Majority of Southeast Asian men are still quite shy and not quite open about walking voluntarily into a shop that sells skincare and grooming products.
“But they’re very obedient. When you teach them how to use the products, they follow religiously,” said Patrick Liew, regional retail and education director of Kiehl’s, the American apothecary skincare brand.
Men, generally, don’t like to try products at the counter, but when given sachet samplers, which is customary at Kiehl’s, they always come back to buy the products that work for them, Liew added.
That is one of the advantages of premium brands like Kiehl’s over supermarket and drugstore brands, said Liew.
“You need an expert to teach men how to use it. These experts monitor you and adjust your routine accordingly. It’s a team effort,” he added.
Kiehl’s is among many brands that were quick to respond to an increased demand for men’s skincare products in the last few years. Apart from unisex products—packaged in neutral bottles and jars—the company founded 165 years ago in New York’s East Village has also churned out essentials formulated especially for the male population.
Next year, it will launch in the Philippines the Age Defender range, a men’s anti-aging line that Liew said is now No. 1 in its category in the United States since it launched this year.
The Age Defender will be one of the big launches for the brand here, and will include the first anti-aging serum for men from the brand.
“For women, there will be many surprises,” said Liew. “Following our global initiative, we are eliminating parabens in our products. There’s no definitive study of their ill effects, but that’s what our customers want, and we listen to them. All our new launches will be paraben-free.”
Driven by the huge emerging middle class, the Philippines has the strongest growth for the Kiehl’s brand in the Asean countries, said Sher Le Chua, the new general manager of L’Oreal Luxe in the Philippines. Kiehl’s is part of the L’Oreal Luxe portfolio that also includes Lancôme and Shu Uemura, among others.
“It’s an old brand, it has a long history, and our key initiative is to drive awareness,” Chua said.
Cleansers, serums, toners and the men’s line are main growth drivers, she added. Since Kiehl’s has a largely clinical approach to skincare, and uses natural ingredients derived from plants, “It resonates with the Filipino consumer,” Chua said.
The brand is also taking advantage of how digitally connected Filipino consumers are, with an e-commerce site in the works.
“The Philippines is very digitally forward with 41 million Facebook users,” Chua noted. The core Kiehl’s market here is aged 20-30, then up to age 40. “And most of them are always online.”
With the e-commerce site, slated to launch “maybe by end of the year,” Kiehl’s is merely continuing a platform that it has already started on Facebook, providing skincare and product education to customers, she added.
“It not only brings awareness to the brand, but engages them to come to our counters and our events. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. We want to recommend the best routine for each of our customers.”