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Q&A with Brian Oh Founder of VENN – Skincare streamlined. Tailored to modern life

The Red Tree have previously worked with VENN to develop a UK entry strategy which included market trends, competitor analysis, brand positioning, marketing strategy, NPD plan and retail strategy. We are now working closely with VENN as their Country Managers after their successful global launch onto Net-a-Porter.

Brian Oh is the Co-Founder and CEO of VENN. A long-time devotee of luxury skincare, Brian was working as a corporate lawyer at a leading international law firm when the seed of the idea for VENN first took root. Although keen to take care of his skin, Brian’s 16-hour days meant he had little time for complicated skincare regimes. When he tried to find a brand that offered luxurious skincare solutions in one or two quick, simple steps, he was offered the same expensive seven step skincare regimes. He realised that there was a gap in the market for high performance, streamlined skincare that was both effective and easy to use. Brian relocated to the West Coast to work for another law firm, advising start-up companies. From there he joined a startup accelerator in Silicon Valley as Managing Director, advising and mentoring new companies in South Korea and the US. Shortly after this, Brian decided to use the insight gained when searching for simple skincare in New York city. Together with Kevin Mun, he co-founded VENN, a concise collection of highly effective, streamlined skincare solutions.

How did you come up with the brand name, VENN? Is there a meaning behind it?

Great question! The brand name, VENN, comes from Venn diagram in geometry—the overlapping concentration of different elements. It reflects the brand’s intersection of science, nature and lifestyle, which are the three key pillars that form the brand’s DNA. So, consistent with our brand name, the logo for VENN layers the “V” and the “N,” forming a Venn diagram that visually echoes the name and coveys the integrative qualities of the brand.

Why did you decide to approach chemists in South Korea rather than chemists from New York City, the city where you live in?

South Korea is at the forefront of skincare technology and innovation, which also has driven the global K-Beauty phenomenon. So, given my Korean cultural background, if I created a skincare brand, I wanted it to be based on and driven by the skincare technology and innovation from South Korea. Also, despite the long history of skincare advancements in South Korea, it seemed that outside Korea, and especially in the U.S., K-Beauty has been defined largely by facial sheet masks and fun, trendy products. I wanted to introduce the “other side” of K-Beauty, by creating a brand backed by science and technology in South Korea, that would compete with other global brands in the premium, luxury space.

VENN opts for a streamlined skincare routine approach with a focus on efficiency and convenience. How did you arrive at this philosophy when most K-Beauty brands are advocates for 10-step routines?

My life as a corporate attorney with the crazy, long working hours made a multi-step skincare routine practically impossible. Even a 3-to-5 step routine was often too many, and so I couldn’t even imagine trying a 10-step or 12-step routine. So, out of necessity and need, I started looking for a streamlined skincare solution that didn’t require compromising on the efficacy. I couldn’t find a brand that offered this, so I decided to create one when I met the right co-founder who could bring the science and technology to make this possible.

Interestingly, in South Korea, the home of K-Beauty, “minimalism” in skincare is now the new trend. People in South Korea have become very conscious of “body burden” from what they eat and apply on their body. People have become more knowledgeable about skincare, including ingredients and formulations, and have realised that using multiple products is not always good for the skin and even necessary. Also, with South Korea currently having the longest average working hours among all developed countries, people are gravitating towards streamlined skincare for practical reasons as well. Now, I’d say it would be difficult to find people religiously practicing a 10- or 12-step skincare routine and is definitely no longer the norm.

What distinguishes an American beauty brand from a K-Beauty brand?

I don’t think there are specific key features that distinguish an American beauty brand from a K-Beauty brand. Instead, I think K-Beauty has been largely defined and recognised outside South Korea by facial sheet masks and more affordable, trending products, which actually form only a subset category of skincare in South Korea. K-Beauty is also at the forefront of skincare science, innovation and technology, and VENN is a good example of this.

If there is a lesson that you think American beauty brands should learn from K-Beauty brands, what would it be?

K-Beauty has become a global phenomenon, because it is recognised as leading the skincare trend with new and interesting products—i.e., the “next big thing” in skincare. The start of all of this was facial sheet masks. I think one lesson that American beauty brands could take from K-Beauty brands is the constant strive by K-Beauty brands to explore the unknown and sometime even take risks to introduce something new and never seen in the market. Of course, all of this is backed by, and made possible, by the long history of skincare science and innovation in South Korea.

Conversely, if there is a lesson that K-Beauty brands should learn from American beauty brands, what would it be?

I think that American beauty brands are more conscious of global trends, requirements and customer demands than Korean beauty brands, especially when it comes to skincare ingredients. I’ve seen many Korean skincare brands, even the ones from large, prominent companies, fail to successfully enter the U.S. or European markets, because they failed to take into consideration different ingredient requirements and preferences in markets outside Korea.

Now on board with NET-A-PORTER, how has the response been with the global audience?

Very exciting, both for us and the global audience. The launch with NET-A-PORTER has been very exciting for us, because it has provided us with a global awareness and reach in regards to audience who would really appreciate VENN and our products. We’ve been receiving very positive and exciting feedback from the global audience, as they are offered a new, streamlining option for their skin care rather than simply another set of skincare products that requires the traditional multi-step routine. Also, for many who’ve been wanting to use our products, now they can easily purchase our products at NET-A-PORTER. We’ve recently received a DM from a customer in Asia who sent us a photo of her order of VENN products she received from NET-A-PORTER. Previously, she would need to order to a U.S. address, and have her friend ship the products to her. She’s extremely excited that she can now order on NET-A-PORTER, and it only took 2 days for her order to arrive.

What do you think is the future of skincare?

When observing outside skincare, most technological innovations and advancements have been focused on make lives more convenient, efficient and simplified. Smartphones and Uber are very good examples of this desire for convenient and efficient lifestyle. I think skincare is no different, as long as brands are able to offer streamlined and simplified skincare solutions that don’t require compromising on the quality and benefits. We are already starting to see this trend in skincare pick up in South Korea (the “skip-care” routines) and the U.S. (the “less is more” movement).

Find out more about VENN here.

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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