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Crisis-Management: Brand Experience

How Crisis-Management Can Resolve Crucial Brand Reputation Problems

It is better to learn by other people bad mistakes rather than by your own. This concept also comes to fashion brands who want to maintain their reputation, keep their audience loyal and attract new potential customers, but sometimes sh*t happens (sorry). Any mistakes both small and bigger and serious fails can lead to severe aftermath that can destroy the brand’s reputation and image in just a second. By developing social media and due to high-speed internet, news and scandal speed with a colossal pace, making a process of repentance and apologise even harder than it could be. To hush up the scandal is getting more difficult, PR-offices and company management itself sometimes need to implement really radical strategies in order to bring back their audience’s trust. And sometimes, due to the wrong strategy, it can exacerbate the situation even more.

The more the audience is loyal, the more potential disappointment is – and the critics are louder and unpleasant. Nowadays, in the modern world, democracy and tolerance have never been so dangerous as it was some years ago, and when brands cross the line of permitted – no matter intentionally or not – the backlash may cost brands a lot. Literally.

FASHION: from public xenophobia to unwilled racism

When I’m asked to remember some of the most remarkable fashion scandals, the first thing that comes to my mind is Galliano. Yes, the famous John Galliano, the former Christian Dior creative director and owner of his eponymous brand. His scandal turned into the most discussed one within fashion society and brought a storm about one’s ears – this happened at the beginning of the 2010s. In February 2011, John Galliano visited a Parisian bar La Perle and, being notably drunk, burst into xenophobic tirade towards a sitting at the next table couple. Designer declared that he admires Hitler, and «such people like they are» could have been already dead: «Your mothers, your ancestors would die inside of gas chambers.» Witnesses of the conflict filmed this on video and sent it to the journalists – everyone had learnt about Galliano’s points of view. He was immediately fired from Dior – at first, temporarily – till the investigation came to its end, and later, in March, already finally. Sidney Toledano, a former CEO of Dior, explained that Galliano’s deed contradicts with Christian Dior values, and it turned up into a «severe, heartbreaking experience». It wasn’t limited only by firing Galliano from Dior – he also lost his power and control of his personal brand that also belongs to LVMH.

A rapid reaction of the company directions which had operatively distanced from the designer, Maison Dior wasn’t damaged a lot by Galliano-gate. Even Natalie Portman who criticised abruptly Galliano’s actions didn’t break the contract still remaining the face of the fashion house for almost ten years. Speaking about Galliano’s future, it appeared to become more encouraging as it was expected before – many thought he would never come back to the fashion industry, but he made it arise like a phoenix and return to high fashion. Now Galliano is a creative director of Maison Margiela, and his collections find their audience and even admiration. And the story happened at La Perle seem to be already forgotten.

But before recovering in society’s eyes and successfully returning to work, Galliano had to pass through a lot of obstacles helping him to overcome the crisis. The first and foremost thing he had done is went to rehab and gave an interview to Vanity Fair in which he said sorry and regretted of his deed, condemned anti-semitism and confessed his poisoning relationship with alcohol. Galliano even got on well with a Jewish community, partially, with American Anti-Defamation league – a public organisation with occupies in fighting with anti-semitism. Impressively, right? In May 2015, a former creative director of Dior performed in the Central Synagogue in London with a penitential speech which was ended by applause. The front row of the first official Galliano’s show for Margiela was occupied by synagogue rabbi, Barry Marcus.

It seems like everyone had to learn a lesson after Galliano’s scandal and act more careful and conscious, but many prefer to experience their own mistakes. Sometimes fashion campaigns, fashion shows, statements and even a little single word may affect a catastrophe which needs to be resolved by the whole team of brand’s PR-agents and representatives. Recently, the reputation scandals appear with enviable regularity: not every company is in charge to follow all the social changes that become more sensitive and reflective.

Let’s talk about Dolce & Gabbana. At the end of 2018 when you have to sum up your brand success and meet the new year in a good condition, Dolce & Gabbana thoughtlessly launched an «ironic» campaign about «Chinese-Italian friendship» (the irony as it is) that was perceived as a mockery of the Chinese culture in China. While the PR-managers tried to solve a problem delicately and officially react to indignation, the social media was flooded by Stefano Gabbana’s personal conversation screenshots in which he called Chinese «ignorant dirty smelling mafia». Surprisingly. Just to remind: the vast part of the luxury goods consumers is Chinese who spend an enormous amount of money for Dolce & Gabbana, and you just let yourself to say some kind of things towards those who let you make the ends meet? Both designers denied their involvement into discussion claiming they were hacked, then they apologised, but it was too late. The fashion show that had to take place in Shanghai was cancelled right some hours before the start, Chinese fashion bloggers began defiantly burn out brand’s clothing, meanwhile massive retailer such as Net-a-Porter and Alibaba removes all the Dolce & Gabbana products out of their platforms. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that it was brought back at Net-a-Porter after a while.

