Goongbe strategy is focus on the natural

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Goongbe strategy is focus on the natural


Lee Sung-ju, managing director of Zero to Seven, owner of the Goongbe cosmetic brand, poses at the Goongbe shop in Shinsegae Duty Free in central Seoul on Dec. 27. [PARK SANG-MOON]

Goongbe, a local cosmetics brand, might sound unfamiliar to unmarried younger consumers, but for women with children, chances are they have heard of it or already own one of its baby care products.

As demand for products with natural ingredients increases, Goongbe has recently grown in popularity both at home and abroad. Its sales at Lotte Duty Free, for instance, increased 130 percent between January and October last year compared to the same period a year earlier.

The company’s products have a high concentration of organic compounds and a traditional herbal extract mixture called Ojitang, which has deep historical roots in Korea. Safety-conscious mothers are attracted to the products because of these ingredients.

At the helm of Goongbe is Lee Sung-ju, managing director of Zero to Seven, owner of the brand. She is credited with the company’s impressive growth in recent years.

Encouraged by the positive response from overseas customers, Lee said that the company plans to make inroads this year into other countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore.

Korea JoongAng Daily sat down with her to discuss the brand’s vision and strategy to expand its presence in domestic and overseas markets.

Q. What distinguishes Goongbe from other cosmetic labels is the inclusion of Ojitang, or Oji Relief Complex. Can you explain more about the ingredient?

. It is put together with extracts from the beneficial parts of five trees - leaves of peach trees, buds of Sophora Japonica (also known as the Pagoda tree), leaves of mulberry trees, apricots and the bark of willow trees.

It is believed that the compound was used by royal families in the ancient Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), mixed in bath water by them.

Ojitang is effective in lowering the temperature of babies and moisturizing and nourishing skin. When we launched our first product, wet tissues, back in 2008, we collaborated with a traditional Chinese medical pediatrics center.

The tissue lineup also contained the complex, and it took off with consumers. Many other products released later also include the compound.

Still, there are many cosmetic brands that emphasize their use of natural ingredients or non-toxic chemicals. In this environment, how can Goongbe stand out?

Goongbe prioritizes quality and safety because we are a baby care brand.

Instead of churning out many types of products, we put emphasis on safety and we test each product. A product can be released only when it passes a thorough test process to prove that it is safe for babies.

When we select a contract manufacturer, we always go to the location and see if the facility and the production processes comply with the standards set by the company.

Goongbe is becoming recognized by Chinese consumers. Tell us more about reception from customers.

Goongbe has seen a dramatic increase in sales and profits at local duty-free shops at a time when other local cosmetic brands have experienced sluggish sales growth.

One of Goongbe’s products ranked first at Lotte Duty Free’s online mall, beating other well-known local brands. And most of the buyers at duty-free shops are Chinese. We plan to expand Goongbe’s sales channel at China’s Tmall, an online e-commerce site run by Alibaba.

Goongbe takes pride in being well-received by Chinese consumers because they have a big influence in the cosmetics industry.

Are there other countries Goongbe plans to enter?

We plan to enter Malaysia and Singapore, countries with Chinese cultural links. Last year, Goongbe was on display at Sa Sa, a Hong Kong cosmetics store.

We focused on duty-free business last year, but starting this year, we are orienting our focus towards overseas business. In the beginning stage, the main medium will be online shops rather than brick-and-mortar shops.

We have already had partnership offers in a number of countries.

You built your career at well-known luxury cosmetics brands such as Estee Lauder. Is there any difference in the marketing?

No big difference really exists. Well-known multinational cosmetic brands try to bring their own marketing to Korea and make slight adjustments from the original campaign.

But local brands should do the opposite.

So, in the end, there’s not a big difference. We should deliberate as to whether the strategy or marketing will work in the same way as it does in Korea.

Now, the product lineups are centered around baby care items. Are there other categories being considered by Goongbe?

We have several consumer categories: babies aged one to three, pregnant women and family and kids. Goongbe will work to strengthen the lineup for pregnant women and family members.

Depending on the age, we try to incorporate fun elements in the products. For instance, kids like to play around when they wash or apply sunblock. So, we develop kids items to account for that.

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