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Counter Intelligence: A Conversation With Beauty Industry Insider Kelly Kovack | WMI

26 Sep 2017 Ann D'Adamo
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in Beauty

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Although Instagram influencers may have thousands of followers, it’s the beauty associate on the sales floor that has day-to-day hands-on experience working with consumers. But who inspires them? Kelly Kovack, CMO of AllWork, a retail talent management platform, recently launched Counter Intelligence, a quarterly trade publication focused on retail talent, with an insightful look at the latest trends, tastemakers, and industry research. Kelly has deep ties to the beauty industry and we were excited to speak to her about the new digital magazine and how it’s already inspiring retail talent.

Why did you launch Counter Intelligence

Kelly: When we launched the AllWork talent management platform earlier this year, fostering a community for beauty retail talent was integral to the DNA of the business. We’re a tech platform that helps talent find jobs and provides brands tools to find and manage talent, but ultimately the business is fueled by the human touch of beauty talent on the retail floor. Our Cosmetic Peeps Facebook group, which has reached almost 40,000, is a community of sorts, but it's primarily focused on job posting—we thought we could do more. Counter Intelligence came out of our belief that retail talent is the heartbeat of the industry. We felt they deserved a beauty trade publication of their own and a platform that gave them a voice. 

What has the response to the publication been from the beauty community?

Kelly: The response from the community has been immediate. In the first week, we had thousands of views, and my inbox is still overflowing with requests for more information and requests to be part of the next issue. The first email was from a freelance makeup artist in Ohio that said, “Counter Intelligence was just what I needed today. It made me realize I’m part of a community—I’m not alone. Thank you.” Her email was just what I needed! We thought Counter Intelligence would resonate, but we put it together quickly and on a very small budget, so we couldn’t involve the community as much as we would have liked in the first issue.

In the publication, you interview makeup artists, educators, corporate beauty professionals, and medical professionals–why did you feel that it was important to incorporate voices from across the business spectrum?

Kelly: Counter Intelligence became a bit of an obsession for me because I started my career on the retail floor; I know what it's like to feel stuck and wonder if you’re ever going to get that first break. I wanted to share the possibilities of the beauty industry with the community. There are so many people in the industry that started on the retail floor that have started beauty brands, PR firms, distribution companies, are formulators for iconic brands—the list goes on. Luckily I was able to wrangle friends and colleagues that saw the vision of Counter Intelligence and were willing to share their stories and expertise.

In your survey of favorite beauty retailers to work for, Sephora came out on top by a wide margin, with Nordstrom and Ulta almost tying for second and third place. What makes Sephora a great place for beauty professionals to work?

Kelly: I think it’s pretty simple and it hinges on two things. First, Sephora respects and values the talent that works in their stores. They are not an afterthought—beauty professionals play an integral role in creating experiences for consumers when they walk into a Sephora store. The second is a commitment as a company to develop opportunities, a career path, and the tools and education to move beyond the sales floor.

What trends are beauty professionals seeing emerge on the sales floor that differ from what we see on Instagram?

Kelly: A lot of beauty trends on Instagram are often about shock value for impressions or product that photographs well. In reality, trends from the retail floor are much more subdued than Instagram, but there’s a broad spectrum. On one end of the spectrum you have consumers looking for makeup products to make them “selfie” ready at all times. On the other end, there’s a focus on the no-makeup makeup trend that relies heavily on good skincare and hybrid makeup/skincare products. Truth be told, there’s probably a little of both extremes in all of us. Stay tuned for Issue Two, which will launch in January. We’re currently taking a poll on the (ANTI) anti-aging trend that’s getting lots of attention. Early indications are interesting…that’s all I can say.

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