Using male celebrities to endorse Korean cosmetic products (for both men and women) is a brilliant marketing idea because the endorsement attracts both Asian male and female customers to the beauty products and thus, increase the sales of this industry.
Before the idea of using male celebrities for Korean cosmetics advertisements, Korean female celebrities who appeared in K-dramas were and still are invited to be in these advertisements and this strategy has been proven to bring success to the Korean cosmetics industry. In South Korean Culture Goes Global, Kim and Ryoo mention that Kim Nam Ju, the actress from a hit TV drama of 1997, Model, brought LG Debon to become the cosmetics market leader after it casted Kim in its TV advertisements.
Nowadays, K-pop fans or Koreans in general are probably familiar with the images of not only female but also male celebrities in the cosmetics advertisements. Lee Min Ho in his button up shirt and pink bowtie with his charming smile on the sweet pink background of Etude House’s posters, or the to-die-for smile of Kim Hyun Joong while he is holding a tube of BB Cream for The Face Shop. These two famous celebrities with others such as SHINee and G-Dragon are not only spreading the Korean Wave fever all over Asia but they are also “enlisted by the country’s cosmetics firms as they try to expand beyond its borders to take on global giants like L’Oreal and Unilever across the continent.” (Yang, “South Korean boy bands pitch cosmetics to women and men”) Marketing manager of LG Household’s The Face Shop- the cosmetics brand that has over 1,000 overseas stores, Kim Hee-jeong, shares that cosmetics sales tend to mirror the popularity of Korean cultural exports, so K-pop starts are the best way to market their products (Yang, “South Korean boy bands pitch cosmetics to women and men”).
The first reason to explain why using male celebrities is an awesome marketing strategy is because it now even attracts male customers by making it acceptable for young Asian men to buy beauty products. With the conservative Korean culture, masculine men tend to have dominated the social scene. However, the latest numbers show a surprising trend of Korean men striving to look beautiful. Research firm Euromonitor says that South Korean men spend $495.5 million in total last year for cosmetics; that is nearly 21% of global sales of men’s cosmetics. The reason for this men’s cosmetics sales boom in South Korea is simple; it is all thanks to the handsome male celebrities posing as models in the advertisements of these cosmetics products. The beauty standard has evolved from strong masculine to a softer look of feminine (Cho, “Korean ‘Flower Men’ Buy 20% of the World’s Cosmetics for Men”). This look spreads all over East Asia as well. Lenard Heng, a 26-year-old Malaysian graphic designer responds when he was asked for the reasons of using makeup: “The male K-pop stars are very good looking and I think the makeup helps them look good. So why not me as well?” In Thailand, Pitak Lamsamang, 28 years old, shares, “In Korea male stars use foundation so a few of my guy friends in Bangkok have started wearing foundation too.” (Yang, “South Korean boy bands pitch cosmetics to women and men”)
These flawless looks of the flower men in the advertisements are now so trending in South Korea that there is even a TV show called “Get it beauty HOMME,” devoted for male audience to show them how to go through the skin care routine correctly, how to style their hair, groom their mustache and even wear eyeliner, do smoky eyes to go for a night out at the club. A beauty show obviously needs to use cosmetics products, and the names of the products will be mentioned so that the audience will know which one to use. After watching the show, the male audience might want to have the same look, use the same tricks for their own beauties so they will go and purchase the products that can help them to achieve their perfect and handsome looks. And there, the beauty products manufactures achieve their goals of making sales to the male population.
The second reason for why using male celebrities’ endorsement can boost up the sale of Korean cosmetics products is because the advertisements define a new way of success for the men in the Korean society. Obviously stated, the male stars in the advertisements of the beauty products are successful men in the Korean society. They have a huge number of fans watching and reading about them, screaming their names whenever they are seen and moreover, they have pretty good incomes. Their fine-looking appearances have set out the new standard for finding success in jobs, advancement and romance in a society where now, “appearance is power.” According to Roald Maliangkay, head of Korean studies at Australian National University, “effeminate male beauty is a marker of social success.”(Klug, “For S. Korean men, makeup a foundation for success”)
Expert says that the appearance does affect getting jobs in Korea. All applications require self-photos. Some owners are even known to have professional face reader join the interview process to make sure that they are not hiring unlucky or unsuitable employees based on their person’s characters from outer looks (Cho, “Korean ‘Flower Men’ Buy 20% of the World’s Cosmetics for Men”) Answering an AP reporter, Cho Won-huyk, a 24-year-old college student says, “Having a clean, neat face makes you look sophisticated and creates an image that you can handle yourself well.” (Klug, “For S. Korean men, makeup a foundation for success”) Especially in the modern days when more and more women become powerful in the workforce, the Korean men feel the need to touch up themselves to make them more confident and compatible. In addition to work environment, the romance field is affected by the flower boy trend as well. Korean women now tend to look for men with the flower looks like the male celebrities that they admire. They have growing expectation that men will take the time and effort to take care of their skin. So to satisfy their employers and their women, Korean men now use cosmetic products to erase or cover up their flaws.