Generally speaking, it didn’t affect a lot on European sales and reputation – the story found its end. And it’s time for Stefano to stop, but he continues to mess around. Otherwise, it’s impossible to explain what kind of reason he had by calling Selena Gomez ugly in the comments under her Instagram picture, or claiming Chiara Ferragni’s bridesmaids «fat», or calling Chiara ugly too. Even the loyal Dolce & Gabbana fans can’t explain Stefano’s weird behaviour that little by little leads him to somewhere beneath the deepest reputational gorge. At least, if you don’t even care about your company’s future, it doesn’t make you a gentleman calling a woman «ugly». Think about it, Stefano.

The Swedish retail giant H&M was much more damaged after a racist scandal flamed after someone noticed a picture of the little boy wearing a green hoodie on the official brand’s e-commerce site. «Coolest Monkey in the Jungle» script burst out a huge number of reaction and critics throughout social media. Canadian musician The Weekend who was taking part in some of the brand’s ultimate campaigns became one of the first who was offended by the print. H&M immediately reacted and was rapid to remove the photo from site and hoodie from stores.

But the process had been already launched: people reminded other H&M sins that appeared to happen with the brand; even an interview with the boy’s mother wasn’t helpful enough to encourage society there was no any racist implication. People started smashing company’s stores in Johannesburg that led to clashes with the police. After that H&M performed with a big announcement on social media called «We Are Listening» – representatives of the brand declared that they listen to any community reaction on their deeds, and that they hired a «diversity-manager» – a person who will take care of every brand’s collection, campaign and promotion being as ethical as possible. There was no any accident misstep afterwards.

BEAUTY INDUSTRY: scandalous statements and acne-positive issues

Everybody knows The Ordinary. Almost anyone has already used its amazing skin-care products that mostly truly transform your skin into something mesmerising and glowing for a less cost. But not many know what and who stands – stood – behind the company that to ended up tragically and sad.

The Ordinary belongs to Deciem company the was found by Brandon Truaxe (but there is not only The Ordinary belonged, obviously). In autumn 2018, by sentence of the Canadian court, Tuaxe was dismissed from the company management and forbidden to be meant as its employer. Speaking by the most famous villain’s phrase: why so serious; the reason is in scandalous posts by Deciem’s name which were published by Brandon on @deciem Instagram page. Nicole Kilner, his former partner, became a company director, and after a while, on January 20, 41 years-old Tuaxe was found dead – it supposed that entrepreneur committed a suicide.

Sometimes things may appear more unexpected, but at least less tragic as it happened to Galliano or Truaxe: when the fault is on the surface, but there is no one to blame for. Even Glossier had to face such kind of a problem. The first Glossier mascara, Lash Slick, was positioned as a vegan, but the first consumers who purchased the mascara noticed beeswax in the product’s composition that fairly led to indignation in social media. As a brand on the basis of the rapid feedback, Glossier reacted immediately: the same day everyone who bought Lash Slick got a full return and apologises in addition. All the mascara recalls weren’t suspended in order to let other consumers with non-vegan habits use it.

Rapid feedback is a crucial moment when it comes to managing negative situations, and many emergent brands adopt this practice; meanwhile, the leading brands that already have some weight in the beauty industry can’t calculate aftermath if something goes wrong. L’Oreal recently launched a vegan hair dye. In the beginning, the company suggested to acne-positive blogger Kadeeja Khan to take a part in a product advertising, but after a while, it refused to have any relationship with her reasoning that «L’Oreal can’t deal with people of such skin».

Kadeeja published a screenshot post of the letter she got, L’Oreal responded immediately referring to problems in communication with an advertising agency. The collaboration wasn’t resumed again, but Kadeeja didn’t felt as an affected party – Rimmel chose her as an ambassador of their social campaign against appearance prejudice.

In the modern world, an epoch when social media affect on different aspects of life and may bring you to the top or put down below Mariana Trench-level, it is important to support the relationship between audience and company making them closer to each other and developing a wise customer relationship. When someone is in charge to destroy your reputation, especially when a situation comes to a critical point, it’s crucial to find the right strategy to clean your reputation. The louder the voice of dissatisfied – the more rapidly scandal comes to a flame. Crisis-Management has already turned into an industry, and the qualified crisis-managers worth its weight in gold. But sometimes, no matter how much they try, there is nothing that could help the brand to resurrect and recover after a scandal that led to really big problems. Yes, I’m talking about Trauxe, and I hope, there will be no another one who might end up tragically after losing everything just because of the stupid and hasty words.

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