me making like drawings of written documents. Before I could even write, I would just take a sheet of paper and sort of draw the lines in the shape of a standard letter format, or on a little 3x5 card, as if I were officially making notes for some such thing. I was drawing pictures of written items before I could write. And of course I’ve had all sorts of jobs over the course of my life, but if I look at sort of how I landed in the work I’m doing now, I would follow that line through writing. I’ve been through university a few times, and at one point, I helped edit a university-run newspaper. The first magazine piece I published was actually in a magazine that caters to the automatic transmission rebuilding industry, so a little bit outside the realm.
Kelly Kovack [00:06:03]: Oh my god, that’s amazing.
Deanna Utroske [00:06:05]: I had a role in academic publishing, which was really the moment when I started thinking, oh, this is kind of what I do. It was a publication called “Signs: The Journal of Women and Culture in Society.” I actually co-founded another publication with one of my colleagues there that’s an online review site for new media and films, if you will, that we called “Films for the Feminist Classroom,” and it actually happens to still exist. I’m no longer involved, but if you’re super curious about what’s going on in the feminist university classroom these days, you can check it out. I interned with The Feminist Press again, so something in book publishing. For quite a number of years, I belonged to a professional organization here in the New York area called New York Women in Communications. There I did a lot of writing, blog posts and social media content for that organization. And then just not too long before I landed at Cosmetics Design, I had a role where I wrote daily news items at a very fast clip for a digital book publishing website, but trade-facing, so folks that were interested in that industry, per se. But when I heard about an opening for a reporter, right, there was a site called Cosmetics Design, I had never heard of it, and I was like okay, this sounds like a writing job, and I can do that. So, you know, as sort of unglamorous as my arrival in the beauty industry was, that’s really about it: I can write.
Kelly Kovack [00:07:31]: You know, Deanna, I think that’s why I have always been compelled to sort of what you write because I think you’re clearly a natural writer. I am not a writer. It has been a long journey to get here, and out of necessity, I guess – I spent the first 25 years of my career in beauty on the brand side and I always had business partners who were fantastic writers, so I wouldn’t write, I would just let them write. And I remember the first time someone asked me to write an article for a trade publication, and it literally took me like three days to write 500 words. It was absolute torture. And sometimes it is still torture. So I have so much respect for people who are word people and natural writers. And writing B-to-B is, I think people don’t realize that it’s very different for writing consumer-facing content. It’s ever-so-slightly different, but it’s a huge difference, kind of in a successful B-to-B piece versus B-to-C. But can you give some context to our listeners, a little bit about your job as Editor of Cosmetics Design? Because we do speak to the beauty industry, but on the podcast you never know who’s going to come across through however they’re searching for content.
Deanna Utroske [00:08:53]: Yeah, and I love that you pointed out the difference between B-to-B, or trade media, and what we might think of as consumer media, right, a lot of the magazines that we might pick up on the news stand. I mentioned earlier that I had spent some time at an academic publication, and when I was thinking about, okay, maybe I want to be a writer. Maybe I want to do something with the fact that I can write. I just thought, I am so serious. Like, that’s actually how I am. I am not a fun person. People are always like, “I want to get to know you better.” I’m always like, I do, this is it, you know. So I was kind of fortunate to land in B-to-B media because that’s another piece that’s authentically how I write, that’s how I think and how I go about it. But yeah, so I’m currently the editor of this business news site called CosmeticsDesgin.com. The publication covers ingredients, packaging, science, and