Marketing campaign seen as discriminating
Dolce & Gabbana were caught up in a public relations dilemma over photographs that were shot in Beijing. In the photos, several models from Dolce & Gabbana would be posed with the locals next to iconic landmarks, such as the Great Wall and the hutongs.
- These photos were a part of the “Dolce & Gabbana Loves China” online marketing campaign, and were intended to create a positive feeling in the lead up to Dolce & Gabbana’s “Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria Fashion Show. However, the brand’s accounts where the photos were posted was received with strong dislike and criticism from Chinese social media users.
- The complaints mostly revolved around why Dolce & Gabbana only showed underdeveloped parts of Beijing along with impoverished residents, while disregarding the more modern scenes of skyscrapers and citizens who were more stylish than those featured.
“Stop it! You intentionally show the backwards part of China. It is discrimination,” one Weibo user wrote. Many seemed to agree with this statement, declaring they would stop buying Dolce & Gabbana’s products in the future, as they did not feel they were being respected.
Criticism extends to the photographers
Though most of the backlash was targeted towards the marketing campaign’s seemingly lack of attention to China’s more modern aspects, many online social media users have also targeted the Morelli Brothers who were responsible for the photographs, questioning their shooting and editing techniques.
- A verified professional graphic designer and photographer posted a review on Weibo that attracted more than 3,000 likes, criticising the photographs and declaring the colouring to be too dirty and unnatural, creating an overall insincere attempt to show the brand’s love for China.
- A fashion blogger with approx. 3 million followers by the name of “FashionModels” posted the brand’s campaign photos along with an image of a series of question marks to show his confusion regarding the campaign.
- This post generated over 700 comments on Weibo, with most supporting his statement.
How have the brand responded, and what can brands learn from this?
Due to the backlash, Dolce & Gabbana have taken down the campaign images from Weibo as well on its official WeChat channel, however they are still available on foreign social media sites such as Instagram.
- In the end, the attention both positive and negative, seemed to bear positive results for Dolce & Gabbana’s fashion show in Beijing. After the show, the brand hosted an event for VIPs at Beijing’s luxury shopping mall SKP, complete with gelato and photo ops with the models.
- The band created another video for their Instagram featuring the neighborhood surrounding the mall in Beijing’s business district with one user commenting: “finally, DG took some photos in Chinese good neighbourhoods. Good job.”
Right now is of course a crucial time for luxury brands seeking to invest in China, as the market begins to show signs of recovery from last year’s drop, with spending on luxury advertising being set to rise 2.9% in 2017 according to Zenith (ROI Agency).
However with China’s market and demographic constantly evolving and growing more and more sophisticated, brand’s will now more than ever need to be aware of the cultural implications of their actions, and understand what their target actually wants, if they want to avoid backlash and negativity.
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