May 27, 2016

In the most recent BrandSquare webinar, Ben Chong, head of strategy at Anthem, and Kathryn Sloane, director of growth at SGK, explore some of the changing facets of the men’s grooming category, and how men’s beauty portfolios are regionally different.

Watch the entire webinar: Men’s Beauty Going Big in Asia: What Can Western Brands Learn?

The global male grooming market is expected to increase by more than five billion dollars in the next four years, which presents huge opportunities for brands to tap into. We already see the US and the UK leading the market in new product launches, however, Asia represents the largest amount of growth and share of the market with 65%.

Clearly, there is disconnect between the regions – the East has a well-established market that embraces men’s beauty products, while the West continues to introduce new products in hopes to catch up. The new products may have a difficult time succeeding in the West due to cultural reticence of many men, where some might feel uncomfortable paying that much attention to their outer beauty.

“We don’t necessarily see this cultural divide of East vs. West, it just happens that the particular trend has elevated itself particularly from Asia, Korea and Japan at the moment,” says Ben Chong.


Ben Chong believes this is because there is a divide between big B beauty, and little b beauty. Little b beauty comprises of products used for routine maintenance and instance results, like: shampoo, shaving gels, deodorant, and moisturizers.

“Little b products have been around for a long time, and they’re underlining message is often: get cleaned up and then get on to more important things,” says Ben Chong.

Big B beauty products are more self-indulgent and are used to express individuality that obtains a particular beauty goal, like: BB creams, lip balm, whitening cream, mascara, and foundation. Consumers of big B beauty products are more likely to expand on their daily beauty regimen by adding new products to the mix.

So, what has triggered this explosion of growth?


Some have attributed the growth to camo-creams by South Koreas military, along side the strong impact of K-pop culture. With the idolized nature of K-pop culture and then going into the army and putting on thick camo creams, the outcome of having bad skin is something Korean men want to avoid.

For example, there is now a military foundation line of natural camouflage makeup and post-training cooling and whitening masks to address the needs of these men. This is important for the Korean market specifically since 70% of military men us cosmetics in some form or another.

With male celebrities supporting men’s cosmetics, Korean men are the world’s top per-capita consumers of skincare products. In Korea, where big B beauty is socially accepted and encouraged, there is no surprise that the average man uses 13 different grooming products daily.

In other regions of the world, brands are trying to keep up with the male grooming market by creating parallel beauty portfolios. Now, more than ever before, men are looking to demonstrate their newfound personality and individuality through their grooming products.

As men mature from little b products to big B products, by encapsulating both of these ideals, and by doing it in a matter that men who want to look good are associating that with feeling good throughout their daily lives, brands can straddle both markets.

There seems to be some movement for Western brands with products like Axe, men are feeling more open to experiment with self-expression. The considerable changes Axe has undergone in the past 10 years from determining its self-worth to buyers and by calling attention to the “Axe Effect” is an invitation for men to find their magic and recognizes the individual characteristics of men rather than a condescending narrative.

While the message could be entertaining for a limited time, as the original audience grows up, the message must change, as the new audience expects more. There’s a whole new era facing men in the personal grooming department, so brands must address the differences in grooming habits. This may also mean changing media habits, or changing the way men receive their products, like through subscription-based delivery services.

According to Ben Chong, brands can leverage this opportunity in 5 ways:


Men are making more effort to better themselves, and continue to want more from the stereotypes regarding masculinity that brands have put upon them in the past. Brands must now project experiences that align with cultural tradition, grooming rituals, shopping habits, product trials, and by creating a fluid brand message from the shelf out.

For more insights about men’s beauty trends from around the world, download Ben’s full article in Patterns: Men’s Beauty Goes Big in Asia