Text by Lidia Lewandowska, WirtualneKosmetyki.pl & LoveCosmeticsAwards.com

October 2018. Polish Investment and Trade Agency organizes the first Support Forum for Polish Business. A lot of seminars devoted to foreign markets take place during the meeting. The aspirations of Polish exporters are increasing which is why it is no wonder that entrepreneurs attend the seminars in such numbers.

I go from one seminar to another asking local experts about the character of the cosmetic market in different countries. I know that Polish exporters are currently particularly interested in the Asian market. Because of that, the seminar on the Taiwanese market is circled as important in my agenda. Even though I am already tired, as the seminar takes place late in the evening, I attend it and I don’t regret that – it’s interesting from the very start!

Polish success in Taiwan

The representatives of the Polish Trade Office in Taipei say that they will talk about the company that achieved, in their opinion, spectacular success in Taiwan. My interest begins to grow when I hear that this concerns a Polish cosmetic company. They make me wonder feverishly which company they are speaking of as they talk about many favourable opinions before giving the name: the brand quickly gained recognition and popularity in Taiwan, the company undertakes unusual and captivating marketing activities, its products are available in many major retail chains…

Finally, a picture of a city bus with an advert for the Green Pharmacy brand belonging to the Elfa Pharm Polska company appears on the screen.

That is why I want to get more information at the source on what gave rise to the company’s success. I would like to go to Taiwan, but for now a visit to the Elfa Pharm office in Cracow is more realistic.

Trust is crucial in business

When we finally meet, I congratulate the owners of the company for their export success, but they are very humble. They are glad that the Green Pharmacy and Vis Plantis brands are gaining a stronger position on the Asian market, but they do not think that they deserve full credit for that.

“We produce incredibly good cosmetics which appeal to our Asian clients’ tastes, but the credit for how well the brand is developing in Taiwan can be largely attributed to our local distributor – Pure Kiwi International”, says Dorota Topolska, the co-owner of Elfa Pharm Polska. She also adds that both Elfa Pharm and Pure Kiwi International are family-based companies and that facilitates mutual understanding.

Instead of a soulless atmosphere in which only interim results matter, there is room for full involvement and a broader action plan which assumes long-term cooperation. However, as Tomasz Topolski, board member of Elfa Pharm Polska emphasizes, it all depends on mutual trust, as the exporters should place great trust in their distributors because they perfectly understand the character of the given market. They know best how to manage sales, the marketing activities and the brand image so that it shall work well together regarding the business and cultural aspects. As he says, it held good in their case.

He gives an example of how their distributor began the retail and marketing activities. Initially, the sale was based only on a television channel, a so-called telesales, which are not very effective in Poland. In Taiwan it’s quite the opposite – it works in commerce and enhances recognizability of the brand.

Intensive distribution and effective marketing

The Pure Kiwi International company has been operating on the market since 1990. It specializes in selling beauty products and home scents. Its office is located in the south of the island and 360 km from Taipei – in Kaohsiung which has almost 3 million inhabitants. Elfa Pharm Polska has been cooperating with Kiwi for 5 years. Those are 5 years of increasing sales and reinforcing the brands on the Taiwan market.

The distributor sells products in all of Taiwan – in large shopping centers, drugstores and chain stores. Key warehouses and chemists (i.e. the Cosmed chain) are also recipients of their products. Importantly, the presence of the brand is not limited to a few products on the shelves. The point of sales materials make an impression! These are eye-catching brand advertising stands that carry a wide range of products. The Green Pharmacy and Vis Plantis displays are incredibly modern and well designed. Wood and greenery which are the key elements of the displays highlight the natural character of the products.

Currently, Pure Kiwi International is opening mono-brand shops under the name of Green Pharmacy – sophisticated and tasteful boutiques in fine localizations.

Apart from that our Taiwanese partner’s marketing activities are very expansive, as the export manager Wojciech Szeliga says. “It is worth mentioning over 60 buses with adverts of Green Pharmacy driving around Taipei, as well as full-page promotional materials in “Marie Claire” or “Elle” adds Szeliga.

Asia likes “Made in Europe”

Consumers like the packaging, scents and philosophy of the Green Pharmacy and Vis Plantis brands. They are under the impression of using products that are utterly European and traditional. They appreciate the formulas, the multitude of European herbal ingredients, effectiveness and safety of the products because they know how strict the EU regulations are.

It’s interesting how European women are enthralled with the Far Eastern care, while in Asia it is trendy to use beauty products from Europe. As you can see: the grass is always greener on the other side.

Close encounters

Dorota Topolska enthuses about seeing her own brands in such exotic markets. As she says, it’s fascinating to see how the brands are treated by local consumers, what they like the most and what still needs to be improved to better fit their expectations. “You cannot do this from afar, you have to go to Asia once in a while to feel the atmosphere, to talk to the distributor himself, to identify the client’s approach to your products, to simply view your products from the perspective of an Asian” points out Dorota Topolska. The last visit of the export team, which included Jarosław Topolski, Dorota Topolska and Wojciech Szeliga, was made in November.

“We were immediately thrown in at the deep end. It was a promotional event devoted to the Pharma Care’s line of intimate hygiene gel. These products have been winning the hearts and bodies of our Taiwanese clients for a couple of years now” says Wojtek Szeliga. The event took place on the 9. floor of the very expensive Japanese department store called SOGO, a stone’s throw away from a Green Pharmacy stand.

Respect your customers

The Polish team was astonished by the exceptionally warm reception from a large group of clients that came to the meeting. Jarosław Topolski won their hearts by greeting the fans of the brand in Mandarin:

哈囉 大家好 很高興來到台灣看到大家 也謝謝你們喜歡我們的產品希望你們能繼續支持 謝謝

Obviously, it was received enthusiastically and made the co-owner of Green Pharmacy and Vis Plantis a second star of the event. The first one was Alien Huang, a local celebrity and singer (his last compilation on YouTube has over 7.2 million views). The event was very dynamic with its numerous competitions and presentations accompanied by camera flashes and filming with the omnipresent smartphones, interrupted by ecstatic shouts of the enthusiastic fangirls of Mister Alien. The success of the event will surely result in an abrupt increase in the sales of the Pharma Care line.

Together you can do more

That was not the end of Elfa Pharm’s adventure with their partners in Taiwan. The distributor actively participated in the Cosmoprof trade exhibition in Hong Kong by offering linguistic help and presenting the offer of Elfa Pharm Polska to guests from South East Asia and China. Relations between the Polish company and the Taiwanese distributor are strengthening year by year. A visit from Shih Kong Hsu, Chia Shen and Weicheng Huang to Poland is now awaited by the Poles!

Tomasz Topolski, board member of Elfa Pharm Polska

Originality is an asset

The Asian market is extremely important to the Polish exporters, mostly because of its remarkable size, as well as its constant and dynamic development. Local consumers are becoming more and more open to products foreign to them and to European products most of all. A huge asset of the Polish cosmetics is their good ratio of quality and price, as well as the “made in EU” tag which guarantees that the

product conforms with the fairly strict European regulations and helps the final customer identify where the product was made.

Polish producers can offer the Asian consumers very diverse products with interesting ingredients that are completely different from those offered by the local suppliers or concerns. Due to the fact that each market is different, it’s important to offer the consumers products that are customized to their needs and expectations, but one must retain their originality and not try to forcefully change into something similar to local products.