Elevating the Beauty World: Q&A with ModelCo

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By Published On: September 27, 20190 Comments

ModelCo is one of the hottest beauty brands in Australia. We sat down with Shelley Sullivan, CEO and Founder of ModelCo and MCoBeauty, to discuss inspiring moments, leading the pack and trusting your intuition.

 Please explain the history behind ModelCo. What sparked the idea behind a self-tan?

The product that founded ModelCo was the first-to-market Tan Airbrush In a Can. As a former model agent, I was constantly seeing my models coming in orange, streaky legs and I just knew there had to be a smarter and more user-friendly way for women to self-tan. I had often thought about the idea of aligning self-tan with a spray bottle. I knew that if I could create a product that put an end to stained hands and uneven coverage that it would be a success! At the time I launched the ModelCo TAN AIRBRUSH IN A CAN it was just a project, and I had no idea it was going to become the phenomenon that it is or evolve into being the global ModelCo beauty brand we know today! When Tan Airbrush in Can – the world’s first airbrush ‘tan in a can’ self-tanning product hit the market it truly changed the way that woman self- tanned, delivering professional results with the convenience of an at-home application. When the product first launched, we literally could not keep up with the demand for orders and to this day one Tan Airbrush In A Can is sold every 36 seconds worldwide.

ModelCo has been around since 2002. There have been some massive changes throughout the retail industry, but what is one thing that hasn’t changed in the 17 years since you started your business?

Innovation and smart marketing remains a key driver, one which ModelCo prides itself on and which sets us apart from the traditional beauty brands. Innovative products include ModelCo Tan Airbrush In a CanModelCo Turbo Lashwand Eyelash Curler, and ModelCo Lip Lights Gloss which was part of the limited edition Karl Lagerfeld collection. 

In this current customer habit landscape, how important is social media in the ModelCo marketing strategy? 

Social media is hugely important to my brands. ModelCo has a specialist digital and social media in-house team responsible for driving traffic to the ModelCo website and engaging with its customers on all levels. ModelCo’s rapidly expanding social media following has allowed it to build a strong, modern brand identity that engages with its customers and community 24/7, a focus which is a critical priority for the brand.

Social media has also changed the way we market to our customers. After owning and running a successful modelling agency for eight years prior to starting ModelCo, I can see the way that social media has evolved and enabled models to become more than just hangers for clothing or faces for makeup: it’s allowed them to showcase their personalities and advance their careers. No longer are models just pretty faces but influencing thousands of people on Instagram alone. I feel it’s all about the elusive ‘cool girl’ appeal.

When people want guidance about which brand to use, people turn to these people of influence. ModelCo very much embraces this trend by engaging with social media influencers both for campaign photoshoots and authentic product promotion.

Of course, Aussies are famous for their amazing tans. Are there any differences between the Australian market and others around the world? How do you alter your brand strategy to reflect the differing markets?

Globally, there is this notion that Australian brands offer something extra to the consumer – we have an edge, something that makes us stand out. There is a huge demand for the ModelCo brand in the US and we are expanding heavily in Asia this year due to high consumer demand.

ModelCo is globally renowned for product innovation, it is the crux of the business and the brand is always looking for solutions to everyday beauty problems. ModelCo prides itself on having its finger on the pulse of what’s hot, interpreting market trends and creating products that women need before they know they need them.

ModelCo has also engaged with high profile ambassadors of which have propelled the ModelCo brand on an international scale greatly raising awareness outside of Australia. UK supermodel and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, US ‘IT’ model Hailey Baldwin and our recent collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld appealed to international markets, expanding our global presence.

Many retailers embrace an omnichannel approach to retail. What differences do you find between selling online and in-store? Are there different strategies that you use to target one area to another? 

It’s important for us to offer both an in-store experience, and a direct to consumer mechanic enabling our products to be accessible to the consumer from all avenues. Our customer communications ecosystem is always at the forefront of ensuring that we deliver the best experience whether that’s through our digital customer journey, or our in-store presence with strong branding, we always have the customer in mind. 

When you think back to when you started your journey, did you have any role models that helped shape the way you see business? Or do you make things up as you go along?

I am constantly inspired by other female entrepreneurs and the hard work, dedication, commitment and passion that emanates from them. I trust my intuition; it has never failed me!

If you were to go back to when you started your first company, what advice would you give yourself? Would you do anything differently?

The beauty industry was certainly was not what I expected! I thought that I was launching a beauty business when in actual fact I was going into the world of retailing, wholesaling, marketing, logistics and finance. It was a real learning curve for me. It taught me that you really must understand the business you are going into and surround yourself with people who have more knowledge than you do who can guide you through the process. 

Do you have anything exciting in the works?

 We have recently partnered with an international creative house on the brand evolution and have launched our new elevated aesthetic across packaging, whilst we continue to own the signature ModelCo pink. After 18 years of owning the tanning space, we have just launched our expansive tanning edit which cater to both the tanning novice and the tanning expert, with a campaign that speaks to the everyday tan user. The complete brand evolution follows with a new colour cosmetic offering and an exciting new beauty category that will launch early next year. 

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Iconic fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld approached ModelCo in 2017 to pitch for and design a cosmetics range for global distribution. ModelCo won against 22 major cosmetics brands and created Karl Lagerfeld + ModelCo – a 52 piece colour collection sold in 27 countries. The collaboration more than doubled forecasted sales.  Dubbed the “largest global beauty collaboration in recent times”, the publicity garnered over $30 million worth of press and social media at launch, resulting in ModelCo signing distribution in 27 countries (Douglas, Nordstrom, Sephora, Bloomingdales, Harvey Nichols and Galeries Lafayette.)

Through securing the worldwide beauty license deal with Karl Lagerfeld, I believe I elevated the Australian Beauty Industry on a global stage and paved the way for other niche beauty brands to be considered as serious contenders in the beauty world.

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