really a spectrum of business topics for folks in the beauty industry. I’ve been writing for the site for over six years now. I probably want to toss in the caveat that my ideas and opinions that I’m sharing with you today are mine. They are not those of WRBM, the company that publishes cosmetic design. And that’s true across platforms, if you will. There’s so much media circulating. Like everything I do on social media is mine, and the company is very careful to make that distinction with its writers, so I do want to throw that in. But I think that my day-to-day work looks a lot like many people’s day-to-day work. There’s a lot of email, right? I look at a lot of press releases and PR pitches. I do interviews, whether it’s over the phone or by email. I think I’ve conducted a handful of interviews over the message system on LinkedIn over the years. And as you might expect, I spend a bulk of my day writing. We put out daily news on CosmeticsDesign.com. And so I’m writing pretty frequently and at what I like to call a digital pace, and then publishing those pieces. So loading them into the content management system, making choices that have to do with search engine optimization in terms of titles and subtitles and the sorts of language I use. There’s a bit of social media involved, Cosmetics Design does have its own space on Twitter, on Facebook, that kind of thing, so there are occasional posts. But yeah, I mean, my job is – I still really do think of it as being a writer, and it is mostly…you know, I guess the piece of the work that I’m kind of overlooking there is filtering through all of that that is coming through my email or my messaging and the phone calls or conversations I have and deciding what shows up in the news and what form it takes. And I mostly trust myself to do that, and it’s something that I’ve been able to do more and more over the years of working at Cosmetics Design, much in the same way that hearing folks talk about what you spoke of a moment ago, not being a natural writer is a real thing too. I don’t even want to say I took it for granted – I didn’t realize I was a good writer. I didn’t realize other people couldn’t do this, and by virtue of producing content and content and content every day at Cosmetics Design, I realized I can do this and I can do this very well. And the same thing happened for me with that sort of filtering system. What’s showing up in the news? Who is saying something new? Who is saying something interesting? Going at a digital pace and turning out – it doesn’t happen all the time, but it can be up to 10 or 15 pieces a week over the course of my years, depending on the publishing schedule that they’ve asked me to address. I really learned to trust myself because I realized it was working, right? What I was sharing with the audience was generating traffic, did have great interest, and when I was going to trade shows or having conversations with people, I could hear their feedback and know how much the work was resonating. So a lot of sort of the doubt or the…I want to say like artificial strategizing, right, that might have taken place trying to determine, is this news? Do I write about this? I just sort of learned to trust my experience and my intuition and know that even if I’m thinking, oh, should I really write about insect-derived beauty ingredients today? Yeah, I should. Even if the topics feels a little wacky, I’m going to follow through with it because I know in the end, it will resonate and be important.
Kelly Kovack [00:13:19]: You know, Deanna, it’s interesting because I think that while writing does not come naturally to me, there is a testament to if you do something enough times, you can get better at it because I have become a better writer and if I’m in the zone, I can crank things out. But to your point, I think that everyone that’s kind of covering beauty is getting the same press releases. But I think one of the things is sort of the curation process, like what you find interesting versus what I find interesting or how we approach it is really sort of what makes us different. But if your inbox looks anything like my inbox, just tackling the sheer volume of inbound emails is…it’s really, really a challenge. So I know I have my own way of kind of weeding through all of that, but what gets your attention when it comes to pitches and press releases?
