Retail in Asia


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with L’Oréal North Asia & China Chief Marketing Officer

L’Oréal has hosted its first-ever North Asia Beauty Industry Innovation Summit focusing on the future of beauty empowered by technology and innovation through co- creation in China, Japan and Korea.

SEE MORE: L’Oréal Group, Hotel Shilla and Anchor Equity Partners launch Shihyo

During the Summit, L’Oréal decoded the latest consumer trends in the ‘Beauty Triangle’ (China, Korea and Japan) around four key themes including ‘Self-Expressive Beauty’, ‘Supercharged Efficacy’, “Skinification’ and ‘Sensorial matters’. The company also illustrated key innovation breakthroughs echoing these trends, such as 3CE’s New Color Effects; Lancôme’s Dual LED Youth Treatment; YSL’s Touche Eclat Glow-Pact; Prada’s Paradoxe Fragrance; and Shu Uemura’s Shu Purifying Ritual.

Retail in Asia had the pleasure to talk with Ivy Li, L’Oréal North Asia and China Chief Marketing Officer. Together we discussed how culture comes into play in shaping a region’s consumer trends, upcoming initiatives for the North Asian region and the motive behind establishing a North Asia zone.


RiA: L’Oréal identified the latest consumer trends in the Beauty Triangle around four key themes mentioned above. How does culture come into play in shaping a region’s consumer trends? Do consumer trends differ in a different region, e.g. America or Southeast Asia?

Li: Deep-rooted oriental culture has always played an important role in shaping Asian consumers’ dreams for beauty.  We, therefore, see an emphasis on oriental beauty exquisiteness in consumer needs in areas such as sensation, the pursuit of flawless skin and possessing elegant manners.

Globalization and generational shifts have also accelerated the evolution of femininity and individuality. Younger generations, especially Generation Z, have become true ambassadors of self-expression with louder voices. Compared with western countries, self-expression and individuality are still somewhat framed in the social-cultural context in North Asia markets: not as bold and unapologetic as in the west, with recognisable differences between the cultures of China, Japan and Korea.  C-beauty, with its unique individuality, exhibits strength through personal statements that accept new trends and beauty aesthetics if it creates a trademark. K-beauty is moving away from templated perfect beauty looks to more individualistic expressions that pay homage to measured and moderate styles. And J-beauty, with a focus on softness and feminine elegance, pursues more subtle ways to differentiate self. 

RiA: Upon wrapping up the first-ever North Asia Beauty Industry Innovation Summit, should we expect more marketing initiatives to follow for this specific region?

Li: Our consumer-centric spirit enables L’Oréal: to capture the most updated market insights to support, facilitate and enrich the development of product innovation; offer go-to-market communication, digital marketing and collaboration with local retail partners; and to deliver the most optimal beauty experiences to consumers. Take product innovation, for example. We have the ability to spot the latest inspiring trends in the North Asia markets and leverage our strong research and development  capabilities to create successful products. L’Oréal Wonder Water haircare series and YSL foundation cushion are good examples of this.

Our go-to-market communication is also a highly effective tool. The Korea market, for example, can be a great gateway to spread iconic Asian beauty to the west and beyond through K-content – entertainment, music, etc. Korean influencers can act as regional or global ambassadors to spread influence and reach our consumers. Then if we look at digital marketing, we have seen the rapid growth and advanced development of e-commerce in China widely inspiring other Asian markets, showing that this region has become one of the most e-commerce savvy in the world. 

Source: YSL Beauty

RiA: How would you define the relationship between these key markets in the North Asia Zone? How is L’Oréal bridging the communication between each of them e.g. enhancing cross-industry co-creation? 

Li: Firstly, we are leveraging the unique strength of each market through what we term as the North Asia ‘Beauty Triangle’ – namely, C-Beauty, a fast-rising wave among Chinese consumers who value cultural confidence, premiumization and believe in digitisation. Then there is K-Beauty, an agile adaptation and creation in Korea with wide-spreading cultural influence through K-content, fast innovation and a strong ecosystem of vendors and suppliers. And J-Beauty is deep into expertise with a culture devoted to the quality of execution, solid science and mature market supervision.

Secondly, we have established an ecosystem to build powerful partnerships in the Beauty Triangle through working with advanced and specialized local partners to decode local insights and detect local trends through open innovation with local experts and companies. The strategized structure allows us to quickly translate ideas into business initiatives and activations through co-creation and co-development.

Thirdly, our R&D centres are based at strategic locations in China, Japan and Korea, allowing better synergy for innovation both internally and externally. Our marketing initiatives and actions are driven through deep consumer insights, ensuring we keep our finger on the pulse and staying up to date with key trends. 

RiA: Do you foresee the latest consumer trends in the Beauty Triangle – ‘Self-Expressive Beauty’, ‘Supercharged Efficacy’, ‘Skinification’, and ‘Sensorial Matters’ – to continue dominating the industry in the next five years?

Li: At L’Oréal, we are embedded with a consumer-centric spirit, closely monitoring trends from social, consumer and different markets across North Asia, where beauty is very much rooted in culture and dynamism. Trends are never static, but always evolving. The shaping of trends is driven by multiple factors, such as societal, cultural and industry-related issues, as well as shifts in consumers’ values and the evolution of their needs.


RiA: In your opinion, what are the core elements required in a brand to be successful in the Beauty Triangle? Or is it ever possible for a single brand/item to contain the perfect formula?

Li: The North Asia region and its consumers are dynamic and diverse. To be successful in the region, brands need to evolve together in tandem with the multi-dimensional needs of their consumers. I’d point out three core elements which are culture, product and consumer relationship.

First, the culture. Brands need to ensure their cultural relevance and empower consumers’ self-expression. Second, high quality and innovative products are essential. Brands should invest more in product efficacy, leveraging cross-region and cross-industry collaboration to provide solutions for consumers’ ever-changing needs and desires. Last, but not least, understanding your consumers. Building strong and lasting relationships with them can help brands prosper continuously.

To be successful in a multi-faceted and diverse region such as North Asia, brands should always optimize and agilely adapt to satisfy and serve needs, stay relevant and aspirational, and keep innovating to stay ahead of the curve.

RiA: What was the motive behind establishing a North Asia Zone for the beauty industry?

Li: L’Oréal established the North Asia Zone in 2021 to create synergy of five geographically and culturally connected markets of mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. While each market is unique, we see a lot of cultural relevance and commonalities in beauty needs within the region. Our goal, with the North Asia Zone set-up, is to leverage and activate this unique ecosystem, give greater coherence to consumer behavior, create more synergy across North Asia markets to unleash sustainable growth for all and inspire the world.

RiA: Among the three key markets in the Beauty Triangle – China, Korea and Japan – which do you think would make a strongest comeback post-pandemic? 

Li: Challenges and opportunities co-exist in this era. From what we have seen the beauty market is agile and has great resilience, which always bounces back quickly in the face of adversity. In North Asia, each market has their own context, situation and opportunities. At L’Oréal, we have continued to focus on the excellence of innovation as well as maintaining trusting relationships with consumers and partners.

SEE MORE: L’Oréal North Asia revenues up 11 percent in Q3

We are confident that each market will continue to leverage its unique strengths in driving innovation and growth, and together, the North Asia region will continue to lead as the global growth engine.