How Gen Z beauty fans voted with their dollars—and won.
Ask the average Gen Z consumer whether they prefer cruelty-free beauty and they’ll probably raise their mascara wands emphatically—yes! Young consumers have come of age in the era of beauty vlogs and influencers. They’ve had instant access and education like no other generation. Yes, they’re perfecting their kitten flicks and smoky eyes, but they’ve also been educating each other on matters like clean beauty and animal cruelty.
In the 90s, organizations like PETA pioneered the movement against animal cruelty, but in 2019, beauty activism looks different; the activists look different too. Gen Z and Millennial consumers are taking to outlets like YouTube, Instagram, and Wattpad to speak up against the brands who still allow their products to be tested on lab animals.
At 2019’s Beautycon—one of the largest beauty festivals in North America—cruelty-free was top of mind with young consumers. Said a beauty brand rep in attendance, “no one over 29 wanted to, but all the girls in their teens and 20s were very, very particular about only buying cruelty-free product. I’ve been in beauty for more than a decade, and I’ve never seen a consumer wanting to be so educated on a brand’s position.”
Which leads us to Covergirl, an unexpected hero in the cruelty-free world. In late 2018, Covergirl became the largest brand ever to achieve Leaping Bunny status and be certified cruelty-free. The brand cites pressure from its consumer base as the main reason for taking the step. But hidden in the celebration of what Covergirl wins via this announcement is what they lose. China is a multi-billion dollar beauty market where animal testing is embedded into the process of getting beauty products onto shelves, and where even natural, cruelty-free brands, find themselves forced to comply. By going truly cruelty-free, any brand is forced to choose: their values, or a billion-person market.
Covergirl seized an opportunity to become a beauty hero
Gen Z /Millennial beauty consumers embody the idea of ‘voting with your dollar’—and their votes count. The rise of retailers like Sephora and ULTA—where indie and natural beauty brands have found mainstream success—signals a shift in the industry. Other brands, like Revlon, have responded by introducing a shade-inclusive mid-tier beauty brand. Covergirl responded by better aligning itself with Gen Z values. In response to consumer advocacy, the brand introduced extended shade ranges and added Gen Z/Millennial heroes like Issa Rae and James Charles as spokesmodels. Their Leaping Bunny certification is just the next step in proving that when Gen Z talks, Covergirl listens.
Aligning with Gen Z values isn’t always easy
On our beauty profile on Wattpad, our community celebrates diversity through stories that reflect beauty in all shapes and forms. Covergirl’s bold move is proof that aligning with Gen Z’s values pays. The same motivation has led brands like National Geographic to launch #PlanetorPlastic on Wattpad, and Ben & Jerry’s to partner on our LGBTQ+ initiative, #PenYourPride. Gen Z has spoken: they want brands to make bold moves for progress. It’s time to show them you’re not just listening, but are ready to take action.
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