Deanna Utroske [00:14:19]: I probably have a little bit of what I might call cliché advice here because I hear other editors saying it quite often, but you know, a human approach is really quite clever. If you know my name and can spell it and have seen the publication before and I can see that in the first line or so, that always works a little bit better. But besides having a human approach, obviously having a relationship, and that takes time to build. But if it were someone I didn’t know at all and they were reaching out, I would really say be conscientious of the person you’re reaching out to, not just as a person, but think about the work they’re doing, right? So Kelly, like yourself, I’m writing online news, and often that has a much quicker pace. So I’m not going to necessarily entertain pitches for something that isn’t launching for six or eight months in the same way that perhaps a print publication might be more interested to receive news that early. I also really respect folks for putting together what I might call a complete press kit, and also a thorough press release. But a press kit that includes accessible photos, and that’s usually through a link to a Google Drive or something. Obviously contact information, I want to know who I can follow up, I want to know if there’s an interview opportunity, and thinking about a strong press release, I would hope that there are quotes, and I usually advise folks to include multiple voices. That human email or pitch not only helps with one particular news item, but I think helps start to establish a relationship and to really maintain a relationship over time. And then besides sort of having full and complete information. Obviously the topic, or issue, if you will, is important, and that’s something that you can’t probably get in the back of my brain and second-guess those details, but I would say too that it’s important to show up in multiple ways. Don’t just show up with a PR pitch and your brand’s social media or your ingredient company’s social media. I’m going to snoop around when I’m trying to decide, am I covering this story today or this week? I’m going to look and see if you have sort of business blog content, I am going to look at those social media posts, more often on LinkedIn because of the type of community I reach. But yeah, I think these pieces matter a lot. I’m going to be interested – or rather, I should say, I’m going to notice if you are speaking at events, if you are some sort of expert in the field, or some sort of subject matter expert. And obviously I’m going to look at your site copy. I’m not looking at it necessarily as copy, but I am looking at it to see, are you any different than the hundreds of others that are the only XYZ. And I think that speaks to the fact that it’s important, whether it’s a brand or a consultant or a packaging company or a manufacturing company, whoever it is, to know their marketplace, right? I know it’s very important to establish their business based on your own vision or DNA or mission, but it’s also important, once you have that securely situated, to look around and figure out where you fit, because you know, when you do approach the media, they’re naturally going to have, or I’m naturally going to have, just by virtue of covering the industry for the time that I have, I’m going to have a sense of where you fit in the marketplace, and if you don’t, or if you’re trying to tell me something that doesn’t really make any sense in the context of the industry I’m looking at, it’s very unlikely that you’ll capture my attention.
Kelly Kovack [00:17:56]: Yeah, I mean, you know, I 100% agree with you. I mean, there are some publicists I love working with because I know they’re going to make my life easy, I’m going to have everything I need in one email: quotes, more photos than I could use. Because like you said, in some cases, you’re writing 15 pieces a week; that’s a lot of content to have to generate. I also, having been a brand founder, I have so much respect for someone who will take the time to write a very personal email, and I’m more compelled to be like, yeah, you know, they took the time to do this. I’m going to help them out, they’re just getting started. I don’t know about you, but those kind of personal emails that are really thoughtful are few and far between.
Deanna Utroske [00:18:47]: Yeah, absolutely, and I appreciate them. As you’re suggesting, they can come from new brand founders or folks trying to break into the market, and that’s a very good approach if you are new. But it’s a very good approach no matter what. I appreciate those sorts of emails when they come from ingredient supply companies, whether it’s a marketing professional there or a sales professional who I might have met at a trade show, or an executive who reaches out or makes a post or leaves a comment on something I do on social media, which is actually another place to capture attention, not just with posts, but being engaged with a lot of writers or journalists if you’re looking to get press coverage. A lot of folks suggest reaching out to media over Twitter. But I think being able to have some sort of banter, whether it’s back-and-forth and personal email exchange, like you’re describing, Kelly, or on a social platform, it goes a very long way. And it’s rare, right, that someone is going to sort of be interested in this industry for a very short time and never see you again. In some form or fashion, you will keep showing up.
Kelly Kovack [00:19:51]: It’s too small!
Deanna Utroske [00:19:52]: Yeah, yeah. And so, like, you know, even if you…I don’t know, there’s nothing – there’s no reason not to build a relationship. There’s no reason not to. I just think whether you’re about to change companies or you’re about to…maybe you’ve been in marketing and now all of the sudden you think you want to, I don’t know, you want to be a writer, or maybe you’re studying chemistry and you end up working in the lab eventually, which isn’t to say there aren’t marketers with chemistry degrees already. But it kind of doesn’t matter what your trajectory is. Yeah, if you are going to stay in this industry for more than five minutes, take the time to do something human, and it will go a long way, not just for press coverage this week, but for your career in general, I think.
Kelly Kovack [00:20:36]: Yeah, you know, I mean, the power of content is so profound. I could have never imagined moving from kind of being a beauty brand to covering a beauty brand, it was kind of happenstance. And it is all about sort of the power of content.
