Learn K-trend to Uncover K-beauty
Learn K-trend to Uncover K-beauty
  • By An, yongchan, editor in chief
  • Accepted 2023.10.20 16:33
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Analysis on Six Books Revealing Life in Korea

"The trend itself is a market.” This is a quote by Henrik Vejlgaard, one of the world’s leading trend sociologists. This is perhaps why bookstores in Korea around the year-end abound with trend-related books on consumers, seemingly reflecting the psyche of Korean people of having to discern the trend for survival. You must then also look through trend-related books in Korea to gain insight into the Korean market and read the general trend in K-beauty. I’d like to introduce six books on the latest trends out of the top 20 best-sellers that fall under the keyword of “trend” on Kyobo Books, one of the leading bookstore chains in Korea, as of December 22, 2022. Contact THE K BEAUTY SCIENCE to learn more about the authors of these books. I will give you a rundown on the authors. - An editor’s note 


Trend-related books available in a large bookstore in Korea ⓒTHE K BEAUTY SCIENCE
Trend-related books available in a large bookstore in Korea ⓒTHE K BEAUTY SCIENCE


Trend Korea 2023 (by Seoul National University Consumer Trend Center including Kim Ran-do and Jeon Mi-young, Mirae Books) 

The year 2023 is the year of the black rabbit. 

I chose RABBIT JUMP as the keyword of this book, hoping that readers would leap forward wisely and flexibly just as in the way rabbits can. 

Of those 10 topics the book has selected, the first one is Redistribution of the Average. According to the article, the world is polarized especially in areas where personalization is vital, like beauty, finance, education, and healthcare. The beauty tech sector has taken a step further from AI-based data analysis, moving into advancements in production technologies. Amorepacific won the Innovation Award for Lip Factory by Color Tailor Smart Factory System at CES 2021. This technology takes a photo of your face and recommends the lip color that best suits you and creates a personalized lipstick on spot. The service is offered as a pilot project in Amore Seongsu, Seoul, South Korea. Amorepacific also unveiled the Mind-linked Bathbot, which analyzes emotional indicators based on brain waves and makes a bath bomb right in front of you with a fragrance and colors that are the best for you. LG H&H is servicing CHI Color Master system in the US. It is a hair color dispenser that instantly blends hair dyes to deliver the hair color of your choice. 

Other topics include the Arrival of a New Office Culture: Office Big Bang, and Born Picky, Cherry-sumers. The keyword, cherry-sumers is being used in sample kits and trial kits in the beauty industry. With these kits, you can try an entire product line from skin toner, essence, and cream at a much lower price than the actual product for one week. TAMBURINS, a premium fragrance brand, is selling categorized sample kits worth KRW 3,000-5000.

Remaining keywords are Buddies with a Purpose: Index Relationships (relationships categorized based on indexes); Irresistible! The New Demand Strategy (the new strategy that makes it impossible to cut it without buying it); Thorough Enjoyment: Digging Momentum (people who are more advanced than enthusiasts and fansumers); Jumbly Alpha Generation (the arrival of those born after 2010); Unveiling Proactive Technology (a technology that offers what you need preemptively before you ask for it); Magic of Real Spaces (the power of places equipped with appealing concept and themes offering an exotic experience); and Peter Pan and the Neverland Syndrome (the Neverland syndrome that delays adulthood as much as you can). 

Kim Ran-do, a professor of consumer science at SNU, in the preface of this book, cited an excerpt from another book, Common Sense by Lee Byung-nam, the former CEO of BCG Korea to say “Now, as industrial conditions enter a new phase every two to three years with new competitors emerging due to the volatility of the industrial cycle, ‘systems and practices must be overhauled every three years.’ ... The crisis itself is not the problem. Our attitude towards it is. In the era of transformation, the relative word of ‘change’ is not ‘remain.’ Now, the options we have are either ‘change or die.’”


2023 Trend Note (by VAIV Company Life Change Observatory, Book-stone)

VAIV Company Life Change Observatory monitored and analyzed approximately 19,000 keywords on day-to-day conversation, brands and situations using VAIV Company’s (former Daum Soft) technology, the first generation big data and AI company.

