The NPD group recently published a press release titled “US Prestige Beauty Industry Sales Rise 6 Percent In 2017” with super interesting stats on the state of the beauty category and 2017 results. Most notable is the subtitle of the article, “Skincare grows the fastest and contributes most dollars gained, for the first time in four years.”
While they don’t mention K-Beauty in this press release anywhere, I have to believe that K-Beauty has had a strong impact on these numbers. The core of K-Beauty is all about skincare and the recent spotlight on Korean beauty innovation, the Korean skincare regimen (ie, 10-12 step routine), and Korean beauty brands brought to the US by upstart e-tailer/distributors has made skincare a “thing” again in the US.
Recently, when talking with a client, he asked me, “What is preventing Western brands from imitating K-Beauty brands and their products?”. My answer, “Nothing. They've already started”.
One of the keys to K-Beauty’s success is not just in the innovation and textures but also the product naming and description. Take, for example, belif, which I have written about before. They have two very popular moisturizers, one called True Cream Moisturizing Bomb and the other True Cream Aqua Bomb. They are both part of the hydrating “Bomb Collection” and their products are all about the drench of hydration and moisturizing your skin gets. Or look at Glow Recipe's recent launch of their new moisturizer Watermelon Glow Pink Juice. The visuals very literally describe the bouncy, hydrating texture and product concept as do their names and this formula has been so successful that we’re now seeing many Western brands imitate the best of K-Beauty.
Let’s take a look at the very popular Peter Thomas Roth which launched at Sephora early 2017 and immediately started selling out. Why? First of all, they leveraged the gel texture that K-Beauty had popularized. Second, they took a page out of K-Beauty’s playbook and used the right emotional descriptors to trigger that “I have to try it and buy it” feeling in customers. Instead of just calling it a day cream they called it the Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream. Who wouldn’t want to try a cloud cream?
Now other Western brands are following suit. Look at GlamGlow with their Waterburst Hydrated Cream which leverages water from Jeju Island (sound familiar?) or Drunk Elephant’s Lala Retro Whipped Cream. Peter Thomas Roth also recently launched a Hungarian Thermal Mineral Water-Rich Moisturizer, which smells of K-Beauty to me (hello, belif Hungarian Water Essence).
Also interesting to note, the skincare sub-category with the biggest growth was “other face products” which includes product categories like mists, essences, and emerging formats. These are categories that are often seen in the “K-Beauty routine” and popularized in the US by e-tailer marketers like Glow Recipe, Peach & Lily and Soko Glam. As a result of the education and marketing, I believe we’re seeing more sales of these emerging categories and more new products offered. For example, Fresh recently launched their own version of the First Treatment Essence powered by kombucha (looks very similar to SKII and MIssha).
Our new Black Tea Kombucha Facial Treatment Essence basically has superpowers. It’s so potent it deactivates pollution, and then has left over power to neutralize free radical damage! It also smoothes lines, refines pores, and hydrates while leaving skin luminous. It will literally change the look of your skin.
If imitation is the best form of flattery, than K-Beauty brands should be honored and wary. It’s great to see how the strength of K-Beauty in skincare can help revitalize this once sleepy category but Korean brands must be vigilant about protecting their innovations and IP. I wrote about what happens when they don’t. Companies like L’Oreal blatantly knock off your products. Here’s to seeing more great skincare in 2018 and more great innovation and ideas from Korea and Korean brands.
As always, leave comments and thoughts below.