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You know, you are so much more than just sort of an editor covering the news and trends from a B-to-B perspective. You are a thought leader in the true sense of the word. Was that evolution intentional or did it happen organically? Because you really do nurture it, and I know that it takes a lot of commitment from a time perspective.
Deanna Utroske [00:22:08]: It does, it does, and I appreciate your pointing that out. I want to say the answer is both, in terms of was it intentional or organic. You know, working as a beauty business news writer, like I suggested earlier, it let me see not only that I am a good writer, that I can trust my own instincts when it comes to choosing news, but it also has given me the opportunity to really recognize and showcase that I cover news differently. And I hear that time and time again from readers that I meet at events or that I get to have phone calls or video chats with or exchanges on social media, that my work is quite different. And you might be able to guess this, listening to some of the job titles that I rattled off earlier, where the words “woman” and “feminist” kept showing up. I very intentionally use words and language that supports the success of women; it’s super important to me. And just by virtue of the work I do, it gave me opportunities to be visible and vocal in beauty, right? And that’s important for me, again, in terms of the success of women. I think it’s critical that we are visible and vocal figures in our own lives, and beyond that, right, in the beauty industry, or wherever we might work or spend much of our time. And I think it was organic, but it was also something that sort of – the fact that I’m saying it’s important to me was sort of an internal drive or inspiration, right? I was in some way compelled to do this because I realize and appreciate the value I’ve gotten from seeing other women in visible and vocal positions. I mean, everyone from the folks who are presenting the weather, meterologists that I’m looking at, to more sort of conventional media role models or corporate role models, even political role models, and I very much think that you and I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation today if I really just sat at my desk and thought of myself as a writer, right? I have intentionally stood up and spoken up over and over again to develop myself as a voice and a thought leader in the industry, and it’s terrifically helpful. I think I send you a note about this beforehand, but I took care to write up some of the lessons I learned on my thought leadership journey, really in the last month or so as I’ve been thinking about it. It’s as much about being a writer and a well-respected voice and there are some little tidbits about, I suppose, my personal life in there – maybe my personal-professional life, I guess I should say, there’s nothing too juicy in there. But I think there’s some good ideas about speaking up and being heard and I think it’s the sort of project – you might guess this, right, because I’ve been saying, it’s important to me, I felt compelled to do this. I almost want to say I felt compelled to encourage other women to do the same thing, and I have – some of the biggest rewards I get from my work, and people have asked me, oh, what’s your favorite article you wrote this year? What are you most proud of? And the thing I come back to over and over again is the opportunity to celebrate the success of the women. And sometimes those are women who are waving their hands and saying, look at me, I’m doing something great over here, and I’m saying, yeah, you are, let’s talk about it! And sometimes, they’re women who are quietly working away, doing excellent work, phenomenal work, brilliant work, in whatever aspect of the industry they’re in, and I have to kind of draw them out and build that relationship myself and say let’s chat, let’s feature your insights and your expertise. There’s a lot of room for thought leadership in this industry and so many brilliant people who I wish would step up, and I hope my work, in some fashion, has encouraged that.
Kelly Kovack [00:25:46]: I did read those tips and I loved it because it was deeply personal, you could tell that, but there was such wisdom, and kind of simple wisdom, in it. We’ll definitely embed a link, when this lives online, in the transcript, because it’s really, really, really good information. But you also started a series called DU Views, and that is yours. Can you share a little bit about why you started that and kind of the strategy behind it?
Deanna Utroske [00:26:17]: Absolutely, absolutely. I like to say D-U Views because…
Kelly Kovack [00:26:21]: Oh, sorry!
