A PR Disaster

Dolce & Gabbana, the luxury fashion brand, made a mistake.

A terrible, terrible, mistake.

Last November, Dolce & Gabbana released a series of video ads advertising the brand’s upcoming fashion show in China. The video consisted of racist stereotypes of the country, including the narrator intentionally pronouncing words incorrectly to mock those with Chinese accents.

Unfortunately, that was the just the beginning.

Although the video was taken down later that day due to protest, one instagrammer posted a screenshot of a conversation she had with designer Stefano Gabbana, where he openly insulted his Asian customer base.

Within hours of the screenshot posting, Chinese models scheduled to walk the Dolce & Gabbana fashion show pulled out of the show altogether and customers began demanding a formal apology on social media.

Almost immediately afterwards, Gabbana posted on his own Instagram story that he was hacked, claiming that the messages were from a hacker who accessed his account. When skeptical customers flooded the brand’s account with comments in protest, a formal apology was soon posted with the designer acknowledging that he had disrespected the Chinese culture. And of course, the show never happened.

This was a terrible blow in sales for the brand, considering that the brand has over 50 stores in China and that Chinese consumers make up more than a quarter of the global luxury market.

At what point did Dolce & Gabbana lose the trust of their Chinese consumer base?

Despite the racism, I personally do not think that it was the ad itself that made the brand lose such a large consumer base. Rather, it was their reaction to the incident that truly cut into the brand’s reputation.

This incident is a striking reminder to all companies the importance of valuing the customer.

Marketing is meant to attract the customer more than anything, and brands who fail to do so in one way or the other face disaster.

Source: NPR Culture

-Hanna Suh, CMO

James Chang-Davidson