Social media have an intensify effect on many things in today’s life, and marketing is one of them. Since it has increased the power of influencers, sponsored posts and online self-promotion- marketing strategies are,however, becoming more and more exposed to criticism and reproach. Social media can make something trend fast, the videos advertising a product can go viral really easily and boost its sales. But it’s power can work in reverse as well. This has been proved when the global fashion industry witnessed Dolce &Gabbana’s shocking misstep in China this past two weeks after a culturally-inappropriate video campaign embroiled the top fashion house in a controversy that has led to increased anti-international brand sentiment in the country.
In today’s market, the stakes and the profiles are much higher, and luxury brands often rely on more innovative campaigns to stand out among their competitive brands in the market. But controversy and fame are courted. When something goes wrong, a counterblast is immediate, and global.After this highly publicized blunder of Dolce &Gabbana, there’s been a lot of discussion about the way brands need to appreciate other cultures to avoid the same mistakes going forward. But what’s getting lost in this debacle is, first and foremost, that how can other brands learn from the mistakes of Dolce&Gabbana.
Let’s look that how could that happen? More importantly, what do brands need to do to avoid this?
How Over Enthusiasm, Complete lack of cultural sensitivities and then the unemotional apology led to Destruction for D&G within hours
It started in mid-November with an online advertising campaign on the Weibo platform developed for the Chinese market to support the brand in China. The advertisement showeda Chinese model, wrapped in an elegant and sophisticated Dolce&Gabbana gown, was trying to eat two typical Italian dishes, pizza and spaghetti, with a pair of chopsticks, ultimately failing and embarrassing herself. The whole thing was tagged with the hashtag #DGLovesChina. The campaign was intended to arouse curiosity for a fashion show thatthe brand was planning in Shanghai, probably the biggest one ever organized by the brand, with more than a thousand guests, 360 models, and 120 artists between dancers and actors participating in the event at the Expo Center, a location of 18 thousand square meters. And now, after the crash of the campaign within hours, it has been cancelled.
The resentment was such that Weibo, the biggest Chinese social media, decided to take down the videos. But this was not the end. And as if Dolce &Gabbana did not have enough problems with it, there were also some condescending comments on Chinese and China on Instagram – under the name of Domenico Dolce, one of the founders of the brand. Also, The Instagram account DietPrada, a known page in the fashion business (that exposes false copies of luxury items), published the screenshot of a private conversation between Stefano Gabbana and Michaela Tranova, a British associate of the page, in which the designer said that “China is a shitty country” and an “ignorant, dirty and smelly place”, while insulting Weibo for not understanding something that was meant to be funny. As a result, boycott campaigns against the brand have kicked off across China with people posting and holding up “Not Me” signs outside of Dolce &Gabbana locations, sarcastically mirroring Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram post.
The company immediately made it clear that the comments were not from Stefano and the account had been hacked. In addition, they apologized in the media. Too late. Since then, the events have come to a head, some of the key Chinese brand ambassadors have canceled their contracts, and virtually all local Chinese online retailers have dropped out of Dolce &Gabbana, including Alibaba’s T-mall and JD.com. The brand crashed within hours.
The late attempt to beg for forgiveness through a video message, thereby saving the mark , seems unprofessional, devoid of any empathy or emotion. Everything seems forced,nothing authentic is there in the video.
This is sad to see that how traditionally many brands still think and how little digital technology is used these days, where even small children are also tech- savvy. Market campaigns are often operated with outdated methods, focus target groups and limited to a few markets. Many managers do not know what consumers in different countries or segment think and express about the brand. In addition, many decision makers of the brand’s campaign are experts in their own country and culture, but have little sense of other regions. Hardly anyone spends most of their time for understanding the target markets. They underestimate the cultural differences and make serious mistakes.
We live in an ever faster and more interconnected world. If you used the approach of taking 24 to 48 hours to react, a brand today can be destroyed within a few hours. We live in a new reality that requires new thinking. This is a management task and cannot be delegated.
What can Brands Managers learn from D&G case and how they can avoid Social Media conflicts in the future
The truth of social media today is that once you have a brand presence, you can’t avoid negative reviews and comments. Some will be genuine, others not, but how you handle them is critical. But even with social media managers on staff, like in D&G case, some brands still stumble badly when it comes to dealing with negativity, and ugly missteps can have a lasting impact on your brand too.
“Half-hearted steps are not enough”.
While most luxury brands recognize the value of social media in promoting their products & services, they do not always apply the same level of care when using social media in a supposedly personal capacity. So here are some measures that Brand Ambassadors should take in regards to Social Media:
Acknowledge the issue and make critics feel heard
When negative feedback is received, it’s best to acknowledge their issues and concerns, and apologize for the failure on your part to have not met their expectations. It’s also counter intuitive, but it may also help to thank them for bringing it to your attention so that necessary actions can be taken to correct the future experience for others.
Respond quickly and address them like you would do in person. Sometimes you won’t have a solution immediately and that’s OK. Just be sure to set the expectation by letting them know you’re working on a solution.
Understanding of Consumers and their Cultural Values is Important!
Now it is important to get a clear status about what consumers think about the brand: what associations are there? Not what customers thought weeks or months ago counts, but what they think today, in the past hours. It must be countered immediately in the direction of the desired brand positioning. For this, the marketing strategy must be reconsidered – with much more cultural sensitivity. The top management must take a clear stand and interact personally with all parties involved. Always make a new social media campaign, by keeping the sensitivity of consumer’s cultural values in mind.
Take Online Marketing Issue Offline
Most negative comments towards a brand or product should be taken offline, in order to prevent any further escalation. Luxury Brand Managers don’t want others seeing a messy situation untangle on the web, for the entire world to see. An appropriate solution in Dolce and Gabbana case would have been to email personally to the concerned community (or however else is appropriate) or going on Live Video to discuss the problem and come up with a solution.
Offer a point of contact to Customers
Respond to the customer via the comment on the company feed, luxury brand managers should focus on giving them a point of contact to follow up with in order to resolve their issue. This will make it evident to the other users that the particular brand is dedicated to the customer experience. This is also helpful in case of resolving customers’ grievances in case of any bad marketing campaign. For example, in case of D&G unsuccessful campaign, the situation would have been different if the brand would have directly done something to pay its respect towards Chinese customer’s sentiments.
Be Quick, Calm and Useful
Step one is to ensure that the statements raised by the target audience is legitimate, and not aimless provocation (trolls are a nuisance that comes with having a social media presence). Then, luxury brand managers should ensure that the brand responds the same day–Google Alerts helps with this–with a level-headed and detailed solution to the customer’s problem or concern rather than referral to a support page. Also, the brand managers should never ever return fire at any angry posts.
“This Article has also been published in Luxury Daily“