Deanna Utroske [00:26:22]: Well because I am DU, I am Deanna Utroske, right, so these are my cute initials. But the DU Views series is really quite simply my insights, and it’s my insights on trends, on movements, on innovations, that I see as critical to beauty today. I mentioned earlier that I’m an essayist, and after I’ve been creating these videos for almost a year and a half now, it kind of slapped me in the face that these are my essays, right, these are my weekly essays on what’s going on in the beauty industry. If you haven’t seen the DU Views video series yet, you can find it on LinkedIn just by searching #duviews. And soon, actually, all of my videos, all the way back to the start of 2020, as well as the full text versions, will live on my website. So actually DeannaUtroske.com, but Kelly mentioned a transcript, so I think you can find it there. But when I launched DU Views at the start of 2020, I was really talking about beauty industry trends and movements. I looked back recently and I had done a piece on sustainable packaging, right, super pertinent topic. Personal care for kids was one piece. Design innovation was another piece. And I had started doing this with the notion that beauty overlaps with so many interesting technologies and industries and if I could sort of pick one of those on a weekly or even on a monthly basis and just sort of share that overlap, it would be an opportunity for technology transfer and information sharing, and I could start to have conversations with larger audiences beyond beauty that saw interest and value here. But we all know how 2020 went. Before too long, my series was not too much about trends, it was about the industry in the midst of a pandemic, and I really started talking about how people, brands, different organizations or companies were responding to and surviving through what I’m hearing called now an impossible year. So I’m grateful that all of us listening and myself and you, Kelly, have made it this far. Here we are in 2021 and DU Views really, in some ways, I guess, it’s still about COVID. Everything we’re doing has a relationship to the pandemic. But really, since January, I’m covering more of those trends and movements that are critical as it pertains to COVID. I did do a piece in January about ingredients and product innovations that look at pandemic fatigue. So I included mention of a moisturizer spray from an indie brand called Planted In Beauty, so a touch-free product. There was a breath-cleaning product I mentioned in there called Mouth Off, which is apparently in tremendous demand now that we’re all wearing facial coverings and people are breathing themselves in. The truth is coming out. But yeah, it’s really essays on what I see going on in the industry. And I mentioned, I think, at the start of our conversation that I really do process the world around me in terms of writing. If I have a project to do, sometimes I’ll write the email that needs to go out at the end so I can see like, oh, I just made my checklist. Where if I just created a checklist, it would be a little bit more challenging for my brain to do it. But if I put it together as an, oh, hey, Kelly, I’ve completed these six tasks, now I can see what six tasks I need to do. As much as there’s a strategy behind content creation for me, it’s also sort of a necessary process so I can get through the week without having a brain overload, I think. I’m like, okay, let’s get this off the table. That’s what I’m up to.
Kelly Kovack [00:30:05]: No, you know, it’s very interesting. I always love to get insight into creative people, their process, because everyone’s process is different. And you know, I’m more of a reader than I was a writer, so BeautyMatter, early on, became sort of this repository of my own personal things that interest me because we started out aggregating content, not doing a whole lot of original content. And I would be doing advisory work and I would be searching my own website because I’d be like, I know I wrote about that. So it became my own sort of resource, and I guess I’m much more visual than I am written. And you know, one of the things that you spoke about in the five tips, the content piece you referred to earlier, was this concept of expanding your circle of trust. Can you unpack that a little bit for us? Because I love the sentiment of it.
Deanna Utroske [00:31:04]: Yeah, when I say “expand your circle of trust,” and it was a lesson I learned, like you were suggesting, right, sort of on my thought leadership journey, was this opportunity, or almost necessity, to expand my circle of trust, and it came out of the fact that again, I’ve been getting more clear, and I think this happens to a lot of us as we mature, on who we are and how we function and how we operate. I was nodding along vigorously as you were saying, this is my repository, this is how I research, I look at what I write. And yeah, it is, we sort of create our own resources and our own processes. But I learned that I was already trusting myself, right? I was going to sit down at my desk every day and do this job and I knew I could do it, I knew I was a good writer, I knew I was a good news writer, I knew I had valuable information and trend predictions to share with the industry. And it was just a matter, really, of saying, I actually trust myself enough to invite other people to trust me too. And that’s what lets me sit here and chat with you on a podcast. It’s what lets me get up on stage at Cosmetics Global or at Luxepack and say, “Here’s what I see going on,” and have conversations among different experts. I think it’s awesome when you can trust yourself, and I think it’s awesome when you know it’s okay to let other people trust you too, because they probably already do, whether you’re a business owner and your partners and your clients trust you, or you’re working at a company, they trust you, not just to show up, right, and sort of be a warm body, I don’t think that’s what anyone’s getting a salary for these days, it’s what you can do and what you can do well. And once you can expand that circle of trust and invite others to come into that circle, then there you are. You have the opportunity to be a thought leader and you are listened to and respected, and rightly so.
