LOS ANGELES – Critical mass is always good when looking to make a splash in any market and with any category. CJ Group’s CJ America subsidiary is pooling its beauty, entertainment and food divisions for a pop-up experience at Westfield Century City as it looks to assert itself in the U.S. market.
Seoul-based conglomerate CJ Group, which reported annual revenue of $31 billion last year, began as a sugar manufacturer in 1953 before diversifying its business into restaurants, logistics, retail, entertainment, beauty, health, movie studio and cable network. The company’s U.S. unit maintains headquarters in Los Angeles.
“CJ [Group] has over the last two years really ramped up its activities and its scope in terms of growing its global business in general and its U.S. business in particular,” said Angela Killoren, chief marketing officer of CJ America and chief operating officer of CJ E&M America. “We’re in the midst of not just growing our U.S. brands but acquiring U.S. businesses as well. It’s really important to have the constant touchpoint with consumers and our audience in a general sense, meet people and see how they interact with products.”
The company has set aside the money to make good on its plans. Last year it mulled the possibility of acquiring The Body Shop from L’Oréal. The retailer ultimately went to Natura Cosméticos for $1.1 billion. CJ Group’s CJ Logistics subsidiary acquired a majority stake in DSC Logistics of Des Plaines, Ill., earlier this year for a reported $216 million. CJ CheilJedang, the food division of the company, earlier this year bought Ohio-based Kahiki Foods and is now eyeing frozen pizza company Schwan’s Co.
Efforts to solidify a greater toehold in the minds of consumers, at least locally, begins this week when the company celebrates on Friday a pop-up retail event, called Live New Experience by CJ, running through Oct. 28 that will take place in the shopping center’s courtyard area. The company’s health and beauty retailer Olive Young will be on-site with K-Beauty products from brands such as BringGreen, Colorgram and Round A’round, marking the first time such lines are available in the U.S. Beauty vlogger Jenn Im is expected to make an appearance during the pop-up event. There are also exclusive hoodies and T-shirts done in collaboration with K-Pop group Wanna One and a Korean food component as reflected by the company’s Bibigo brand.
“We’re trying to create an experience that combines things we as a company think go together very organically,” Killoren said. “Beauty, food and fashion share a similar target of females who are younger, just looking for something new and fun…. The gist is we have a bunch of businesses here in the U.S. that have been established for quite a while. These three businesses all happen to be newer to the United States and we’re giving them a chance to show off a little bit.”
The trifecta is what CJ America and its parent hope will distinguish its brands in the marketplace and help it gain share. Certainly, with respect to beauty alone, the landscape is a crowded one and there’s no real sign of abatement when it comes to new brands entering the space.
“We’re not just competing against the existing, let’s call them the old guard brands, but right now there’s so much fracturing in the market,” Killoren said. “On one hand, it’s really exciting, not just in the K-Beauty category, but new brands themselves, there’s been an unprecedented acceptance of new brands. So that’s the opportunity. The challenge is how do you get above that in terms of there’s so much fight for share of voice right now. The scale of the U.S. is really such that the numbers around reaching critical mass are quite daunting.”
Killoren said the team weighed its options on how to best present the three brands to the consumer at Century City, ultimately opting for simplicity with its pop-up and mostly minimal, white-on-white branding.
“We’ve tried to make the products first and the experience,” the cmo said. “We just think the experience of something is more important than shoving brand awareness down somebody’s throat.”
Taking the Live New Experience by CJ on the road once the Westfield Century City pop-up wraps is up for consideration, but it’s too early to say with certainty, she said.
“I think we’re considering it,” Killoren said. “The first instance is always a test case so we’re going to look at it closely. I think there’s a lot of interest in doing this on the East Coast as well.”