SINGAPORE: A deep understanding of local culture is seeing Asia's homegrown beauty brands hold off international competitors in the region, new research has shown.

According to Neil Gains, Managing Partner of research consultancy TapestryWorks, there is a major difference in the way that international brands and Asia's local brands market their products.

Local brands are more likely promote the natural elements of products, whereas international competitors tend to talk about the science and formulas of a product. This strategy is effective in Western markets, but less so in Asia, he said.

(For more on the nuances of Asia's beauty category, including market specific cultural values, read Warc's report: Science vs Nature – Beauty Culture in Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.)

Out of the four markets Gains studied, the top makeup brand is a local one. "Asian brands talk much more about nature whereas international brands are talking much more about science," he said.

"The Japanese brands seem to completely avoid talking about science. South Korean brands are the strongest in terms of their natural cues," he added.

Gains said that, increasingly, research has shown that the most effective advertising in the long run is emotional, not functional. "When you talk science, you tend to talk more function than emotion," he explained.

International brands also should steer clear of taking a "one-size fits all" approach to the beauty category in Asia.

That is because Gains noted that women in each country studied presented very different ideas of what beauty meant – something that local brands have capitalised on in their marketing efforts.

"Of all the four countries, South Koreans have the strongest associations with the need for physical strength – power, courage and confidence – for being noticed," he said.

By contrast, Japanese women show the strongest desire for care and love. "Explicitly, Japanese women talk about inner beauty a lot," Gains said.

Indonesian women are more focused on intelligence with "their version of standing out is to be smart, rather than to be noticed".

Gains added that Malaysians are more likely to prioritise uniqueness. "The need to feel unique and individual is stronger in Malaysia than in any of the other countries," he said. "The need for confidence, courage and strength is relatively high as well."

Data sourced from Warc