Kelly Kovack [00:32:57]: So what are some of the trends that are kind of top of mind for you right now?
Deanna Utroske [00:33:01]: Yeah, this is sort of a large and expansive topic. I actually want to preface my answer just by saying that even though I do talk quite a bit and write quite a bit about finished goods, and a lot of people know me and my work for my coverage of the independent beauty movement, my perspective is really more focused on ingredients, emerging science, packaging, manufacturing, that side of the beauty industry. But I can run through a handful or so of the trends I’m looking at right now. As I mentioned with the DU Views video series, I’m looking at different innovations, whether it’s product format or product function or ingredient developments that have to do with pandemic fatigue. There are certainly some shifts in marketing language, but also some real shifts in the ingredient space, looking at pandemic fatigue. Also something that I’m not the only one watching are packaging material innovations. We’re talking a lot about plastic and what plastic looks like and functions like in a zero waste environment – it’s definitely still there, I can tell you that at this point, although there are tremendous advances in what we’re calling molecular recycling, or using biological mechanisms to cleave molecules that were previously “un-cleavable,” right, un-degradable. I look at sustainable packaging materials from companies like Sulapac or The Better Packaging Company. I was intrigued to learn, I think it was last year, about a company called Verity which is putting a stake in the ground when it comes to aluminum metal material beauty packaging, so stainless steel as well. I think there’s just a lot going on, advancing what’s possible in sustainable packaging materials. Maybe off of that a little bit, still in the sustainability space, we’re all talking about carbon neutral, carbon negative, carbon capture, what’s going on there. I’m definitely paying attention to how beauty makers, packaging suppliers, and consumers are responding to those sort of sustainability issues. Hygiene chic or just even personal hygiene, as unglamorous as it has always been, is much more popular now, thinking about the power of touch, what is and isn’t sanitary, there are more and more tools and applicators showing up, product innovations, sampling innovations. I’m thinking a lot about well-being, which might sound like something we’ve already been talking about, but I think it goes farther than wellness. I think it goes farther than self-care. I think it starts to cross into healthcare and pharma and supplements and I know that there is an enormous regulatory canyon between cosmetics and healthcare products, per se. But we know that ingredient suppliers serve both industries readily. We know that packaging companies serve both suppliers readily. We know that consumers are living lives that closely connect health, wellness, beauty, personal care, self-care, especially over the past year. So I think there’s a lot going on there. I don’t know how it’s going to shape up because of regulatory and commercial barriers, but there’s definitely something going on there. I’m paying attention to trends in what I might call the diverse consumer space, right, so obviously we’re looking at some genuine advances, I hope, in terms of what has long been called the multi-cultural consumer, but serving Black and Brown and Asian and Indigenous People much more genuinely, right. The textured hair movement has been coming for years, 2019, 2020, now 2021, big things going on there. I would also mention, in terms of diverse consumers, what I call menopause beauty or beauty for women over 40. I’m seeing so much innovation, so many new brands launching but also, again, ingredient suppliers innovating for this space. Ingredients developed and tested for skincare concerns or healthcare concerns of women over 40. And there’s just, you know, I want to say infinite potential because I’m a woman over 40, but I think there’s tremendous market potential. We know as everyone – not everyone, but there is a huge population rise among folks over 40, a terrific amount of consumer spend available and going on there. I’ll mention one more umbrella trend here that I’m paying careful attention to, and I’m just going to call it ingredient trends in general. Sometimes, for me, that looks like sophisticated, naturals, right, whether it’s blends of ingredients to make more strategic benefit claims, like when we see people blending cannabinoids with other ingredients so they can make maybe an anti-inflammatory claim that the consumer thinks belongs with cannabinoids but cannot yet, you know, because of certain regulations or different marketplace stipulations make that claim simply based on a cannabinoid. But that’s happening. There are a lot of sophisticated natural blends coming onto the market. Biotech ingredients has really hit its stride; there’s so much coming from the biotech space now and I’m particularly excited. I don’t know if you’re watching it yet, Kelly, but these C16 Biosciences?
