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Translating Western Beauty Brands for Success in China

Published March 14, 2023
Published March 14, 2023
Giorgio Armani Beauty

2023 is set to be a big year for beauty in China. The end of lockdowns and the reopening of borders has set the stage for renewed optimism and potential. It’s a market that holds real promise for Western brands, but it is also entirely unique, demanding a localized approach to brand, content, commerce, and communications.

Whether you’re looking to increase your presence or enter for the first time, China’s uniquely passionate and discerning community of beauty fans, together with its unparalleled technological advancement, make it a fertile ground for Western beauty brands to push their boundaries and raise their game.

First shared as part of the February 2023 BeautyMatter x British Beauty Council London Summit Decoding the Chinese Beauty Market, here are 7 key principles for translating Western beauty brands for success in China.

1. Localize your positioning and product to resonate with Chinese consumers. Western beauty brands can’t just turn up as they would in their home market and expect to cut through. Be sure to tap into local consumers’ cultural needs and functional expectations by appealing to interest in “precision” skincare, emphasizing provenance + performance and/or honing your niche appeal.

2. Embrace China’s dynamic digital beauty ecosystem. The landscape is constantly evolving, and brands need smart strategies, localized content, and consistent effort simply to keep pace. As a result, the best-in-class examples are dominated by larger Western brands with the budget to maintain an active presence on China’s plethora of platforms. For niche brands looking to establish themselves in this highly competitive, “pay to play” environment, partnering with other like-minded brands to maximize budgets can be helpful.

3. Harness the power of KOLs and KOCs. Over 3/4 of Chinese Gen Zers say recommendations from key influencers have become the most important way for them to discover brands. KOL (Key Opinion Leader) content is typically the first touchpoint in attracting the attention of beauty fans, who will then research more in-depth product reviews by KOCs (Key Opinion Consumers) on social media platforms such as Red and Douyin.

4. Blend content and commerciality to activate key cultural moments. Beyond traditional Western dates such as Valentine’s Day, China has a number of key national holidays and festivals. Many of these cultural moments are directly linked to shopping, creating a huge opportunity for Western beauty brands that are able to tap into them in an authentic and compelling way. Best-in-class brands look to boost brand equity and awareness in these moments by creating compelling and culturally relevant content, alongside commercially attractive offerings.

5. Create cut-through with local collaborations. Explore partnerships with like-minded local brands in order to generate awareness and tap into new audiences. Unexpected cross-category collaborations can create a sense of surprise & delight for novelty-seeking Chinese consumers.

6. Level up to create impact via physical retail and events. Beauty is a highly sensorial category that lends itself to immersive in-person experiences and events. After several years of lockdowns, Chinese consumers’ expectations of physical retail and events are higher than ever before. Keep in mind that the merging of the physical & digital (commonly known as “phygital”) is simply the norm in China: everything is a content-creation opportunity and brands should have a clear strategy for promotion pre-, during, and post-event.

7. Capitalize on connections made with Chinese beauty fans traveling abroad. 2023 will see the return of outbound tourism as Chinese beauty lovers embrace the opportunity to travel once again. While some travel-exclusive products will still hold appeal, Western brands must be ready to wow Chinese consumers with immersive storytelling and experiences that will capture imaginations and be shared online for kudos with friends back home.

Click here to download a copy of the full report by Spring and CP Concept and unlock case study examples of the 7 principles in practice.


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