The majority of the cosmetics ads which use male celebrities feature flower-boy-look celebrities but this does not apply for all cosmetics brands. Psy, the most recently famous Korean man who has been known all around the world due to his horse dance in the unforgettable Gangnam Style, appears on the ads of a Korean cosmetics brand Somang. Yes Psy does not own an angel face, soft look and slender body as many other flower boys on the ads. However, he is a successful man. What the brand says is that Psy is new; he is fresh and different. Also, this endorsement of Psy might tell male customers that they do not need to have flower look to be successful. As long as they know how to take care of their natural handsomeness by using Somang’s products, they still can achieve their success just like Psy, a world’s phenomenon. More than 200,000 bottles were sold for the first month the product it was released and the brand is expecting to sell one million by the end of the year 2013. (Lee, “Psy becomes Face of Korean Cosmetics Brand, Postage Stamps)
Using male celebrities in cosmetics ads brings such a positive effect to the sales of Korean men’s cosmetics products. Amorepacific, South Korea’s biggest cosmetics company and the mother of the famous Etude House brand, estimates the total sales of men’s cosmetics in South Korea this year will be more than $885 million (Klug, “For S. Korean men, makeup a foundation for success”).
The third reason to explain why using male celebrities for Korean cosmetics can increase the sale of the products. In Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?, the authors explains the phenomenon of using attractive male models in women’s cosmetics advertisements. Because the use of attractive female models in cosmetics advertisements became so popular, it became harder for the companies to stand out and attract their customers. “Therefore, Korean cosmetics companies abandoned this traditional advertising practice by using kkot minam male celebrities as their advertisement models.” (Kim. J, Han, Kim. D, Paramita) This strategy actually works in a country that recently enjoys the economic prosperity like Korea. Hofstede has stated in his book, “the more developed a country is, the more feminine the society will be.” More Korean women are getting in economic activities, enjoying higher social status and stronger financial power. Thus, they no longer need macho qualities or the strong authorities of men, become more accepted and attracted to the flower men look in cosmetics ads. When the women are attracted to the male models, they would love to use the products that the models endorse.( Kim. J, Han, Kim. D, Paramita)
Kim Jungcheon, CEO of South Korean cosmetics firm Tonymoly tells the truth behind this marketing strategy, “Using male K-pop starts charms the ladies.” (Yang, “South Korean boy bands pitch cosmetics to women and men”) How can it go from charming the ladies to leading them to buy the products? The streets of Myeongdong in Seoul are lined with many cosmetics stores. In front of each of these stores are life-size cardboard cutouts of mostly male celebrities such as Kim Hyun Joong for The Face Shop or Kim Soo Hyun for Beyond. As female fans wander from store to store, they pick out face masks that feature the face of their favorite stars. (Chloejn, “Why are male stars the models for female cosmetics”) The strategy of using male celebrities has also successfully applied to other female products, not just cosmetics. For example, when So Ji Sub began modeling for the undergarment brand Vivien, requests for posters and calendars highly increased which led to a growth in sales. So Ji Sub’s contract was extended for one more year because of that.
The influence of these flower men on purchasing women’s beauty products is not only among Korean women in South Korea, but also for among those who are in the States. The Korean community portal site, DCInside, recently created a poll asking the public to “vote on the male celebrity whose advertisements influenced women to open their purses the most.” (Ho, “Lee Min Ho Voted #1”) According to Ho, a total of 45,049 people took part in the poll and the results turned out that Lee Min Ho for Innisfree (2012) was voted the #1 male cosmetics model with 38.8 percent. Following him was Kim Hyun Joong who is still the spoke model for The Face Shop with 31.3 percent, and Lee Seung Gi for The Saem with only 8.7 percent. The cosmetics brands manufacture must have been really happy to see this result because they know that now their products are also broadly consumed by overseas customers.
Originally, using cosmetics was just for women. Nowadays, the Korean marketing strategy of using male celebrities has made it common for the male population to use makeup and go through their daily skin care routine just like women do while still attract a big number of female consumers. This is how this strategy kill two birds (the male and female population) with one stone (the strategy).
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Youtube. Kim Jae Won “Get It Beauty HOMME” part. 1.
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