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[Feature] Why celebrity beauty brands are good business

Member of K-pop girl group Fin.K.L becomes latest star to roll out cosmetics line

Singer and actress Sung Yu-ri poses with her own cosmetics line Uriid. (URIID)
Singer and actress Sung Yu-ri poses with her own cosmetics line Uriid. (URIID)
Launching a beauty brand has become easier than ever, thanks to the growing market and original design manufacturers. And for celebrities who want to capitalize on their fame and branch out into the cosmetics industry, this has been good news.

International celebrities including Kylie Jenner and Rihanna have successfully launched their own brands Kylie Cosmetics and Fenty Beauty in recent years while South Korean makeup artist and vlogger Pony – who has over seven million followers on Instagram -- launched Pony Effect in 2015 in partnership with San Francisco-based beauty startup MBX, formerly known as Memebox.

In November, actress Sung Yu-ri, who rose to fame as a member of four-piece girl group Fin.K.L, joined the long list of celebrities-turned-beauty gurus with her own cosmetics brand “URIID” -- which touts itself as a nature-inspired skincare brand with products such as facial masks and serums.

“From product planning to developing concepts, as well as confirming online content, she has been involved in almost every step,” said one official at the company.

Sung does not shy away from being the face of the brand. On its website and social media platforms, the singer and actress poses with the newly launched products.

Celebrities and cosmetics mix well according to professor Kim Joo-deok from the beauty industry department at Sungshin Women’s University, given that the industry is visually oriented.

“In the world of cosmetics, image matters. People prefer products from major brands not just because of good quality but also because of their brand awareness. And celebrities with a good reputation offer an extra layer of trustworthiness, which has worked well in the cosmetics industry,” he said.

Though the business move used to be mostly reserved for makeup artists in Korea, growing demand for live commerce and social media have opened doors for YouTubers and celebrities to jump on the bandwagon.

Thriving original design manufacturing businesses have also made creating a new brand easier.

According to data from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, the number of responsible cosmetics sellers rose from 3,884 in 2013 to 15,707 in 2019.

The figures indicate the number of manufacturers, distributors and sellers in the cosmetics industry.

Among those are cosmetics ODM businesses such as Cosmax which offers help to cosmetics companies in multiple stages of production ranging from planning, research, product development to quality management.

“We have over 600 business partners around the world including L‘Oreal and Clio Cosmetics,” one official at Cosmax said.

“From branding to product development and supplying, we can have everything ready for cosmetics brands who can then take over from the stage of marketing.”

While how much cosmetics brands rely on ODM businesses in production is different in each case, the relationship is not always made clear.

“How much of our involvement is required depends on each company. But generally speaking, ODM businesses take a backseat and let the brand enjoy the spotlight,” the official said.

While products from Korea’s premium cosmetics brands are made at in-house production facilities, mass-channel brands are often a joint project with ODM businesses, the official added.

Sung’s URIID, for instance, is only being sold on television shopping channels and its official website for now – a sales strategy that might not have been possible without her household name.

Professor Kim believes collaborations between celebrities and cosmetics companies will only become more common in the future.

“In the past, launching a cosmetics brand through a traditional distribution channel was much more costly. Now, all you need is a YouTube or Instagram account with companies that can produce and distribute your products when you place an order.“

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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