Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Mar 25, 2015

Chinese loyalty to Korean beauty brands yet to be proven despite K-Pop craze

SHANGHAI - How much of the Chinese craze for Korean pop culture actually spills over to beauty brand preferences and purchases? Not as much as you might think, according to a quantitative study by Nielsen.

Amorepacific, the Korean parent of skincare brand Sulwhasoo, plans to open at least 300 stores in China this year.
Amorepacific, the Korean parent of skincare brand Sulwhasoo, plans to open at least 300 stores in China this year.

Six out of 10 consumers from mainland China discovered Korean beauty brands only in the last two years, thanks partly to product-placement successes in Korean soap operas such as My Love from the Star.

Since then, the popularity of Korean products has increased, promoted by the popularity of Korean culture. “Our study showed a direct correlation between interest in Korean entertainment and interest in Korean cosmetic brands, particularly among consumers in China,” said Georgia Zhuang, vice president of Nielsen China. 

Nielsen's study, which included 1,900 respondents from the four markets (mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore), showed similar perceptions of Korean-made cosmetics, describing them as “very innovative”, “trendy” and having “value-for-money”.

Does this mean it's a free ride at the till for Korean beauty brands such as Laneige, Mamonde, Sulwhasoo, Innisfree and Etude House?

Not quite. In particular, mainland respondents (the survey included 1,000) still trust that French beauty products have higher quality (73 per cent) than Korean ones (65 per cent). In fact, only 40 per cent of shoppers from China are planning to spend more on Korean brands in the next six months. 

"French brands are still perceived as good quality with sound reputations,” explained Zhuang.
Success in the Chinese market actually relies heavily on product variant strategy, according to Nielsen.
A stronger focus on hydration benefits will be more appealing to the Asian markets, Zhuang said. While cultural or climate differences may have slight impacts on buying decisions, Korean-brand buyers from the four markets shared the same perspective: they all considered hydration as well as deep-cleansing and anti-aging as the three top beauty benefits.
Mainland respondents also paid great attention to whitening and oil control functions.
“Compared with the past, Chinese consumers today have become smarter and more sophisticated," Zhuang said. "Their choices not only consider the reputation of the brand itself, but more on whether the products meet their very unique needs.” 

According to the findings, consumers from mainland China show stronger demand for basic skincare products than respondents from the other three markets. When asked about past purchases, they reported favouring the folllowing items in descending order: face cleansers, hydration lotions, cosmetic waters and eye creams.

Moreover, in terms of gifting, consumers from mainland China prefer international brands, while they chose Korean brands more for personal usage.

Finally, only one-third (29 per cent) of mainland respondents claimed they would remain loyal to Korean brands.


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