Interview with leading Product Developer: how one Korean beauty brand churns out innovative products at lightning speed
Since launching Peach and Lily about two and a half years ago, I’ve mostly kept 15+hour workdays and had very few weekends off. Of all the things that I do at Peach and Lily, one of my biggest joys is going to Korea and scouring the country for the latest and best in beauty. It’s perks like this that remind me of how much passion I have for this job, and keep me going with a smile (most of the time).
And a huge part of this research is engaging with all sorts of experts in the beauty industry - and being inspired, moved, and downright awed by folks I have the privilege to meet, befriend and learn from.
The first week of January was special to me. I was able to kick off 2015, and spend the day at Mizon, one of our favorite brands for the cutting edge innovation, the heavy-duty science, all with whimsical packaging. I spent hours speaking to a brilliant and quiet woman who is a powerhouse at Mizon.
Meet Ms. Kim Woo Kyung who leads Product Development for Mizon. She is one of those rare individuals who can take something abstract as it remains a clinical and scientific detail, and translate it into a delightful product that smells good, feels good and makes your skin, well, obscenely radiant. I tried some of her latest launches and couldn’t understand how my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged skin could actually glow.
Here are the highlights of my (translated) interview with this insightful and astoundingly talented woman who we can all thank for Mizon’s products:
Could you tell me how Mizon is able to create so many products that consumers love so much?
It’s actually quite simple. It’s all about listening intently and learning from consumers. They’re the best teachers for what needs to be done better and what must be launched. We go out of our way as a company to have extensive focus group tests, consumer interviews, comprehensive 360 degrees feedback and data gathering. When a company cares - really, truly cares - about what people actually are looking for in products, it becomes much easier to figure out what the next big product launch should be.
Do you actually test your beta products with consumers then?
Absolutely. We have a huge funnel process that people don’t see, but an incredible amount of filtering happens with each launch. We will start off with 100 ideas, whittle it down to 50 concepts, then 20 beta products, extensively test, re-formulate, test some more, gather feedback, and then ultimately launch one stellar product. We don’t just test incomplete products, but we will test products that are fully packaged, and we will only launch the products that passed every single test with flying colors…and that’s probably why so many of our products then become a “bestseller.” Each product really does get so much love from our customers. But yes, the feedback loop that we’ve developed and incorporated into our development process is a very robust and perhaps quite differentiated one compared to other beauty brands.
That’s amazing. How, though, is it possible to just so quickly create so many new products?
That has a lot to do with our culture and where management places a priority and what receives attention and budget. Our research team is foundational to our brand, and a huge part of our budget goes into research versus marketing, and that’s how we’re able to move quickly. Also, our sister company just launched that is a full suite manufacturing facility with the highest end capabilities, which strategically allows us to move at lightning speed, and fully control the process.
So what’s next? What’s trending in Korea that you think will be a big thing in 2015?
While we are known to be very innovative with things like creating a Starfish Cream and the first CC Cream in Korea, we always remember that it goes back to the basics. Hydration and anti-aging products. Anti-aging products still comprises the largest sales - both in terms of dollars and units sold - in the beauty industry in Korea, and it’s not all the edgy, crazy ideas that women gravitate towards. Women want tried and true things with a small portion of their vanity table dedicated towards some experimentation. And so for us, it’s all about delivering the basics - but better. With better ingredients, better delivery mechanisms, and better textures. And we predict that in 2015, hydration and products that deliver deep, deep moisture and get rid of the “sok dang-geem” (inner dryness that leads to uncomfortable and tight skin) that so many women complain about. The standard for skin and hydrated skin in Korea is unparalleled compared to anywhere else in the world - so our challenge is to create products that really deliver results. And we are able to achieve that, and I think it will be very exciting because the science only gets better and better. In about a few years, I think people will be shocked at how effective skincare products might be as technology continues to improve at an exponential rate. And Seoul will likely lead that march towards better and better beauty science in the global arena. And within Seoul, Mizon will be an R&D Creative Lab to keep a close eye on.
We believe you, Mizon! Every time I go back to Mizon for our regular meetings each month or two I’m back, the conference room is filled to the brim with new products that I hadn’t seen just a mere 4-6 weeks ago. Incredible. I have a newfound appreciation for the democratized way this cutting edge beauty brand approaches its product development - by truly listening to consumers’ needs and requests for a dream product. We hope that you see a bit of this dedication and passion for delighting and taking care of the consumer in Mizon’s products a bit more as that is the main thing that shone through in this interview. A big thank-you, Mizon, for listening to your consumers!