Last October, Estée Lauder launched a new brand, Osiao (pronounced O-shao) intended for Asian consumers. But make no mistake about it: the target audience is primarily Chinese. The strategy of the U.S. group is remarkable: it does not consist of creating a Westernized version of a beauty brand (which is the strategy pursued by L'Oréal with Yue Sai, for instance), but to create a beauty brand that is essentially Chinese. As Fabrizio Freda says: "It will be a brand with a unique position, a brand that will give consumers a sense of being local, of being really dedicated to them".
So what does it consist of? It is a brand that builds on the fundamental concepts of beauty in China: external beauty is the reflection of internal well-being. In Chinese, health and well-being are both conveyed by the word, Jiankang - an adjective meaning healthy, whole; where the two ideograms signify Jiàn 健 (strong, to be good at, in good health) and Kang 康 (abundant, in peace). Here, it is seen from the perspective of holistic health where beauty reflects health, and where health is the result of overall harmony. Viewed in such a context Western beauty brands remain merely "cosmetic" - i.e., affect only the surface. Chinese beauty brands (as also Japanese brands) have a much broader spectrum: they refer back to health and well-being.
This concept of beauty has consequences that Osiao exploits:
- It positions itself as the "radiant" brand - its catchphrase is "to reveal the radiance of your skin".
- Its name is composed of 5 letters (an auspicious number) and starting and ending with the same letter, it aspires to be a sign of harmony.
- All essential ingredients are derived from traditional Chinese medicine.
- The range includes both skincare and food supplements.
- The counters remind one of traditional Chinese apothecaries, equipped with wooden cabinets.
- Its beauty advisers adopt a method of skin diagnosis on the lines of traditional Chinese medicine and develop local massage techniques to help the skin absorb the product.
With Osiao, Estée Lauder adopts the same approach as Hermès did with Shangxia: i. e., build a premium brand based on Chinese values and know-how - in other words, create a Chinese luxury beauty brand (just like Herborist - the brand created by a prominent Chinese actor, Shanghai Jawa). This new business model should be studied closely: it is proof that all the players (Western as well as Chinese) are in the process of revolutionizing the world of brands.