Mary Kay China: Making Chinese Women’s Lives Beautiful

Terence Tsai (First Author), Shubo Liu (Participant Author), Nina Zhi (Participant Author)

Research output: Other contributionCase Studies


The direct sales cosmetics company Mary Kay Inc. has earned its place in a man’s world by blazing a new path for women. Since opening its first factory in China in 1995, Mary Kay China has sought to introduce the values of the company’s founder in a market and culture far removed from Mary Kay Ash’s native Texas. Although the company’s direct selling model was banned by the Chinese government in 1998 and was held in suspicion by many Chinese consumers, Mary Kay China — by holding fast to its values as well as to its direct selling model — managed to establish a solid reputation and gain a significant share of the Chinese cosmetics market. Mary Kay China has also provided opportunities for thousands of women to have their own careers and has helped to redefine notions of feminine beauty among Chinese women. To accommodate ever-changing customer demands and combat fierce competition in the growing cosmetics sector, Mary Kay China must maintain its corporate philosophy within the flexible structure of direct selling. As a company that aims to “enrich women’s lives”, Mary Kay has a demanding mandate. Its values must somehow be internalized by hundreds of thousands of independent distributors/sellers with very different backgrounds. But outside the big cities, traditional Chinese culture conflicts with Mary Kay’s understanding of the role of women. Expanding into China’s second- and third-tier cities and more remote regions poses great challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

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Published by

China Europe International Business School


  • Business Model
  • China Market
  • Corporate Expansion
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • Corporate culture
  • Direct Selling

Case studies discipline

  • General Management
  • Strategy

Case studies industry

  • Retail Trade


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