The Rise of AmorePacific

By William P Barnett, Mooweon Rhee, Dongyub Shin
2017 | Case No. SM274 | Length 17 pgs.

In 2017, AmorePacific (AP) was the world’s seventh-largest cosmetics company, competing head-to-head with leading companies like L’Oréal and Estée Lauder. This case describes AP’s unique approach to beauty products, which reflected the corporate credo of “Harmony and Balance” and other philosophies that traced their roots in Eastern philosophy. AP’s view of yin and yang, for instance, was integral to the company’s approach to R&D. The case also looks at how AP approached the beauty and skin care needs of Korean women initially, developing new make-up and skin care products as well as entirely new beauty routines—based on an Eastern medicine view that the body undergoes substantial changes every seven years.

The platform upon which AP formulated and implemented its strategies could be explained as a “cushion-like,”flexible, and adaptable organization structure. While many Korean companies continue to be heavily male-oriented, the AP organization was quite unusual. Respect for women, a progressive approach to childcare and flexible schedules, and open communication were hallmarks of how AP operated. AP employees were expected to become “creative craftsmen” who embraced new ways to create new beauty products. The products they created, from the IOPE Air Cushion to the Laneige Beauty Sleeping Pack, reflected this approach.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the fundamentals of the Korean beauty industry, as well as AmorePacific’s corporate philosophy, which draws heavily on Eastern philosophies. The case study also provides an interesting timeline of the company’s evolution from a small family industry selling handmade products, to a global brand with exponential sales growth. The case offers insights into Korean corporate culture, and how AP’s flexibility differed from the more traditional Korean chaebol approach.
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