Cosmetics Advertisements in Women's Magazines: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of China and Korea

By Yu, Seung Yeob; Park, Eun-A et al. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, April 20, 2015 | Go to article overview

Cosmetics Advertisements in Women's Magazines: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of China and Korea


Yu, Seung Yeob, Park, Eun-A, Sung, Minjung, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


The Asian cosmetics market is fast growing. As competition has intensified, companies have begun using a wide range of strategies to improve their positions in the market. For example, in 2012, Procter & Gamble announced that it would move its headquarters for skin care, cosmetics, and personal care to Singapore (Glazer, 2012). Among Asian countries, China receives the most attention from companies, as its cosmetic market is prospering with the increasing income and augmented spending power of the people (Kim, 2012). As the market has matured, consumers' needs and wants have diversified and become more sophisticated, offering a great opportunity for global cosmetics brands. China is now the world's second-largest market for luxury cosmetics and is on track to become its largest (Daneshkhu, 2013). The growth of the Chinese cosmetic market is led by foreign brands, as a large number of global cosmetic brands are competing intensely to attract consumers (Rhee, Koh, & Zhang, 2010). The top 10 brands selling in China's department stores are all foreign brands, including Korean (Kim, 2010). With rapid market growth, advertising competitiveness among brands has intensified. Since 2007, the Chinese cosmetics advertisement market has grown 10% or more every year (Fung Group, 2013).

The Korean cosmetics business has been growing rapidly as well. According to Euromonitor International (Shin, 2011), Korea has the 12th largest cosmetics and skin care market in the world, with a growth rate of 10% and higher in the past several years resulting from greater demand from diversifying tastes of local consumers and sales to overseas tourists. In 2010, the country's beauty product exports increased 80% from the previous year; China and Japan account for more than half of Korea's cosmetics exports. In China, the sales of Korean cosmetics brands are expected to increase with growing demand for high-end beauty products and the positive influence of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, that is the spread of Korean culture abroad (Kim, 2012).

As a form of social communication, advertising reflects a society's culture and values. Messages in the media mirror social and psychological beliefs and attitudes about, and values associated with, beauty, which can affect consumers' perceptions of their beauty ideal (Chan, Ng, & Williams, 2012; Luther, 2009). Cosmetics advertisements present the exemplary female prototype or the ideal beauty image of a society (Bjerke & Polegato, 2006). Comparison of advertisements in women's magazines published in different societies shows how beauty is represented in each culture (Frith, Shaw, & Cheng, 2005; Wu & Chung, 2011). Therefore, in the current study, we assumed that the quality and quantity of images in magazine advertisements would reflect consumers' preferences.

Culture is a significant factor to consider when transferring an advertising strategy across borders because communication styles are closely related to cultural norms (Hong, Muderrisoglu, & Zinkhan, 1987). Understanding the local culture and tailoring advertisements to reflect its values are prerequisites for successful advertising (Keegan, 1989). Although some scholars regard all Asian countries as homogeneous and having similar needs (Kefalas, 1990), Asia remains a cluster of markets with distinctive characteristics; the history, culture, and consumption patterns of each of these countries varies, which consequently influences advertising content (Tai, 1997). Furthermore, in many Asian countries, rapid industrialization has resulted in conflict between traditional and contemporary values. Cosmetics companies that wish to succeed in China and Korea should understand the differences between the two countries.

Our purpose in the current study was to add to the growing body of literature by examining the differences between cosmetics advertising in women's magazines published in Korea and China, in an attempt to compare the beauty ideal of each of these cultures. …

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