Young people today are thinking about their futures earlier than ever before. Gone are the days of, “I’ll figure out my major before I graduate.” Instead, these are the days of lemonade stands that turn into business plans, seed money, and a resulting entrepreneurial journey.
In many respects, branding comes early on the journey of the very young, also known as Generation Alpha. According to an NC State article, Generation Alpha’s habits and outlooks reflect that of their Millennial parents. “As health-conscious caretakers, Millennial parents seek out a lot of information about the products they buy and expose their kids to,” says author Heather Dretsch. Like their parents, Alpha’s appear to seek high-quality, health-conscious, sustainable products with technology, diversity, and immediacy at the forefront.
The youth of today has been marketed through social media, television, apps, games, and other media outlets. But, according to Common Sense Media, advertisers are keenly aware of the long-term effects of getting their brand in front of youth as early as possible. “Advertisers know that kids greatly influence their parents’ buying decisions, to the tune of $500 billion per year,” cites Common Sense on advertising for kids.
However, in some industries, such as beauty products, advertisers tend to position their marketing from already established models that cater to adults more than young people. As a result, mature messaging is portrayed to a younger audience attempting to develop their identity and explore their emotional space in the world.
Samantha Cutler, the founder of Petite’ n Pretty, harnessed 17 years of experience in product development in the professional make-up industry with such brands as Smashbox, MAC Cosmetics, and others to launch an age-appropriate product line for younger girls just learning to explore their personal development and sense of self.
Cutler recognized that if beauty products were already being marketed to a younger age bracket, she might as well offer a healthy, age-appropriate product that educates through inspiration, empowerment, equity, and inclusion.
While working at name brands, many friends and acquaintances would ask her if she could recommend products, and she realized how many products did not align with younger kids.
“I never had an answer, the products weren’t age-appropriate. Many of the products had suggestive naming conventions, or the colors were extremely pigmented, something many parents would not feel comfortable giving their daughter or son,” says Cutler.
Product integrity is essential to Cutler, and some marketed merchandise did not represent clean beauty. In addition, some were produced overseas without proper testing that would appeal to parents wanting the safest products for their children.
As a mother herself, she knew there was a need. “I felt like there was this whitespace of opportunity in beauty, educating about beauty, and I always wanted to start a brand. But the beauty marketplace is saturated with 300 times the number of brands launching yearly than when I first started working. So I wanted to ensure there was a purpose behind what I did.”
Cutler concentrates mainly on the niche market from ages 7 to 12. While cutesy in nature, the company’s naming is steeped in feedback from the associations of younger kids and application principles. “I raddled off names to my three-year-old daughter and when the word ‘pretty’ came up, she instantly knew what it meant. There was a familiarity, and ‘pretty’ is a feeling that comes from within, a good feeling . Petite represents everything we produce. Everything is slightly smaller and gives a first user the best initial experience.”
At the core, Cutler is trying to bring confidence and comfort to kids by starting what she calls ‘the beauty journey’ and building within the offerings. “What I like to say is if your daughter or son is going to ride a bike for the first time, you’re not going to give them a mountain bike,” she says. “Everyone begins the journey at a different age, and we are here to support them and be their friend, knowing there are no mistakes along the way.”
Education Zoom Camps
During the pandemic, Cutler found the use of Zoom camps a tremendous educational and informative tool. “The camps were a great revenue driver for us and brand building experience. These kids were so bored and stuck at home, and ultimately it was an opportunity for us to create a fun brand-building experience with dynamic, engaging, creative activities.
Cutler’s ability to team up with influencers such as Piper Rockelle, with almost 10 million subscribers on YouTube, is part of the process of bringing people from other worlds together. Cutler has noticed that some influencers’ numbers skyrocket after the collaborative process. “There’s a fascinating dynamic with influencers, actresses, and dancers, and we bring them together for photo shoots. As a result, different audiences come together, and everyone begins to follow and learn from one another socially.”
Many brands try to go after the younger consumer. Still, Cutler recognizes that many brands are not directly integrating them into marketing or bringing them together for learning workshops or photo opportunities. “They know there’s an audience and a consumer that sits on TikTok all day, or Instagram, but they are not necessarily hiring a 12-year-old for a photoshoot. They’re trying to get the audience to engage with their brand but not directly.” It’s a direct relationship that appears to set Cutler’s efforts apart from others.
With 30% to 40% growth rates last year, Petite ‘n Pretty is looking to scale at a 30% rate this upcoming year. Online sales on Amazon and others have been a success and Cutler is moving back into Ulta.com stores this coming year. The projection is to build the branding in stores in the US with international efforts on the horizon.
Cutler’s approach is a more hands-on collaborative effort. An iterative educational process that learns about the younger generation while at the same time generating consumer behavior habits that are authentic to their consumer needs. Cutler recognizes that the younger generation isn’t necessarily and habitually brand loyal, but more driven by a loyalty found in authentic experiences that speaks to them and caters to the world they are forming.
Samantha Cutler found her entrepreneurial groove with her motherly instincts intact. Her thriving business illustrates the scale companies can grow if brands and proprietors maintain a sense of self along the way and educate themselves on the needs and understanding of the younger generation.
Even though cosmetics tend to be viewed as ‘outer’ oriented, Cutler is building a company of substance that stays true to the consumer base with the sensibility of market trends, sustainability, and safety.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.