Influencer marketing has played a key role in helping Linda Stinson establish two tanning products in the Irish market aimed at different customers.
Stinson launched Bellamianta, a luxury tanning brand, in 2015. It was followed two years later by Iconic Bronze, which is sold by Penneys at a lower price point aimed at a younger demographic.
“I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the cosmetics business is that marketing is incredibly important. You need to reach the right customer and, to do that, you need the right people representing your brand,” Stinson said.
The “face” of Bellamianta in Ireland is Maura Higgins, the Longford-born former participant on Love Island, the British reality TV show
The brand is also represented by influencers including Rebekah O’Leary, Faye Patricia Mills, Laura Kelly, Ashlee Coburn and Louise Cooney
“For Iconic Bronze, we look for influencers that are fun, bubbly and vibrant – maybe a little bit more edgy than Bellamianta,” Stinson said.
“We work with Jade Mullett, Gerry Lavery, Olivia McVeigh and Emma Kearney, who’s a big TikTok star.”
Iconic Bronze also runs an affiliate marketing programme for lesser-known bloggers.
“It can actually be quite difficult at this stage for younger influencers to gain a foothold in the beauty market,” Stinson said.
“We run a programme for them whereby they can sign up to be an affiliate for the brand. We send them products every month and they’ll be invited to our new product release parties when they start up again.
“These bloggers could have anything from 3,000 to 10,000 followers. We feature them on our own channels. They appreciate the support and it’s another marketing tool for us.”
Both ranges feature self-tanning lotions and mousses alongside ancillary products such as bronzing powders, mitts and moisturisers.
Bellamianta costs more, however, starting at €19.99 for a 200ml bottle of tanning lotion compared with €11.99 for the equivalent Iconic Bronze product.
“When I created Bellamianta, I wanted it to be an alcohol-free product that would also be cruelty and toxin-free and vegan,” Stinson said.
“We use high-quality ingredients in it which means it retails at a higher price in the tanning market. It also means that we were getting caught a lot by lower-priced retail chains like Penneys.
“Those stores will generally want to discount your product, so I realised that there was probably an opportunity for another self-tan at a cheaper price.”
Stinson maintains that Iconic Bronze is “cleaner” than other competing products retailing in the same price bracket.
“We did a lot of research on it. We found that younger customers in the 16-to-30 age bracket don’t want to be spending €25 on a self-tan,” she said.
“They’re generally willing to spend €10 to €15, but they’re still very educated about what they’re putting on their skin. They want good quality formulations. They want vegan and cruelty-free.
“That’s what Iconic Bronze is. It’s not a cheaper version of Bellamianta. It’s a completely different product with a different formulation.”
Stinson estimates that the brands combined have about 2,000 stockists in the North and South. They include Penneys and Dunnes Stores as well as pharmacy chains Boots, Lloyds and Allcare.
Iconic Bronze is also sold in Britain by Primark, the Penneys-owned retail brand. Stinson ships globally online from two separate websites, Bellamianta.com and Iconicbronze.ie.
“Out of all our stockists, Penneys is our biggest customer. The fact that they’ve had to close at different times in Ireland and the UK this year did really affect our business,” Stinson said.
“What we’ve done instead is focus a lot more on our websites and we’ve actually been able to triple online sales since Covid started. That’s really helped the business to stay afloat and ensured that we can survive into 2021.”
In the new year, Stinson plans to apply for Food and Drug Administration approval to sell Bellamianta in the US and to launch a new range of cosmetics for Iconic Bronze.
“We have four separate collaborations planned for Iconic: one with a Love Island star, another with an Irish influencer and two more with different make-up artists,” she said.
Stinson employs 17 people in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and at a second office in Naas, Co Kildare. She outsources production to a manufacturer in Co Mayo and is a client of Enterprise Ireland, the state agency.
Before launching Bellamianta and Iconic Bronze, Stinson worked as a business development manager for Benefit Cosmetics in the North.