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Brand to Know: Hera, Championing the Korean Beauty Industry

By Guan Tan

 
 

The story of the 23-year-old South Korean beauty label, Hera, begins with its name. Hera was the wife of the ancient Greek god, Zeus. In the history books, she was known for her aggressive and vengeful personality. Her sense of loyalty was befitting of the beauty brand's beginnings in the volatile South Korean beauty landscape of the 1990s. 

Back in the early 1990s, South Korea saw an influx of foreign beauty brands — amongst the foreign brands were Estēe Lauder, which entered the market in August 1991, and Clinique in December 1994. "The number of foreign brands entering the Korean market was on the rise. Global brands such as Lancome and Estee Lauder were penetrating customers' minds quickly through aggressive marketing schemes," the South Korean beauty brand, Hera, observed. 

 

At that point in time, beauty flagship stores were falling out of consumers' favour. Instead, the consumers were inclined towards departmental stores, for that was where these new and exciting foreign brands were retailing their products, and "taking over the high-end [beauty] market." 

The foreign brands' beauty retailing strategy was starkly different to that of traditional Korean beauty brands. Back then, local beauty brands focussed on door-to-door sales, selling to "young housewives and women". One of these local brands was Hera. 

According to the brand, there were advantages when it came to the traditional door-to-door beauty sales. Most important was the "counselling services" — consumers could have the most personalised skincare and cosmetic fit for their skin's needs. Yet, the local beauty industry had to beef up their presence in the beauty floors of local departmental stores. In October 1995, the South Korean beauty stronghold, Amorepacific, promptly stood up for the local beauty industry by introducing Hera — their higher-priced luxury beauty line at the beauty counters, "[competing] against the strong wave of foreign brands". 

Hera's efforts paid off when in 1999, a Brand Power Index Survey of the South Korean beauty landscape crowned the brand first in consumer popularity. "The brand rewrote [the] history of Korean cosmetics."

 

Over the past decade, the brand zeroed in on the technological advancements of their beauty products — establishing local research and international laboratories partnerships, and trademarking their skincare developments, particularly the "study of cell activities and bioactive substances". According to the brand, one of its technological hallmarks is the "Cell-Bio Technology", which is a "cell micmicking ingredient [that] helps to vitalise cells in order to improve the skin". 

While the brand may have begun with skincare, it now has its eye on the makeup sector, promoting what they dub the "Seoulista" look (another term that the brand has trademarked in 2013). 

The Seoulista look is essentially the current South Korean makeup aesthetic — clear and younger looking skin that is "flawless, semi-matte skin by way of cushion foundation and glow-enhancing primers, subtle eyeliner and coral or pink lipstick that does not veer too far from one's natural lip colour," T's senior beauty editor noted last year

In 2016, the brand made its first foreign venture by launching in China. This May marks the brand's first foray into Singapore. Hera will first launch a counter on the beauty floor of the Takashimaya Department Store in April before opening a flagship store in the later part of the year. "This is a strategic move for Hera in its expansion plans to fill the gap in luxury Korean beauty locally," the brand expressed. The launch in Singapore will include all skincare and beauty labels from the Hera brand —its womens and men's skincare, its popular UV Mist and Black cushion foundations, Rougeholic, eyeshadow and perfume lines.