In Brands, Insight, Marketing, People, Retail, Trend

K- Beauty is here to stay, but no one single brand is winning. Korean Beauty as a concept is itself a brand, and the market is dominated by individual products rather than broader brand offerings. There is no brand loyalty, but is this really an issue or, as long as Korean beauty companies lead in innovation, is there nothing to worry about?


  • Western brands copy K-Beauty. Brands like Garnier, Belif, Benefit, Clinique, and Murad all have product concepts modeled after K-Beauty innovations. This amplifies the competition and confuses the consumer about what is and isn’t K-Beauty.
  • China bans K-Beauty. China recently initiated a ban on K-Beauty products, so brands are eager to diversify in the US.
  • No brand loyalty. Americans aren’t familiar with these beauty brands, so they have no emotive attachment to brand, and therefore no brand loyalty.
  • Extreme competition. Brands are jockeying for shelf space and competing on pricing, often undercutting other brands.
  • Lack of education is a huge issue. American shoppers don’t really understand categories and ingredients in K-Beauty that well. They are often overwhelmed by all of the steps and all of the ingredients.


  • Put K-Beauty in context. Tell a full story around the brand and fit the beauty product into the Western skin care regimen.
  • Explain ingredients and concepts. K-Beauty blogs like The Klog and W2Beauty are educating consumers so they understand what the products are and how they work.
  • In-person experience. AmorePacific’s fastest-growing brand, Innisfree, hopes to appeal to millennials, and is opening its first store in Union Square to give consumers up-close hands-on experience with the products.
  • Rethink retailers. Large retailers like Ulta and Forever 21 only pick hero products and don’t let many K-Beauty brands tell their whole story.
  • Establish offices and networks in the US. Keeping operations in Korea can be limiting for brands that want to break out of the K-Beauty umbrella. Neogen, Skinfood, Too Cool for School, Belif, TonyMoly, and Dr. Jart have proven to be true brands that are not just part of a trend.
  • Downplay the K-Beauty angle. This establishes a clear brand identity so that the K-Beauty message is more secondary.
  • Combine Korean and American marketing knowledge. Brands like Glow Recipe and Disco Kitten gain advantage by knowing the labs and manufacturers in Korea, understanding what US customers want, and knowing how to sell those products here.

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