Kelly Kovack [00:38:09]: Yes.
Deanna Utroske [00:38:10]: Yeah, I mean, I just cannot wait to see what she’s up to.
Kelly Kovack [00:38:14]: I agree with you. I mean, I really think that, you know, leading into the pandemic, I was kind of, you know, I’ve been in the industry 25 years and I’m like, oh, yeah, another brand. It just felt like everything was looking the same. And all of the sudden, kind of in the middle of the pandemic, it was almost as if innovation went into overload and people almost had the permission to rethink everything. And the people who leaned into that are doing amazing things. I think we’re going to have sort of such a period of kind of redefining what beauty is, and I agree with you. I mean, I think healthcare is going to look a whole lot like beauty, actually.
Deanna Utroske [00:38:55]: Ah, yes, I like that. I like that angle. And I think they have – whoever “they” are over there, the healthcare industry, I’m sure they’re lovely people. But in terms of regulatory hurdles or commercialization hurdles, they’re in a much better position to leverage the beauty consumer than the beauty brands are in a position to leverage the health marketplace. But yeah, I mean, I’m also – I think about with C16 Biosciences, I just want to sort of finish up that thought and say that the company CEO there, Shara Ticku, they’re working and producing now, as I understand it, alternatives to palm oil with biotechnology, and it’s just the market in and beyond beauty is absolutely tremendous and if this goes as well as it looks like it’s going from the outside, just tremendous impact in terms of sustainability. I’m also looking still at fermentation in the biotech space, but also mushrooms, and not just as ingredients in and of themselves, but as ingredient manufacturing facilities, you know, in the same way that we use different microorganisms like bacteria or yeast in the case of fermentation to develop biotech ingredients. I think there’s going to be a lot coming from the sort of fungus and mushroom space in the years to come. Yeah, and I mean, I completely agree with you in terms of innovation going into overdrive. I think there was sort of a moment when everyone was pivoting, right, and a moment when everyone was sort of holding their breath, and then it was like, we’ve got a lot of work to do, let’s go. And I think we saw that both in terms of innovation, in terms of digital technology, in terms of growth, in so many ways.
Kelly Kovack [00:40:34]: Yeah, I agree. So I have one last question for you, and that’s – I mean, I can’t imagine you not working in beauty, you just feel like, so engrained into the beauty industry. But what are your hopes for the future of the industry? You know, if you could change one thing, what would it be?
Deanna Utroske [00:40:50]: Yeah, I appreciate your saying that I fit in here to beauty, because I think I’m sticking around for the foreseeable future. I quite like the work that I do. I don’t always know where it’s going to take me next, but this is where I belong. If I could change one thing about the beauty industry, I would say that I still would want to see more transparency and more knowledge sharing, which I think extends into more collaboration; more collaboration between the industry and consumers, more collaboration among industry insiders. I just think there’s so much potential, and yeah, just so much room to really let this industry – I don’t want to say lead others, but be even a stronger example in the marketplace. And yeah, I want to just emphasize the knowledge-sharing aspect of it because there are perfectly valid intellectual property reasons and technology reasons for some of what we think about as maybe the secrecy in the beauty industry, but there are so many opportunities when we can set those on the table as they are and then be transparent with a lot of the other information and expertise that folks have. I’ve actually kind of come to see my work in beauty over the years almost as an ambassador sort of role, like being an ambassador between various expert groups or industry stakeholders, and it just has led me to believe that yeah, the industry could be a lot more fabulous if there was additional transparency and better collaboration.
