Angry customers create PR nightmare for cosmetic brand

Urban Decay plans to enter the Chinese market, where the government may test cosmetics on animals—a practice the company has proudly avoided. The move sparked a backlash among customers.

Cosmetics maker Urban Decay built its reputation over the last 15 years on a solid no-animal-testing stance. It came as a surprise to the company’s customers, then, when it announced its decision to sell in China, where animal testing is required.

Cue backlash.

It appears the company was aware of the heat it would take from its customers and the media. But it hasn’t followed through yet on some promises that were made. Further, the company seems to be downplaying its mission in China.

It’s important to note that Urban Decay is not planning to start doing animal testing. Rather, “the Chinese government may conduct a test using our products before they can be sold there,” according to a June 6 Facebook post.

Still, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement accusing the company of abandoning its principles:

“Urban Decay has long held a spot on PETA’s list of cruelty-free companies and offers an extensive line of vegan makeup, but it has turned its back on animals. Urban Decay could delay its entry into China, but the company is putting profits over principles.”

The response on the company’s Facebook page has been especially harsh, and the company has yet to make good on its June 7 promise to host a Web chat with its founder, Wende Zomnir.

Furthermore, a full explanation of why it intends to enter the Chinese market was removed from the Urban Decay site, but can be found here. It seems the company wants to help change the culture there.

“…our belief is that both an outside force and inside pressure for change can result in helping transform both the importance of women and animal testing policies in China. And more importantly, we hope to influence the perspective of the citizens on both of these issues.”

The company hasn’t posted to Facebook since June 14, when it returned to business as usual with an offer for some makeup samples.

And while the chatter has slowed to a trickle of fans asking about the live chat, it seems the damage has largely been done. The longer the company waits to hold this Web chat, it seems the worse off they’ll be. Nothing quite like reopening a would that had nearly healed.

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