They focused on ‘independent people who have lived alone for a long time’ and identified the key values of our times: effectively achieving our goals, staying healthy conveniently, and achieving independence while taking care of yourself. It’s notable that consumption was the most talked-about topic in the book. You can say that the changing trends have prompted people to consume things. What will you spend money on? How are you going to pay? Are you going to own it, or share it? The change in our perception of money and the change in the means and the channels of payment will likely bring about change in our everyday life. 

From the top left, Trend Korea 2023, 2023 Trend Note, and Trend Monitor 2023.From the bottom left, Friendly Gossip on Trends 2023, Gen Z Trends 2023, and Life Trends 2023.ⓒRespective Publishers
From the top left, Trend Korea 2023, 2023 Trend Note, and Trend Monitor 2023.From the bottom left, Friendly Gossip on Trends 2023, Gen Z Trends 2023, and Life Trends 2023.ⓒRespective Publishers

The introduction of the book picked efficiency, achievement, convenience, health (including that of our planet), ego, and independence as important values of our times. The book underscores the importance of taking action. To celebrate Earth Day, people bought Donggubat Shampoo Bars. Donggubat seeks to become a brand that will usher in sustainable lifestyle created by all people, including those with disabilities 

The first section talks about identity. That is, we should look into the lives of people as independent beings, rather than as Millennials and Gen Z, which are terms used by the older generations when referring to them. Section two talks about the new sense of economy and payment methods of the younger generations. The third section analyzes subscription services, a new way of gaining possession of things. 

This book concludes, saying, “New consumers, that is, those who were born in the 1990s, who manage their lives on their own from A to Z based on their own taste, are probably the ones transforming Korea. Instead of looking at daring exploits, you must instead look into their day-to-day lives. Not because they are large in number or because they consume more, but because they are the ones that set the standards. This will change everything, and this is where business opportunities lie. You must envision Korea where they have become the norm.”


◆ Trend Monitor 2023 (by Macromill Embrain, Secret House)

A comprehensive research firm Macromill Embrain is not only a company with over 1.6 million consumer panels in Korea, but also panel big data® experts who collect and evaluate the action data of panels. They also actively communicate with other individual researchers through Trend Monitor (trendmonitor.co.kr) and EZ Survey (ezsurvey.co.kr), websites where you can browse through everyday issues about general consumers.

Macromill Embrain investigated general consumers and the newest trends by dividing the life of Korean consumers into four categories: Life, culture, work, and society. 

First, Macromill Embrain outlined the social trend as a ‘reverse experience with different roles played by different generations.’ They expect that the new year will be a year when the common sense, intelligence, and information from the old days will no longer be valid and when dividing people into varying generations becomes pointless. Previously, women in their 20s were more interested in relationships, while men in their 20s thought it was more paramount to set clear goals and focus on heading towards achieving said goals. They predicted that the gender conflict especially between those in their 20s would become worse. The social trend would also include ‘Reverse Mentoring’ between people in their 20s and 30s and their parents’ generation.

The culture category décors summed up as the ‘butterfly effect of the right to choose content, and the era of vertical preferences.’ The existing media would lose their power and authority as their right to edit and curate content has been undermined. The book also explains why we need to zero in on the preference and the lifestyle of the 5% of the population on the opposite ends of the bell curve of normal distribution. The public consumes content as a means to relieve their ‘anxiety’ caused by being stuck somewhere between the reality they can’t control and the uncertain future. They also forecast the revival of brick and mortar stores when COVID-19 becomes an endemic, because offline stores are differentiated places where customers can try new products and services, increasing customer touchpoints.

Third, in the life category, the general public is expected to increasingly concentrate on select options by choosing small but clear benefits over big but dubious benefits. They predicted that consumers would seek to save time and money and at the same time consume these resources in a more meaningful way by concentrating them on select purposes. Consumers will take more interest in the 5 Rs (i.e. Refuse to use unnecessary things. Reduce the number of things you buy. Reuse. Recycling. Use products that Rot). 

