Not so long ago a global fashion brand, you may have heard of them – Dolce & Gabbana, thought it would be a good idea to scare up some social media buzz for their upcoming Shanghai fashion show by posting some Chinese specific videos.
The posts depicting a beautiful Chinese model being taught to eat Italian food with chopsticks. One, in which she attempts to eat an oversized cannoli, included the comment: “Is it too big for you?”
No prizes for guessing what happened next.
During the ensuing outrage one of the iconic fashion duo, Stefano Gabbana, engaged in an unfortunate exchange with a fashion journalist, during which he used the poo emoji to describe China.
The big show in Shanghai was, unsurprisingly, cancelled, only hours before the curtain was due to rise.
What does this tell us? Clearly, commercial use of social media really hurts when you get it wrong.
The factis, a brand that lives in an industry that relies on social media can get it so wrong is a warning to all brands seeking to build a following to spruik their wares.
Social media may be a great medium to engage directly with customers, but it is unfiltered, un-curated and unregulated. The slightest miss-step will get magnified. Once that happens trying to get your brand out of the mire will most likely create even more attention, none of it good.
Fashion brands and fast moving consumer goods can ill-afford to ignore social media. For some a lack of presence on social platforms would be an existential threat. But for many companies and brands social media engagement is not quite as critical, yet many over-invest in engaging on multiple platforms with many content entry points. All increasing the risk of something going very wrong.
We may bemoan the ‘oversensitivity’ of the audience and the sensationalising of otherwise ‘small’ issues by the new and old media, but that is the world in which we do business. Controlling the message and minimising risk should be paramount.
For any sensible brand a ‘social media strategy’ should not mean broadcasting across all possible platforms. It should mean carefully considering who you want to engage with, why it’s of value in the first place and who will control the brand messages. What seems like a good idea at a ‘brainstorm’ should always be put through the filter of who may possibly take offence?
In the end, sometimes less is more.
As for Dolce & Gabbana, their clothes were removed from a multitude of Chinese on-line retailers and their access to the largest fashion market in the world is yet to recover.