Brand storytelling at Innisfree’s Seoul flagship

Jun 07, 2018

Korean beauty brand Innisfree’s flagship store is a green oasis in Seoul’s busy Myeongdong shopping district. GDR’s Babette Schossau paid it a visit to see how the brand uses the space to communicate its ethos.

Innisfree was South Korea’s first all-natural beauty brand when it launched back in 2004 and its eco-friendly ethos has been central to its image ever since. All of the ingredients in its products are sourced from the idyllic Korean island of Jeju and its rich storytelling around this has caught the attention of the GDR innovation research team many times over the years.



The brand, whose name originates from the WB Yeats poem the Lake Isle of Innisfree, opened its flagship store in Myeongdong in 2010, but more recently it has added what it calls a Green Café to its second and third floor to further amplify its brand mission. The Green Café concept was first launched on Jeju Island in 2013 and it creatively combines Innisfree’s beauty products with organic drinks and desserts made from local ingredients.



It was another reason why I was keen to visit the location in Myeongdong, which is Seoul’s busiest shopping district and I was not disappointed by what I found. From the interior design, to the in-store merchandising and the technology, every single element of the store is used as an opportunity to communicate the brand’s values in a fun and interactive way. Here are my favourite features:


Plant-focused design

The flagship is positioned right next to the busiest of Myeongdong’s shopping streets, a street that, apart from countless make-up stores, is also filled with street food carts.



The entrance to Innisfree is thus positioned as an enticing escape from the hustle and bustle that is Myeongdong, with a plant-lined walkway and a large digital ceiling screen under the fascia displaying scenes of nature.



This theme is continued in-store where a plant-covered wall invites customers up the stairs to the second and third-floor café. Here, a “plant island”, encircled on all sides by tables, dominates the space. Customers sitting in this relaxing, mindful space, as I did, suddenly feel a long way away from the busy streets below and, of course, this is what the brand is trying to achieve. Innisfree’s website refers to it as: “a space where nature and skin can relax together to enjoy the clean green energy of Jeju.”


Branded takeaways

If the plant-covered walls set the tone of the store from the street, and establish an atmosphere that lets customers live the brand’s ethos while inside – a series of unexpected branded souvenirs take this engagement beyond the store and even into customers’ homes.



One wall of the Green Café is dedicated to the brand’s Play Green campaign, which encourages people to introduce eco-friendly actions into their daily lives. To bring this initiative to life the brand has released cardboard posters that can be transformed into environmentally-friendly smartphone speakers. Each piece of cardboard includes a striking branded image from nature capturing flowers, green fields, forest and sunshine, so that the final product matches the brand’s design aesthetic. The speaker kits cover the wall of the café (alongside step by step instructions) creating another strong visual signal of the brand’s purpose.



Another nice takeaway from the café is the little recipe cards for its all-natural, healthy dishes, which encourage diners to try to recreate them at home.


VR journeys

Moving beyond the store, and even its customers’ daily lives, Innisfree uses virtual reality to drive visitors deeper into its ethos. A series of VR experiences transport customers to Jeju island, and underline the brand’s dedication to natural ingredients and eco-friendly techniques.



Customers can choose between three different five-minute adventures: Jeju Flying Bike, Someday in Jeju, and Innisfree Wonderland. The Innisfree Wonderland video that I chose was a fun way to explore both land and sea in the fairytale world where a little creature was guiding me. The chair moved as I sank down deeper into the water, and wind, filled with a pleasant flowery scent, blew at my face as I emerged again and settled on the petal of a flower.

It certainly delivered on the promise, etched on the wall, that: “Innisfree has brought the pristine nature of Jeju Island into VR.”


My Style, My Palette

After relaxing in Innisfree’s green lifestyle space I went back to the make-up section on the first floor. While the space is naturally busier here, the emphasis on personalisation and user-friendly displays continues the theme of creating an environment that is in harmony with its surroundings. The My Style, My Palette installation, for example, consists of 137 colours and shades of eyeshadow, eyebrow liner, blusher, highlighter, contour, concealer and colour corrector.



This may seem like an overwhelming choice, but the My Palette digital screen helps shoppers identify the products that are just right for them, while magnetic, modular palette cases empower them to mix and match the products to create a perfect bespoke range for them.

Being hands-on throughout made this a memorable store and café experience. But what really makes this flagship interesting is its ability to communicate its brand message of pure nature despite, or perhaps precisely because of, being in a busy urban space. As a respite from the crowded streets, the café offers shoppers in need of a rest the perfect oasis.

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