Fourth, in the work category, consumers who have fully enjoyed the psychological comfort of working from home are forecast to seek various solutions to reduce their stress and pursue security at work.

Between April and May 2022, Macromill Embrain conducted a survey of panel members (30,000 people in their teens up to those in their 50s) who installed the Embrain panel power app and found that the beauty app they spent the most time on per month from the highest were Olive Young (13.3%), Hwahae (4.9%), Beauty Point (4.4%), Kakao Hairshop (1.7%), and zamface (1.4%).


◆ Friendly Gossip on Trends 2023 (by Innocean Insight Group, Think Goods)

The book provides insights into the 2023 trends through four keywords that are closely related to our lives as identified by Innocean Insight Group: Pastime, everyday life, the world, and marketing, in addition to the ‘special report’ produced based on brand index survey. The group gives consumer insights by predicting the flow of socio-cultural changes grounded in a diverse range of data to address problems faced by their clients and prescribes which direction they should be headed in the mid- to long-term. 

In the first part, the book touches on ‘pop places’ by exploring many aspects of pop stores that have emerged as the latest hot places to go to; the ‘hot place navigation’ that introduces how to search for changing data and how to find authentic hot places led by Millennials and Gen Z; ‘acting up to the concept,’ a new pastime of Gen Z with which they create new personas based on particular concepts; and the ‘drinking practice of Millennials and Gen Z,’ which examines the new drinking culture that has been created as a result of social distancing. As for ‘acting up to the concept,’ it is also popular to put on makeup to make yourself over to represent a specific concept you’d like to mimic. People also buy makeup products for the makeover. 

In the second section, everyday life, the book talks about the ‘second life on earth’ that describes the changes that resulted from non-face-to-face life; ‘journal on my godseng’ (a combination of the word god and the Korean word ‘seng,’ meaning life, referring to a diligent and exemplary life by following a productive routine) that introduces the new lifestyle that has become prevalent among Millennials and Gen Z; ‘It’s rather great!’ that examines ‘activities you can do by yourself’ and the move made by companies in reaction to this development; and ‘great procrastination,’ referring to people who gather for different purposes generating a new outcome. Notably, this section introduces beauty devices that are growing rapidly as they’ve increasingly become simpler to manipulate.

The third part, the world, covers ‘why spend money?’ which tells a story of penny pinchers who are set to replace followers of the yolo lifestyle; ‘Virtual YouTubers’ who became new idols by wearing digital masks; the ‘fashionable X’ in which a story unfolds on Generation X and how they reject the standardized image of the middle aged and make their presence felt in fashion; and ‘an exchange next to an art museum’ about the art tech of ants (a derogatory term for local retail investors coined by the media) who have begun showing up in the art market.

In the fourth part, Marketing, the book explores ‘great taste,’ an assessment on the entry of luxury brands that entered the F&B business; ‘What are benefits?,’ which summarizes a variety of subscription services; ‘performance marketing 2.0,’ which suggests performance branding by taking a step further from performance marketing; and the ‘eco shift,’ which probes into the hip changes taking place in eco-friendly marketing. As an example of eco-friendly marketing in the era of ESG 2.0, referring to aggressive and pre-emptive ESG management in a pursuit for sustainable business, L’Occitane has released its Upcycling Shop Tray that turns discarded plastic into home decor objects in July 2022. Amorepacific also attracted media attention by opening a Refill Station in October 2020, with many beauty brands like LG H&H and aromatica following suit. 


◆ Gen Z Trends 2023 (by University Tomorrow 20s Lab, Wisdom House)

This is a book by University Tomorrow 20s Lab, a research firm focused on people in their 20s. The book selected four keywords: hyper-personalization (i.e. hyper-individualism or living a life by following even more individual way than before), the portfolio generation, shortformable, and digging consumption as trending issues for Gen Z (people born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s) in 2023.