Kelly Kovack [00:42:22]: I think that there is a movement among a group of people in the industry, and I think it sort of appears more in the realm of sustainability because I think people who are truly committed to sustainability and changing things realize that one brand can only make a very small difference, and you know, you see sort of the open-sourcing of information or the collaboration and the knowledge sharing, and you know, I agree with you, I think that there are still a lot of people who are kind of of that mindset of secrecy. I remember I was speaking at – I think it was an ingredient summit or something and I was speaking about transparency, and someone asked me about – they were talking about their IP, and it just came flying out of my mouth, I was like, nobody cares. Nobody cares. The brands are being forced to be transparent and they can’t be transparent if you’re not transparent, so talk to your comms people and figure out how to talk about something, but “It’s my IP” doesn’t really fly anymore.
Deanna Utroske [00:43:33]: Yeah, no, I think you’re absolutely right. You’re absolutely right. And when I talk to people who have been in the industry for decades and really been - even on the corporate side, there’s so much impressive technology. You can reverse engineer, and I probably shouldn’t say it out loud, but almost any formula, almost any ingredient technology, almost any fragrance blend. It’s not as secret as the folks who hold the intellectual property would like to think. And I think the real shift can come when those institutions, organizations, individuals that are so invested in that concept of secrecy realize that their value is even bigger than that intellectual property, and they really should connect with their comms team and start talking about something because there’s amazing, amazing things to be gained by sharing that larger value.
Kelly Kovack [00:44:26]: I agree. So, Deanna, what is the best way for people to get in touch with you or follow your Thought Leadership?
Deanna Utroske [00:44:33]: Absolutely, thank you for asking that. The best way to get in touch with me directly is my fun little email address, which is Hello@DeannaUtroske.com, so once again, Kelly, if you’ll spell out my name nicely in your show notes, folks can find me. But if you want to look at the DU Views series, that’s on LinkedIn, and you can just #DUViews in the search bar and you’ll find me that way. Everywhere on social media I’m Deanna Utroske, I happen to be the only one, so that’s delightfully convenient.
Kelly Kovack [00:45:05]: That’s helpful.
Deanna Utroske [00:45:06]: Yeah, yeah, I kind of like that. If you’re interested in the news I write for Cosmetics Design, it’s CosmeticsDesign.com.
Kelly Kovack [00:45:12]: Deanna, thank you so much for taking the time today, and really looking forward to seeing you in real life at a trade show.
Deanna Utroske [00:45:20]: Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice?
Kelly Kovack [00:45:22]: Who would say that I miss trade shows? But I do.
Deanna Utroske [00:45:25]: I do too, I do too, and I have to thank you, Kelly, just for being a notable voice in beauty. It’s been my pleasure to be on your show today.
Kelly Kovack [00:45:32]: Aw, thank you so much, Deanna.
Deanna Utroske [00:45:37]: Absolutely.
Kelly Kovack [00:45:42]: For Deanna, it’s a matter of thought leadership. She has the ability to identify and interpret beauty trends early, plainly, and accurately. She’s equally as comfortable in the world of technology and science on the supply side of the industry as she is teasing out the stories of spirited founders. Deanna is well-known and a respected voice in the industry, who is the embodiment of a thought leader. While she is a visible and vocal professional in her own right, she is on a personal mission to inspire and empower other women to find their voices and to tap into the power of content. So in the end, it’s a matter of thought leadership, and that’s what matters. I’m Kelly Kovac, see you next time.
Deanna Utroske [00:46:30]: Hi, I’m Deanna Utroske. To me, what matters is thought leadership because someone is guiding the conversation. Someone is planting ideas and sparking innovation. Who that someone is, or perhaps I should say who those someones are, will determine the direction and future of the cosmetics industry.
Kelly Kovack [00:46:52]: It’s A Matter Of is a production of BeautyMatter LLC. You can find more content and insights on www.BeautyMatter.com and follow us on social media @BeautyMatterOfficial.
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