I often get asked if I think K-Beauty is a fad. My answer is yes. However, I do think that K-Beauty will live on.
Let me explain.
us consumers will move on
The mass hysteria levels of K-Beauty in the press and media will most definitely die down. American consumers are fickle and have short attention spans. They will move on to the big next thing, whatever that may be. (Maybe Scandinavian skincare? Taiwanese skincare? Anyone have guesses?)
Brands like Dr. Jart and Laneige may be about as mainstream as Korean beauty brands get as standalone brands. (Also, side note: it's interesting that these two brands are not primarily positioning themselves as K-Beauty; that's more of a secondary message.)
k-beauty is getting copied
However, the impact of K-Beauty on the beauty industry is growing. I've written other articles about how Western brands are cashing in on this K-Beauty bandwagon and essentially lifting Korean beauty concepts for their own products. Garnier did it with their Moisture Bomb, a straight up knock off of belif's Moisturizing Bomb (LG H&H, why didn't you trademark this??). Benefit launched their own version of Laneige's Two Tone Lipstick. Recently, Vogue wrote about how the concept of "jelly" texture skincare has rippled through the skincare category. Glossier, Estee Lauder, Dior, etc., have all launched jelly products within the last year or two in response to the way that K-Beauty has popularized unique textures and fun names to go along with them.
The Sephora VP/DMM of Hair & Skincare Priya Venkatesh admitted at a CEW event that the popular Peter Thomas Roth product Water Drench Hyaluaronic Cloud Cream, which is selling very briskly, was inspired by Korean beauty. Emotive words like "water drench" and "cloud cream" are things that Korean beauty brands really excel at when making new skincare products to help products stand out in a competitive market.
Not to mention that Western brands also bring over entire Korean beauty product categories and popularizing them in the US like the BB cream, cushion compact, and sheet masks.
korean brands may never get big
No one can doubt the impact of K-Beauty on Western brands. Unfortunately, for many of these Korean beauty brands, their ability to stand on their own two feet as independent brands is a much harder road.
In this K-Beauty category, I'm going to guess that brand re-call and loyal consumer relationships are lacking. Once brands are lumped into the K-Beauty category (currently, easier to do given the hot trend) they get easily lost in the shuffle amongst the hundreds of other brands also classified as K-Beauty.
I know a brand that is in Ulta under the K-Beauty section that is trying to get out of this section because they know that to be able to survive as a standalone brand long term they have to be much more than just another Korean beauty brand.
is imitation really a form of flattery?
The K-Beauty media hysteria will die down at some point and brands will find the Korean beauty classification limiting in the long term. But the impact of Korean beauty innovation will remain. Ultimately the majority of Korean brands will never really get huge but it would be great to see more brands make a legitimate attempt (and subsequent investment) to carve out a piece of the pie.
If your brand can't cut it as a standalone brand but your ideas are imitated, would that still be considered success? Do you think K-Beauty is a fad? Write a note in the comments, would love to hear.