Korean revolution!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have something to confess… We might have used a Korean mask made of slaver of snail… Yes, looks kind of disgusting. That’s what we thought first too. BUT we have to admit: it was totally worth it. Do not look that surprised!

We do know what you are all wondering: why did we do that? Well, have you already seen how cute and funny their packaging are? We simply could not resist!! We were tired of those boring packaging coming from Western brands. Except maybe for Benefit and Too Faced, they kind of all look the same, and the products are all made with the same ingredients and with the same marketing approach: we just wanted something different!


Actually, we do not know if you have noticed but there has been a real passion for Korean brands recently. The giant Sephora itself had made a whole campaign on Korean cosmetics and brands this year, telling us to get inspired by Korean beauty codes and Korean beauty routine. [1] Their products appeared to be the new must-have for beauty lovers. Raise your hand if you have never heard of BB Creams, Cushion creams, Sleeping masks. YOU? Really? Shame on you!


So the question WE came to wonder was: why is there such an euphoria around these Korean brands? Well, we went investigating (the slaver snail’s mask was definitely part of it…I guess…) and we found that these brands were really interesting in how they tackle the cosmetics market. Indeed, they are really smart in their brand strategy. First of all, their marketing mix is really interesting and this explains in part how these brands differentiate themselves from Western brands: they are using “exotic” ingredients for Western consumers such as bamboo, birds’ nest, porcine collagen or slaver of snail (yes, again!) which surprise the customers and arouse their curiosity. As we already said before, they also have a different approach in terms of packaging and “marketing message”: they tend to be playful, funny, girly, and colorful. They are adept of “Kawaii packaging”. [2] Ka…what, would you tell us? Let us explain: “Kawaii” means cute, adorable in Japanese and refers to a popular style rising in Asia. Do you know Hello Kitty? Well, they basically want to look like her! So they simply derived this trend for their packaging. Thus, these two aspects put together (exotic ingredients and trendy packaging) create a complete new experience for customers in Western countries.


Korean brands have been particularly popular these recent years in Western countries but also in China! Indeed, China is fond of K-pop culture and Korean cosmetics brands have well understood that. That is why they definitely use it in their brand strategy: promoting their products with famous Korean pop star for example. And an important element to take into account too: they are cheap! [8]

But one of the key success factors of these Korean brands is their ability to constantly innovate. [4] They always come up with totally new products that definitely revolutionize your life! Take the example of the BB Cream! Who would dare to tell us that she has never used a BB Cream? Well if you never had, it is time to wake up my dear! This product is totally revolutionary! The French-Korean brand Erborian has become famous thanks to this product! Indeed, Erborian was pioneer in introducing the concept of BB creams in the Western market. [5] For those who do not know Erborian, two cosmetics lovers created this brand in 2007: a French entrepreneur Katalin Berenyi and a Korean scientist Hojung Lee. They combined the French know-how to the powerful ingredients and textures inspired by Korean tradition. [6] And this is where they were really smart in their brand strategy: they succeeded in keeping the essential elements of Korean cosmetics culture while adapting it to the Western market. And the success is huge: on Sephora.fr, 8 bestsellers of BB Creams out of 16 are Erborian’s. [7]

Capture d’écran 2016-11-15 à 20.12.05.png

Finally, we could not leave you without talking about AmorePacific. Indeed, it seems to be considered as the leader of the “Korean wave”. [10] It is South Korea’s first cosmetics brand and a rising star in the cosmetics industry in general. They apparently planned to become the biggest cosmetics brand in Asia by 2020 and they are already among the top 20 of cosmetics companies worldwide. [9] Well, we have one advice for you: keep an eye on AmorePacific; it might be the future must-have brand!

