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The Clean Hub Episode 1: How To Have A Stand Out Beauty Brand With Kirsty Mawhinney

Last year at the London IMF conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Kirsty Mawhinney, founder of Skin Insight. During a panel break, Kirsty walked over and kindly introduced herself. Feeling like a newbie in the beauty space it was nice to hear from someone so friendly as well as active in the beauty community. We began talking about Kirsty’s extensive career in the beauty industry having worked for REN, Dr. Hauschka, and Neal’s Yard Remedies, which led her to begin her own company, Skin Insight. With her experience in helping these companies grow their brands, she felt the current beauty landscape was lacking in marketing their messages effectively.

I then told Kirsty that I was working to build a community for clean beauty brands to be able to thrive in – a sort of one-stop-shop for business information that would only be given to clean beauty brands. Kirsty immediately said she liked the idea and wanted to be involved, as she too was a fan of clean beauty and already working with clean beauty brands through her consultancy as well as with her contribution to the Free From Skincare awards.

Since then Kirsty has collaborated with The Clean Hub on a very needed course called “Defining your brand story/unique selling point”. Often times, beauty founders and fans overlook this part of marketing. All too often founders focus on the “me too” aspect as Kirsty calls it – in other words, marketing yourself as another natural or organic brand. This is not enough in today’s competitive landscape and through Kirsty’s collaboration with The Clean Hub, we are able to help you better define your brand so that you stand out from the crowd. A unique selling point (USP) or brand story is key to getting noticed not only by consumers, but also investors and buyers. The collaboration will be available starting the beginning of April. You can sign up to be a part of The Clean Hub here.

Kirsty is also the head organizer for the Free From Skincare awards. They are the only awards dedicated to ‘free from” cosmetics and are now in their seventh year. They are currently in the judging stage of the competition, however if you are in the London location and would like to network with other founders, industry experts, or sponsors you can join them at the London Olympia on July 5th. Just contact Kirsty here.

If you would like to follow up with Kirsty Mawhinney personally or for branding, you can contact her at www.skininsight.co.uk. Hope you enjoy the podcast!

Listen to the podcast below or check out the transcript



Raquel: Today we have a very special guest on our show, Kirsty Mawhinney. Kirsty is a powerhouse in the beauty industry and we are going to talk a bit about her background in beauty and how she helps beauty brands with her company, Skin Insight. Then we will talk a bit about what to expect in her collaboration with The Clean Hub. So she is teaching the unique selling point or brand story course, which is essential to getting your brand noticed, whether that is through customers, investors, or retailers. You have to be able to stand out from the rest. And then finally we are going to talk a bit about the Free From Skincare Awards that she organized. The Free From Skincare awards are now in their 7th year. To enter your product you must be free from all ingredients that are known to negatively impact your skin.

So Kirsty, I understand that you have quite an extensive background in helping beauty brands grow. Can you help us in talking a bit about your background and your career in beauty? 

Kirsty: No problem, its lovely to meet with you on this chat. Absolute fan of The Clean Hub and Raquel and all she is trying to achieve for brands in general. I love the concept of the brand accelerator. So it’s a great opportunity to jump on this call quickly and give a bit of background on myself and my business and how I am here to also support brands. So, I’m a skincare expert. I trained as a beauty therapist in South Africa. And after qualifying I was very fortunate to travel the world working for some of the top skincare companies as an educator, trainer, mainly brand ambassador. We didn’t talk about them like we do today as influencers but that is essentially what I was. I also met with clients because I did a lot of skincare treatments and I was advising clients on the best choices for their skin. And what I found when I spoke to clients is that they were very confused about what was out there and what they should be buying. And the marketing messages or product message on pack was quite confusing to clients and they were also trying to explore more about the natural story. Back, I’m talking about back in the late nineties early two thousands. So, indie beauty and natural and organic didn’t really exist as it does today. But I really noticed that we could really improve the messaging that we had on product pack and help the customers navigate this array of brands and product choices so that they could get the best solutions for their skin. So this gave me the ability to kind of support brands and companies that I worked and collaborated with. And I worked with some of the big and natural clean and green skincare brands around today such as REN. I’ve also worked with Neal’s Yard Remedies. I worked with Dr. Hauschka. I worked with Aveda at Estee Lauder Companies. And then I was straddled on the other side of the fence. I worked with very high-end synthetic cosmeceutical brands such as Dermalogica. And I started my career in Clarins, very traditional French skincare brand. So I really worked around the industry and I have quite a lot of experience, which is why I thought my knowledge over the years has led me to set up my own agency. And my business Skin Insight helps to support brands along their brand journey in brand marketing, in brand strategy, and execution to the end customer.

Raquel: Yea, I’ve seen some of the brands you have worked with and the work that you have done and it looks really great. So actually, I met Kirsty back last year at the London IMF Conference in 2017. I was really impressed with her experience and knowledge of the industry and I asked her to collaborate with The Clean Hub on brand story/unique selling point webinar because it sounded like something that she obviously had a lot of experience with. 

Kirsty: Yea I mean, it was a great opportunity to meet at such an exiting conference – the International Manufacturers Forum in London last year. And I was immediately interested in the concept of The Clean Hub and business accelerator. Because I meet many brands and they often have areas within their business that are causing them major stress or they are not achieving the success they want to achieve. And working within The Clean Hub, has kindly said, she brought me in to work on brand story and brand USP. So that is exactly what I am here to do. Is to deliver a presentation that is all about brand story, brand USP and taking your brand from one place and building it to the right end story really. I think most of us like to spend a lot of time on the “nice to do stuff”. And it is quite important to get your teeth into some of the really hard working stuff such as business objective, strategic objective, and really understanding who your user is. These are fundamental questions that we need to sit down and ask before we start talking about the brand name and why the brand is good for this customer.

