Kraus gives Purebeauty's marketing, PR a makeover

Mike Kraus, VP of business development for Purebeauty, joined the beauty chain two years ago in order to put his marketing experience to work by styling the start-up into a thriving brand.

Mike Kraus, VP of business development for Purebeauty, joined the beauty chain two years ago in order to put his marketing experience to work by styling the start-up into a thriving brand.

Walk into any of Purebeauty's 60 retail stores and you'll find yourself surrounded by face masks, lip gloss, and waxing kits - all displayed with the clean and simple look of an upscale boutique. For Mike Kraus, who joined the company more than two years ago as VP of business development (and head of all PR efforts), it was the last place he expected to land, given his background in entertainment and sports marketing. "I'd ask myself, 'Am I doing the right thing?' Not any more," Kraus says. "It was an opportunity to build a brand and a company from the ground up. You can be passionate about everything." Now a beauty-products expert - "I know way more" than most women, he says - Kraus has helped Purebeauty go from a dingy supply shop to a thriving retail presence with plans to expand. When he joined Purebeauty, he was asked to take a small chain of San Francisco-based stores and grow them into a larger beauty and lifestyle concept that could later be sold. The brand is well on its way to achieving that goal. Kraus gives PR a lot of credit for some of the business' rising fortunes. "After 20-some stores, our idea was to build a better mousetrap," he says. One of Kraus' first moves was firing the company's existing PR shop and streamlining other marketing efforts to focus on PR with a new firm, Los Angeles-based The Blaze Company. Agency head Marci Blaze says that Kraus has proved to be a "responsive, thoughtful, and creative [client who] appreciates what his commitment must be if we are to be successful in executing a PR campaign for him." But from Kraus' perspective, it's The Blaze Company that appreciates his vision of what Purebeauty should be. "When I started, we collaborated with an agency and worked like people do in the beauty category, which means we focused on fashion, beauty, and the major publications," he explains. But Kraus felt that sending out product baskets and talking to national beauty editors was the wrong approach. "That's not who we were," he says. "We were about a retail concept first and beauty second. The story had to be about retail until we built that concept." Kraus, a self-described "food junkie" with a talent for cooking, started his marketing career straight out of college, when he moved from Wisconsin to California. Offered a job in LA, he made a cross-country drive that took him to visit friends in San Francisco. Falling in love with the Bay Area, Kraus quit his LA gig before starting and stayed in northern California, where he could better indulge his passion for outdoor sports like mountain biking. He quickly found a job with ad agency Foote Cone & Belding. "I was a little assistant media planner, making no money, living in one of the US' most expensive cities," he recalls. Barely getting by with the help of "boxes of food" sent by his parents, Kraus toughed it out for a year before landing a job in promotions at Marine World Africa USA, which at that time was a nonprofit wildlife park. "I did all of the retail tie-ins, media promotions, and work with radio stations," he says. But the best part of the job was access to the animals. "I would walk out in the morning and there would be the chimp trainers with five chimps drinking their coffee, recalls Kraus. "I would sit down and drink my coffee with the chimps. And every morning the trainers would walk down our hallway with giant tigers." While Kraus says he loved the job, he saw little opportunity to move up. So he left within a few years when a friend invited him to join her at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. There he worked on the account for Paramount Parks and, after meeting some of the executives, was asked to join that company after only a few months back in the ad world. ("Every jump I've ever made is based on relationships," he says.) Kraus says that running advertising and promotions for a theme-park chain provided excitement and opportunity. "That was the first time I ever got to manage multimillion-dollar ad budgets," he recalls. "At the same time, Paramount had been gobbled up by Viacom. Suddenly, we had all this intellectual property we could tap" for tie-ins, such as Nickelodeon, Showtime, and MTV. Kraus was hired away from Paramount by Disney, which was launching a national chain of interactive theme parks that featured 3D attractions based on Disney characters and stories, such as Pirates of the Caribbean. Called DisneyQuest, the chain was intended to roll out in 15 markets. Eventually the concept was scrapped because the powers that be determined it to be too costly, but Kraus continued in that Disney division, working on similar properties, such as ESPN Zone and Club Disney, which kept him traveling around the country to visit different markets. He credits this string of theme-park jobs with honing his PR acumen. "When I worked in the parks business, you had to do PR, especially crisis work," he explains. "You had to understand and be completely comfortable with the power of PR because it would make or break you." Despite his strong track record in entertainment marketing, Kraus opted to join Purebeauty because it was a chance to work at "a true start-up company." With the new position, Kraus finally made it to LA. He joined Purebeauty as the VP of marketing, but within a few months took over the business development role. Despite the change in title, Kraus says that PR is still one of his priorities. Next month, the company is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a "Beauty Amnesty" PR program that lets customers in the Bay Area return the once-used products that so many women have stacked in their medicine cabinets for a discount on new products. "Mike immediately recognized this - while challenging operationally - was an opportunity to truly capture consumer and media attention," says Blaze. "He understands PR. He just gets it." Mike Kraus August 2001-present Purebeauty, VP of business development (Feb. 2004-present); VP of marketing (Aug. 2001-Feb. 2004) May 1999-August 2001 Walt Disney Co., corporate manager, marketing, for Disney Regional Entertainment January 1995-May 1999 Viacom International, advertising and promotions manager for Paramount Parks August 1994-January 1995 Saatchi & Saatchi, account manager September 1992-August 1994 Marine World Africa USA, promotions coordinator October 1991-September 1992 Foote Cone & Belding, asst. media planner

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