So what is interesting and what you should definitely remember here is that AmorePacific and Erborian are in some extent successful because of their proper brand strategy but also because of the enthusiasm around Korean brands in general which are seen as more innovative than Western brands. [9] And this is kind of original! However, we do think that they could not rely on this forever and once they would be well integrated in Western countries, they would probably have to dig deeper and build a strategy that would rely more on their proper brand with concrete differentiating elements, than on Korean brands in general.

Your devoted lipstick lover, Clémence M.

[1] Anonymous (2016). Sephora affiche les tendans beauté, nude, Corée et high tech, Beauty Decoder. ONLINE. Available at: http://www.beautydecoder.com/sephora-affiche-tendances-beaute-nude-coree/ Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

[2] Anonymous (2016). Packaging de cosmétiques, et kawaii, Oiseau de Paris. ONLINE. Available at: http://oiseaudeparis.fr/packaging-de-cosmetiques-et-kawaii/ Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

[3] Anonymous (2015). Japon : la mode “kawaii”, une esthétique guimauve que ne goûtent guère les féministes, La Depeche. ONLINE. Available at : http://www.ladepeche.fr/article/2015/10/16/2199119-japon-mode-kawaii-esthetique-guimauve-goutent-guere-feministes.html Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

[4] Frick, R (2013). La Corée, un champion de l’innovation en maquillage, Premium Beauty News. ONLINE. Available at: http://www.premiumbeautynews.com/fr/la-coree-un-champion-de-l,5720 Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

[5] Guillemain, A. (2016). Saga de marque: Erborian, Voici. ONLINE. Available at: http://www.voici.fr/beaute/news-beaute/saga-de-marque-erborian-590670 Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

[6] Erborian website (2016). La rencontre de deux femmes. ONLINE. Available at: http://fr.erborian.com/la-rencontre-de-deux-femmes,1,2,1044,17054.htm#s=1044 Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

[7] Sephora’s website (2016). Top des ventes BB & CC crèmes. ONLINE. Available at: http://www.sephora.fr/Toutes-les-meilleures-ventes/Soin-Visage/BB-CC-Cremes/Rimppag0000017/SC93802 Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

[8] Anonymous (2014). Les marques coréennes reines du marché de la cosmétique en Chine, Marketing Chine. ONLINE. Available at: http://www.marketing-chine.com/cosmetique-en-chine/cosmetiques-coreennes-reines-du-marche-en-chine Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

[9] Pitman, S (2014). AmorePacific aims to be the biggest cosmetics company in Asia by 2020, Cosmetics Design Asia. ONLINE. Available at: http://www.cosmeticsdesign-asia.com/Business-Financial/AmorePacific-aims-to-be-the-biggest-cosmetics-company-in-Asia-by-2020 Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

[10] Yooj, J-W (2004). AmorePacific’s Asian Strategy May Have the Look of a Winner, The Wall Street Journal. ONLINE. Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB110071158635876788 Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

Featured image:

Tyndall, B. (2014). Korean beauty secrets: 8 reasons Korean products are taking the West by storm. ONLINE. Available at: http://youqueen.com/beauty/korean-beauty-secrets/ Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

Image 1:

Anonymous (2013). Ma petite crème de nuit The Saem. ONLINE. Available at: http://kinoko-blog.com/creme-de-nuit-lavande-the-saem.html Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

Image 2:

Anonymous (2016). Sephora affiche les tendances beauté, nude, Corée et high tech. ONLINE. Available at: http://www.beautydecoder.com/sephora-affiche-tendances-beaute-nude-coree/ Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

Image 3:

Adeline (2015). Cosmétiques coréens et kawaii. ONLINE. Available at: http://magicoctopus.eklablog.com/cosmetiques-coreens-kawaii-a118611912 Last accessed: 14 Nov’16

Image 4:

Screenshot (2016).Sephora’s website. Top des ventes BB & CC crèmes. ONLINE. Available at: http://www.sephora.fr/Toutes-les-meilleures-ventes/Soin-Visage/BB-CC-Cremes/Rimppag0000017/SC93802 Last accessed: 14 Nov’16


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