중앙데일리

Keeping Korean people beautiful

[Meet the CEO]

July 10,2009
Klaus Fassbender
The desire for beauty isn’t new. People have tried to improve their looks throughout history, whether to attract a mate or get a promotion. The difference between then and now, however, is that today’s market is more diverse, with products for almost every part of the body and tailored for both men and women.

The market is especially exciting in Korea, says Klaus Fassbender, president and executive director of L’Oreal Korea.

In a recent interview, he said that Korea is a strategic market for the L’Oreal Group, which celebrated its 100-year anniversary last month, and discussed Korea’s role in the international market, which he said is more important today than ever before.


Q. What does the Korean market mean to the L’Oreal Group?

A. Korea is a strategic market for L’Oreal. Korean consumers appreciate product innovation and respond well to new products. That’s why Korea is a test market for the world. What works well here works well in Asia and the rest of the world.

In addition, Korean women use an average of 12 skin care products and 10 kinds of cosmetic products, including cleanser, toner, facial moisturizer, anti-wrinkle cream, eye cream and foundation, in their daily beauty routines.


What is your share of the Korean cosmetics industry?

The L’Oreal Group has 14 percent of the global cosmetics industry, and that number is growing.

L’Oreal Korea doubled its market share from 3 percent to 6 percent last year from five years ago. I’m quite proud of that. It’s a significant share of the market considering there are a lot of strong local companies increasing competition.


What brought you to the cosmetics industry?

I’ve always wanted to work in a business that would be sustainable in the long term, rather than one with limited potential in the short term. The cosmetics industry goes back hundreds of thousands of years and as long as humans are around, there will be a need for beauty.

It’s also an interesting market because beauty is life for many people. Being beautiful makes them feel better. Besides, working with cosmetics is fun and enjoyable.

At the same time, however, it’s a business. We must be fast and smart to be successful in the business.


How are you dealing with the business side of things in the context of the global economic slowdown?

Happily, we made a decision to focus only on our most innovative brands. Of our 22 L’Oreal brands worldwide, we selected 14 brands that are most suitable for Korea. We are localizing those brands by working with celebrities like Daniel Henney, Chung Ryeo-won and Seo In-young. The celebrities are not only brand models but also spokespeople. Many other cosmetics companies use models but probably not the way we do.

What do you mean?

We want our brand models to be truthful about the brand’s value. For example, we don’t just want Daniel Henney’s face to represent Biotherm, we want the whole person. Biotherm is about energy, freshness, hydration and water and Daniel represents these values not only with his looks but also with what he says. His behavior is what represents Biotherm.


What are some of the new trends in the cosmetics industry?

Women have always wanted to look good. But what’s new right now is that there are more men wanting to take good care of themselves. The men’s market is very strong here. And that is very recent.

When I arrived in 2005, the men’s market was relatively small. Now, the most research on skin care for men is done in Korea.

In addition, Koreans are aging, which means that there is a need for good anti-aging products. We do a lot of research on anti-aging products for the skin.



You’ve worked in many countries including Germany, France, Spain and the Czech Republic. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Korean market when compared with the market in those countries?

Koreans are creative. Europe is slower in keeping up with trends and the lifestyle is different.

Korea is a young economy with a lot of growth potential. The European economy is very mature, which means it is growing slowly. The people there prefer products that have already been proven in the market, whereas Korean consumers tend to be more willing to take risks on new products.


What is the company’s vision for the coming year?

The first is to continue to grow and increase our market share, of course. We also want to focus on delivering perfect service to Korean consumers while developing reliable products they feel comfortable with.

We hope the market will follow.

L’Oreal Korea

  • Founded: 1993 (L’Oreal Group founded in 1909)

  • Number of brands in Korea: 14 including Lancome, Biotherm, Shu Uemura, Maybelline, Vichy, L’Oreal Paris, Giorgio Armani Cosmetics

  • Number of retail channels: 4 (department stores; pharmacies and hospitals; hyper markets and drug stores; and hair salons)

  • Employees in Korea: 1,100 (as of 2008)


    By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]



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