Raquel: Right, yea. And I can see that especially within the indie beauty industry its such a competitive market that a lot of brands seem to have really similar USPs and so its really difficult for them to be able to navigate within that space.

Kirsty: Yea, its very challenging I think because you know the market is so congested. There are so many me too brands. I often meet brands that have very genuine authentic stories. But the story has unfortunately already been told. You know, people say oh I started a skincare brand because I had eczema or I had a major health scare or I had a daughter who suffered from problem skin. I mean, these stories have been told. We know them. So what’s important even though the story is truthful and authentic is to find a new way of telling the same story. And I think that’s really where the uniqueness comes into it. Everybody has some specific reason that the brand exists and we need to really pull that out and not create this me too philosophy because you need to have a differentiator in the market. I absolutely love someone like May Lindstrom. I think that the brand story is absolutely spot-on in her uniqueness and she is a true artisan founder. Her story is beautiful and she is doing something that is really unique and stands out of the crowd. So I think you really need to look at what is different and what is unique to you and seek out that instead of trying to do the me too.

Raquel: So you think that is one of the major issues that a lot of these brands have is the me too aspect versus trying to find a way to retell a story that may be relatable to other brands as well?

Kirsty: Definitely, I mean when we worked on the REN skincare brand you know we were probably the leaders in putting the stamp on product that said, no, no sulphates, no this, no that. And now everybody does it. And to be fair, it’s actually quite boring. It’s not exciting. But when REN did it, nobody was doing it. I mean, that’s the point I’m trying to make is that you really need to step away from what everyone else is doing and try to do something different. Actually, why don’t you say what’s in the product instead of what’s not in the product. Surely that’s a talking point.

Raquel: Right, that’ a good point to bring up. So what can we expect to hear or learn from the brand story webinar?

Kirsty: So I touched on the “not nice to do” angle. You know, business objectives, strategic objectives. These are very important areas to focus on in the business. Its definitely something we touch on in the brand USP webinar. But then we also come up with what is the big brand idea and we ask challenging questions, you know. Why is your brand different? Let’s pull out a one-liner describing your product or your brand story. I think if you can describe anything as they say on a one page A4, on the back of a serviette, you’ve pretty much got your business there. The most important thing is to find this really unique journey or path for your brand. And within that you need to have the most suitable way of communication. So every brand has a tone of voice. Every brand has guiding principles, visions that define them. And I think that’s very important that runs throughout the story of the brand. So what you are communicating on pack, social media, your marketing tools, is reflected throughout. It’s the same message all of the time. Which to many brand founders can seem boring which is why they go and create different messages. But actually the key is sameness is key, absolutely.

Raquel: Right, yea I think this is going to provide a lot of value to these natural beauty brands. And it is something that they definitely need to hear, so I’m really excited for that. Thank you. Kirsty’s actually put together the Free From Skincare awards which are happening this July in London. So Kirsty, can you tell you tell us  a bit about the Free From Skincare Awards? 

Kirsty: Yea, so the Free From Skincare Awards has been going since 2012. I joined the team last year, 2017. And I really came on to the Free From Skincare awards because I had been a brand (with my clients) over the years. I enter many awards. And I really saw value in the Free From Skincare Awards. I saw it being a really genuine award that offered you sound advice about maybe why your product was not shortlisted or why your product was actually in the end a winning brand. You get your brand in front of four independent testers and these testers come from the natural beauty bible selection. And the product is tested for one month, and then all of that data is collated and put together to a shortlist. And then we sit down for a week with six top industry experts and judge from the shortlist down to who is the winner. So it is a very extensive judging process. As of 2018 we have made some fundamental changes to the Free From Skincare awards. One is we’ve improved and updated the logo so you can see some of my branding expertise has come in there. We’ve also taken the Free From Skincare awards off the Skins Matter website. And as Raquel said, I’m launching a new event on the fifth of July, which is when we normally announce the winner’s announcement. At the London Olympia this year we are going to be hosting a networking panel event where we are going to have not only the winners announcement for the Free From Skincare awards but an opportunity to network and meet with industry experts, buyers, journalists, and people such as a top regulator who can really give you advice and support your natural indie skincare brand. I think it is a missed opportunity not to have everyone network and talk.

Raquel: I agree 

Kirsty: I think that’s why we are doing it. Yup.

Raquel: Yup, I’m looking forward to it. As well.

Kirsty: Fantastic. 

Raquel: So thanks Kirsty. Um so if people wanted to get a hold of you, where would they go? 

Kirsty: They can go directly to the website, so its http://www.freefromskincareawards.com/. Or they can get me directly on email at kirsty@skinsmatter.com. And if there is anyone looking to get a hold of me directly for branding or support on their business, they can get a hold of me on my website, which is Skin Insight, so that’s www.skininsight.co.uk. So I look forward to catching up with you either via my webinar or possibly joining us for the Free From Skincare Awards event on the of 5th July at the London Olympia.

Raquel: Sounds great, well thank you Kirsty. And I’m sure listeners are super excited to learn a little bit more on how to get branding or specialize in branding in their products. So thank you again Kirsty for coming on the call today.

Kirsty: Thanks for having me Clean Hub, its great to work with you.

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