For any company that plans to do a marketing campaign designed to attract a nation that's recently displayed some hostility to more western regions, here's a tip. Try not to creep them out!
That's one hard lesson that British-based luxury retailer Burberry is sadly learning after executing a marketing strategy to attract the more uppity types in China earlier this month. But the blowback on social media has been so brutal, the company even took a dive on the stock market when shares fell by as much as five percent within a few days of the campaign's launch.
The fuss over what is turning out to be a Burberry epic fail has to do with a photography blitz to showcase the company's fashion line just in time for Chinese New Year, taking place Feb. 5. The pics, shot by celebrity photographer Ethan James Green show a well-to-do Chinese family all decked out in Burberry finery. The images scream opulence from the classic furniture to the ornate backdrop.
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However, the actual screaming came from Burberry's very target audience upset over the tone of the pics, especially over the family being photographed. Many complained about how glum the clan looked, going so far as to they their moodiness was a testament to China's rather depressing economy of late. One wag's comment was even more outrageous, claiming the images created the impression that the rest of the family was plotting to kill the financially-loaded matriarch.
“Unhappy family, unhappy Burberry," stated one respondent. "No one is looking normal.”
Several Chinese respondents on were further insulted that the campaign, which featured Vicky Zhao and Zhou Dongyu, two of the country's best-known actresses, was timed according to Chinese New Year, one of the most celebrated holidays in the nation. The event signifies an opportunity for folks of Chinese ancestry to celebrate family, friends and their good fortune. But not unlike Christmas, it's also a chance for retailers to hype their wares. Case in point was the Burberry campaign which was planning to hike the prices of its fashions to appeal to the economy's upper echelons.
“Obviously, this is not about Chinese New Year,” lamented one reader.
“Such weird family portraits, it gives me goosebumps,” added another.
If Burberry's reviewing its campaign, it has plenty of material from social media to pore over. Nearly a hundred thousand comments on the marketing strategy can be found on China's most popular microblogging site Sina Weibo, with more than half a million viewers checking out the controversy online.