The first Gen Z trend is ‘hyper-personality.’ Taking personal body profile photos that flaunt fit, muscular bodies, for example, is both a personal milestone aimed at achieving more specific goals and the means to reveal your unique personality. Thus, Gen Z cherishes their presence and character. They strive to maximize their hyper-personality when it comes to their career view based on which they continue to build diverse experiences from work and hobbies, the consumption culture of choosing to enhance the value of their lives instead of opting for temporary satisfaction, and the way they enjoy content by focusing on a character’s traits over the storyline. 

New consumers, that is, people born in the 1990s, 

who manage their lives on their own from A to Z based on their own taste are probably the ones transforming Korea.... 

Instead of looking at daring exploits, 

you must instead look into their day-to-day lives. 

Not because they are large in number or because they consume more, but because they are the ones that set the standards. 

This will change everything, and this is where business opportunities lie. 

You must envision Korea where they have become the norm. 

- An excerpt from 『2023 Trend Note』

The second issue is the ‘portfolio generation.’ They dream of expanding their career instead of strengthening their career. For Gen Z, flipping jobs represents how capable you are. They are ready to pack their stuff and leave whenever they get a chance to move to other companies that offer better opportunities and benefits. They expand their career by attempting a variety of work instead of being bound to one job and thus create a versatile portfolio. You must explore ways to change the corporate culture instead of sticking to formalities to appeal to Gen Z and figure out the way to achieve synergy. 

The third issue is ‘shortformable,’ meaning content with crucial scenes and attractive characters win more audiences. Whereas being Instagrammable was the measure of success for the past couple of years, shortformable content, which refers to videos that are one minute or less, are captivating the audience. Fashion, beauty, hot places, content, and memes that Gen Z think are hip or trendy are all made into short form content.

The fourth issue is ‘digging consumption,’ an act of digging into something you love to learn and expand your taste and value by sparing no expense. For them, the most important thing, in the order, is cost-effectiveness (price-to-performance ratio), emotional-effectiveness (psychological satisfaction achieved even though the product/service may be a little expensive), and usage-effectiveness (price-to-usage ratio). Gen Z gladly open their purses to get a product that may be costly but provides continuous satisfaction in daily life, or products that they could live without but that still enriches and improves their lives. Good examples of such products are genetic testing, health supplements, whiskey, wine, and luxurious hairstyling tools. After COVID-19, perfumes transformed from emotionally effective items to usage effective items that cheer you up day to day, instead of something you wear when going out. Consequently, multi-perfumes (perfumes you can buy for fabric, rooms, and body) and incense sticks are going viral. 

The book assessed the marketing codes for captivating Gen Z as being space, tradition, and convenience stores. Hot places frequently visited by Gen Z are a space where Gen Z become the protagonist instead of the brand, a space where they can dig into their favorite things, a space with a unique identity besides Seongsu and Hongdae, and the expansion of a spatial experience with blurred boundaries between the virtual and the real world. Moreover, Gen Z takes Korea’s unique identity as the country’s hip characteristics and hopes to preserve it. At the same time, they also view convenience stores as a platform where they can try different brands. The number of convenience stores nationwide have reached 49,000 as of the end of 2021


◆ Life Trends 2023 (by Yong-seob Kim, Bookie)

The writer Kim Yong-seob is the Director of Sharp Imagination Lab and he studies trend insights and business creativity. He proposes ‘conspicuous non-consumption’ as the keyword for the consumption pattern in 2023. Kim says, “Conspicuous consumption is not the antonym for conspicuous non-consumption. They share the same idea of the desire to flaunt what you have. From the company’s perspective, they appear to mean two opposite things but from consumer’s perspective, they are very similar. As such, companies and consumers have no choice but to view conspicuous non-consumption from different angles and thus they react differently.” In the book, Kim presented non-consumption and non-spending, vintage, beginners of tennis, workation, four-day workweek, second house, serves you right and schadenfreude, clean tech, abstinence and reduction, and scale and detail as 10 keywords that outline the life trends in 2023. 


Edited·Photos by An Yong-chan 

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