중앙데일리

Luxury cosmetics, with a male bent

Korea is leading the charge in the thriving men’s cosmetics industry.

Aug 17,2009
Jang Dong-gun is the face of Hera Homme. [JoongAng Ilbo]
Remember the good old days, men, when all you needed to be fairly presentable was sleek hair and some reasonably clean clothes?

Not so now, a day and age when some of the hippest guys line their bathroom shelves with fancy cosmetic products, be it lotion, shaving gel, sunscreen or even anti-wrinkle cream. An obsession with healthy skin is clearly no longer the domain of just women.

And Korea is leading the charge in the thriving men’s cosmetics industry, highlighted by a surge in sales and a wave of new product lines over the past few years.

Biotherm, a cosmetic brand of L’Oreal, recently introduced its Aqua Homme Club in Korea. The program is aimed at the company’s male VIP customers.

In addition to brochures and coupons for the latest Biotherm products, members receive information and tips on skin care.

Nam Gung-won in a 1970s Amore Pacific ad
Like many other cosmetic brands in Korea, Biotherm has long offered that service to its women customers. But Biotherm officials say they launched the club geared specifically toward men as the result of growing demand in recent months.

Indeed, several companies say they’ve seen similar trends in Korea.

Sales here of a shaving gel by DHC, a Japanese cosmetic brand, rose seven-fold during the first half of this year compared to same period in 2008.

Iope, a Korean skincare brand, said sales of its new For Men Power Aging product line hit 1.7 billion won ($1.4 million) in just one month.

According to Euromonitor International, a U.K.-based market research firm, the industry racked up 530 billion won in sales here in 2007 - up from 320 billion a few years earlier.

In fact, Korea easily ranked as the world’s largest market for men’s cosmetics that year, with more than twice the sales of runner-up Japan.

Daniel Henney in Biotherm Homme ad
The impressive growth trend in Korea dates back to 2000, when a host of cosmetic companies launched entirely new brands aimed specifically at men.

Amore Pacific’s Mirepa and Odyssey lines were some of the biggest at the time. Amore Pacific is Korea’s largest cosmetic maker and one of the first cosmetic companies in Korea to jump into the men’s cosmetic business.

Others followed suit, with Somang Cosmetics unrolling its Man with Flowers line and Estee Lauder’s releasing its Aramis products.

In recent years, though, the trend has shifted. Companies are now bring existing brands to the male side, often incorporating the word Homme, which means “man” in French, in the new products.

The Amore Pacific line Hera, for instance, offers Hera Homme products. OHUI, LG’s cosmetic brand, introduced its OHUI For Men line. Lancome Men, Biotherm Homme and Clarins Men are other examples.

Experts say that launching new lines instead of developing entirely new brands makes it easier and cheaper to promote and market the new products.

The most beneficial aspect, they say, is that the brand has already been established among female consumers, who often buy cosmetic products for the men in their lives.

Products have also become more diverse than ever. While before men’s cosmetic products were largely more or less regular creams and lotions, these days they focus on everything from wrinkles to firming up skin.

The competition is about to get even more heated in the coming months.

Missha Cosmetics will add a new men’s line, Missha Homme Urban Soul, by the end of August. Missha already has two men’s cosmetic lines, but the new one will feature products of enhanced quality and therefore will cost more.

Somang Cosmetics will also launch a new, more expensive men’s cosmetic line, called Danahan, next month.

The way companies advertise these products is also evolving.

In the past, the typical advertisement might, say, feature a man splashing his cheeks with water or the actual products to some macho rock music.

But these days advertisements for men’s cosmetics often attempt to grab the attention of females as well. Take this line from a recent ad for the local brand Essor; “I slept at his house. I used his skin????.”

A look into the history of men’s cosmetics at Amore Pacific tells it all.

A 1970s ad for its men’s cosmetics brand featured actor Nam Gung-won flying in a helicopter and riding a horse in the wild. Nam represented the typical “tough guy” of the time.

In the 1980s, Amore Pacific discovered that women typically bought the cosmetics for the men. So the company changed its marketing strategy, promoting its products as “men’s cosmetics approved by women,” and saw its sales jump five-fold.

In the 1990s, advertisements for men’s cosmetics had an urban, chic and futuristic feel.

The strategy changed again over the last decade. Amore Pacific has been featuring popular actors that appeal to both men and women, like Jang Dong-gun and Hyun Bin.

The apparent hope is that the ads will make men say “I want to be like them” and make women say “I want my husband or boyfriend to look like them.”


By Song Ji-hye [hkim@joongang.co.kr]





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