As the influencer craze rages on, one brand is focusing on a socially savvy influencer base that isn’t overly saturated — yet.
Petite ‘n Pretty is a cosmetics company for kids ages four to 18. The brand, founded by former Stila Cosmetics chief product development officer Samantha Cutler, has racked up more than 30,000 followers since its July launch by appealing to what Cutler identified as a “community of mini MUAs [makeup artists]” — and their parents — on Instagram.
“There’s this whole community of mini MUAs on Instagram and we send a lot of them product,” said Cutler. “There’s some really talented artists that are, like, 12 and they do all their own editing, all their own filming and they live in Alabama, Kentucky, the most rural, random places. They do these really elaborate Anastasia-style looks, but I think they only do it for Instagram. They don’t wear it out in public. Our brand can work both ways. We’re an artist-quality product, with sheer washes of color that are buildable, so whether you’re going to school and you want to just put on a little gloss or some eye shadow or you really want to build it, we’re very versatile.”
The products are cruelty-free and nut-free and contain a mix of natural and synthetic raw materials. Prices range from $16 for a lip gloss to $39 for a birthday bundle to $68 for a palette and brush gift set. And with a loyal following of kid influencers, including celebrity children, Petite ‘n Pretty is well on its way to becoming to Generation Z what Anastasia Beverly Hills is to Millennials.
The idea of a child influencer may sound both ridiculous and alarming, and Cutler readily admits how bizarre the notion is. But the reality is that kid influencers have been a thing, and unlike the superinfluencers of today, children aren’t charging exorbitant amounts of money to post on their pages, despite having much higher engagement rates. According to Cutler, some Petite ‘n Pretty influencers have engagement rates as high as 30 percent.
“We’ve seeded hundreds of people,” she said. “If we send $200, $300 boxes to people and they don’t open them, then we’re not gonna continually send to them. We’re always testing new audiences and seeing who and whose fans are engaging with the brand.”
When it launched, Petite ‘n Pretty dedicated a large portion of its marketing budget to influencer seeding, but it has since relied on Cutler’s connections as a Los Angeles mom-on-the-scene to grow its influencer network. In September, the brand supplied makeup for the L.O.L. Fashion Show, which was hosted by a friend of Cutler’s. The show made headlines as North West, daughter of Kim Kardashian, walked in it.
Cutler is also lifelong friends with “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Kyle Richards, whose 10-year-old daughter, Portia Umansky, has 15,000 Instagram followers. Umansky stars in Petite ‘n Pretty’s holiday campaign along with Piper Rockelle (716,000 Instagram followers), Jessalyn Grace (869,000 YouTube subscribers, 58,000 Instagram followers) and Sophie Michelle (448,000 YouTube subscribers and 180,000 Instagram followers).
“Working with these younger kids and tweens is so authentic and genuine, and they’re excited because they’re not immersed in this beauty culture yet,” said Cutler. “They want to be creative and they love it. It’s refreshing.”
Though its demographic ranges in age from four to 18, Petite ‘n Pretty generally works with 13-year-olds — the “aspirational age” — for its marketing efforts because, as Cutler said, “when you’re 11 or 12 or 13, you really don’t want to use products that a four-year-old is using.” Brands have been deploying this same strategy, though at a higher age range, leaving out the preteen set, which is finding a partner in Petite ‘n Pretty.
One such preteen is Zoe Apple, aka @maeupslay.zoe, who has 850,000 Instagram followers and 30,000 YouTube subscribers.
“A lot of the big brands don’t want [Apple] to represent them because she’s not aspirational to their user,” said Cutler. “If you’re Kylie [Cosmetics] or MAC, it’s not really cool to have a 13-year-old use your product. But for us, it makes so much sense because she’s a makeup authority that’s 13.”
Petite ‘n Pretty sells direct-to-consumer through its web site and is experimenting with the pop-up format. The brand recently hosted a pop-up in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood that was attended by more than 100 kids and their parents. “Dance Moms” star Kalani Hilliker, 18, was on hand doing meet and greets.
The brand’s largest following is on Instagram, but as its audience is Gen Z, aka the YouTube generation, it is finding success on the video-sharing platform, too. Its cosmetics offerings are meant for boys and girls, but according to Cutler, girls garner more engagement online, hence the holiday campaign.
Regardless of gender, the point, said Cutler, is to inspire. Because four-year-olds need inspiration, too.
“We deep-dove into how our products help with hand-eye coordination or how holding a brush helps with building the muscles and the dexterity in your fingers, which you use to write your name with. It’s encouraging creative play,” said Cutler. “Whether you’re just getting into beauty at four years old in an experiential way or you’re starting to wear makeup, which a lot of these tween girls and boys are interested in, we’re trying to get our brand into their hands to be their best first experience in beauty.”
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