While Chinese beauty consumers may be known for diligent skincare routines, lipstick is causing a major buying frenzy. The fastest-growing category in China’s beauty market, lipstick takes up a 22% market share for color cosmetics and is used by 95% of urban Chinese women.
L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beauty China finds that brands are cashing in on this trend on China’s Tmall through elaborate lipstick marketing campaigns. When MAC launched its new Tmall store in May 2017, the brand took advantage of the platform’s Super Brand Day promotion program and created a marketing campaign centered around its Bullet Head line of lipsticks. It launched a UGC campaign on Weibo asking users to show off photos of their creative “lip art,” enlisting key opinion leaders (KOLs) to get the ball rolling by posting their own creations. It also featured a series of Miaopai videos with celebrities and KOLs appealing to a young audience, including makeup artist Li Dongtian, supermodel Ming Xi, and blogger Kakakaoo, who is a member of China’s “post-95” generation (those born after 1995). The campaign hashtag ended up receiving 350 million views.
The strategy paid off: one shade of lipstick sold 60,000 units on the first day of the launch and MAC saw the highest first-day sales for a premium beauty brand on Tmall. The Bullet Head line continues to make up the vast majority of the brand’s sales on the platform and drives its growth.
This wasn’t the only lipstick craze in China this year. Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Serum is a cult product in the country, and the beauty brand teamed up with superstar actress Yang Mi for its special-edition “Color of Yang Mi” lipstick shade, generating both online buzz and sales.
Lipstick shades that develop a reputation for having the power to attract boys’ attention, known colloquially as “man-slaying colors” (斩男色), have been especially known to take off in sales. YSL’s Glossy Stain in shade number 12 is widely known as the best example of a “man-slaying color,” while others include Armani’s Lip Maestro liquid lipstick in shade number 500 and the Dior Addict Lip Glow balm in shade number 001.
China isn’t the only Asian beauty market where lipstick mania has hit hard, especially with the younger generation. In South Korea, sales of lipstick for children grew by 549% last year.