Sulwhasoo has never had an awareness problem in Korea. Dating back 90 years, the Amorepacific beauty and skincare brand is well-known across Asia and has long been one of the top brands in its category in home market. However, in recent years it has faced key challenges, including a low presence and lack of awareness in global markets and lower brand affinity among younger consumers in Korea.
“In South Korea, Sulwhasoo is a famous brand. But new users considered it to be for their mom or their grandmother—not for them,” confesses Sun Young Lee, director of brand marketing at Amorepacific, who says their challenges might be akin to Estée Lauder in the US.
Lee’s candid assessment comes from knowing the Sulwhasoo brand intimately, having previously served as its CX marketing lead, and then as its brand creative director.
To address both issues of brand awareness and future positioning, Sulwhasoo launched a rebranding campaign led by Lee in two parts to explain ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’. The first launched a year ago, ‘From 1932 to You’ paid tribute to Sulwhasoo’s heritage and artistic aesthetic, while aiming to connect it to a new generation of consumers.
Now, Lee and Sulwhasoo have again tapped creative agency Jung von Matt and its talent in Seoul and Stuttgart to launch their second phase to explain ‘what we do’ and the ‘why’ behind their beauty philosophy. And how better to position one’s brand as a constant innovator for decades than to unveil a new product based on science and the traditional root ingredient of Sulwhasoo’s medicinal skin products in the ginseng plant.
"Our goal was to capture the essence of The Ultimate S Cream in our campaign, showcasing the balance between traditional skincare practices and modern innovation," explains Bill Yom, Chief Creative Officer at Jung von Matt Hangang in Seoul.
As new skin cream campaigns go, this work is simple yet vibrant, not burdening viewers with complex science, while still taking them on a journey with explosive colour that conveys how the rare ginseng berry is harvested and distilled to a unique serum in the cream, intersecting centuries-old knowledge of ginseng medicines with contemporary science.
“As a luxury brand, tone and mood are more important to me, while the message can be secondary,” Lee says. “These days there are many cosmetic brands selling products with so much data trying to prove they are good. We have to demonstrate we are beyond good. To deliver the message that we are the best we have to upgrade our tone within the luxury space and tell our story direct to the customers.”
This is not to say that Sulwhasoo devalues data—it relies on scientific studies to back efficacy for all its products. Moreover, Lee feels that AI will be the biggest technology driver for the skincare industry; Amorepacific already uses it to study people’s skin types to customise treatments.
In fact, in another perfect example of how Sulwhasoo melds traditional practices with modern science, the brand uses AI data mining to collect information from old ancestral plant books, logging the efficacy of different plant species and ingredients on different skin types to determine the various effects on skin hue and aging.
“It works for us pretty well,“ Lee says, who also feels AI can be used to help with supporting direct marketing content. Just don’t ask her to turn to AI for her next big brand campaign.
Lee calls her relationship with Jung von Matt ‘special’ because of how well it understands their brand and participates as one team with them in marketing meetings.
“I believe AI can do some direct marketing,” Lee says, “but we are a luxury brand so there will be a limit to AI creating something more valuable work for us.”
Client: Sulwhasoo, Amore Pacific
Agency: Jung von Matt Hangang
Chief Creative Officer: Bill Yom
Chief Operating Officer: Hyitai Kim
Creative Director: Matteo Maggiore
Creative Director: Valerio Mangiafico
Art Director: Donghun Lee
Copywriter: Unjong Yeo
Managing Director: Carolin von Karstedt
Brand Strategy: Johanna Sieveking
Account Director: Marco Schubert, Kaitlyn Tian
Account Manager: Jungyun Lee
Agency Producer: Youchan Shin
Production Company: Greenlight Films
Director: Paul Mignot