in-cosmetics Korea and Weekly Cosmetics spoke with Jinwook Lee, President, Have & Be, owner of brand Dr. Jart+, about sources of inspiration, launch strategies and choosing America for their first international launch.
In 2011 when your competitors in Korea turned to China, you chose the U.S. market. What made you do so?
The Korean cosmetics industry was led mostly by large conglomerates back then. We decided to go global and become the world’s No. 1, believing that product power and innovative marketing strategies could lead us to success without any bias regarding the size of our company. It was relatively easier for us to make inroads into China and Southeast Asia as many Korean firms already entered there and prospered in these markets, but I chose America. The US market, which is most sensitive to trends and seen as the center of the beauty industry, was still a wasteland for Korean cosmetics makers at that time. Instead of easy markets where many Korean brands were successfully launched, we targeted America first for our global market expansion efforts. The US market was challenging but considered to have extensive potential.
What are the secrets of your success both in Korea and in other global markets beyond USA?
Dr. Jart+ sought a new path that no domestic brand ever tried. We staged brand marketing activities with systematic localization strategy and our uniqueness because we thought that it was not our way to follow along someone else’s method or do as others do.
We adopted a localization strategy emphasizing ‘being trendy’ for the US market in the first years of our operations there. Every year we attended the Fashion Week as the only skin care brand. Especially at a Fashion Week in New York, we helped base makeup, introducing BB cream to the industry, a cosmetic item that was unfamiliar to Americans then. Of course, after the sponsorship, the response was heated enough to be featured as a noteworthy product not only in major fashion magazines but a popular TV show on NBC.
At our new flagship store ‘Filter Space in Seoul’ in Korea, we showcase the artistic elements of Dr. Jart+ in creative communication methods. Typical examples are the public art projects such as Blue Fish in Garosu-gil street in Seoul and Pink Heel Elephant and Sleep Research Institute, Jart Research Institute’s project on sleep, which is a hard subject for a cosmetic brand to tackle. We defy mediocrity for product campaign, too. Last winter, to express Dr. Jart+’s moisturizing line Ceramidin in a witty and fun way, we used 100 yellow cera penguins, each of which was fired by a craftsman in a pottery kiln in Icheon.
What is the most tricky and difficult overseas market and why?
It was the Middle East. Interest in Korean cosmetics was gaining popularity there thanks to the influence of the Korean Wave through drama and music, but it was like literally ‘starting with absolutely nothing’ as the Korean beauty brand penetration remained at the level of introduction. For us, another barrier was that women in the Middle East must hide parts of their body with hijab or chador for a religious reason.
However, with the growing interest in beauty of Middle Eastern women, we found the possibility in that they began to express themselves with dark eye and lip makeups, which are parts exposed to others. As there were almost no color cosmetic products in those days, we launched eight sheet masks as a must-have item for skin care, considering the dry Middle East climate. The result was successful. Since then we have expanded our skin care lines.
What is the brand / representative product of Have & Be and what is most important when you launch a product? What inspires you and in what do you invest your time and effort most?
Our representative product is ‘Cicapair Recover,’ which is leading the ‘Cica fever’ in Korea and abroad. It features a color change texture that transforms from green to pink beige as soon as applied on the skin and helps protect sensitized skin and cover at the same time. In 2018, one of our best sellers, it was one of the top 10 moisturizers and sold well on Sephora, being introduced in many mass media around the globe as a representative item driving the ‘Cica fever.’
I think that ‘Cicapair Recover’ was able to become our representative product because it was better fit to the consumers’ lifestyle when there was no product that could soothe and cover the skin as well. Like this, when we launch a product, we focus on ‘uses’. Recently, we have developed a mist that can block harmful substances including fine dust as people are suffering from it today.
I think my inspiration comes from ‘twisted thinking.’ Among others, starting from a “new perspective” is the most important part of our efforts. I have never confined Dr. Jart+ to the beauty industry from the beginning. For example, we hire people who have no previous experiences in the beauty sector. This is because we believe new ideas come out and we will have the power to read consumers’ minds when experts from diverse fields like publishing, food and beverage, heavy industry, and marketing consultancy join forces.
What can we expect from Have & Be for 2019? What are the challenges for your company in Korea and beyond in the future? What’s your vision?
As a “global derma-cosmetic brand,” we want to strengthen our position in domestic and overseas markets. In addition, we aspire to be a ‘brand that stimulates curiosity of people about what’s next for us.’ We hope people will say, ‘What’s next for Dr. Jart+?’ This is what Dr. Jart+ is dreaming of and pursuing for now.
Dr. Jart+ operates in 36 countries in the world. At first, we made extensive efforts to enter more markets and expand our distribution channels. But from 2019, we will focus on establishing ourselves as an industry leader globally. We will continue our effort to strengthen our localized marketing that will effectively embody the color of our brand and tighten our grip on overseas markets. We want to become a ‘friendly brand’ to Koreans as well. We will increase contact points in various ways by strengthening differentiated consumer contact point marketing, digital marketing and promotion in ‘Filter Space In Seoul’ and on various distribution channels.
Finally, I would like to ask you for advice for those domestic companies planning global market expansion. What is the status (possibilities and limitations) of K-Beauty overseas? What do you think needs to be done by Korean companies to enter overseas markets?
K-Beauty’s strength is that it is creating unique beauty categories all over the world with quality products and innovative ideas. We led the development and commercialization of BB cream, and now cushion products have become widely used worldwide gaining popularity over time. This shows where K-Beauty is now, compared to several years ago.
However, I think unique and different strategies and concepts are needed as J-Beauty, which once was a cosmetics champion in Asia, is re-emerging now, and C-Beauty is playing well boosted by domestic demands for Chinese brands. Dr. Jart+ has been working hard to figure out how to differentiate itself from package design to store, focusing on ‘healthy beauty’ from the early days of its brand. As such, Korean firms wishing to find markets overseas now should not be complacent about the superiority of their products, but prepare for a ‘next step’ to sharpen their competitive edges. To me, this seems one of the most important things to do.
To learn more about K-Beauty, visit the new K-Beauty Inspiration Zone at in-cosmetics Korea 26 – 28 June, COEX, Seoul. Register online to save the $10 entry fee: https://korea.in-cosmetics.com/register