Chinese model clumsily eating Italian Pizza with Chopsticks — D&G 2018 China Ad

Why Dolce & Gabbana’s “Racist” Blunder Matters for Luxury Brands in China

A lesson of when “creative” marketing ads overstep their mark. Combined with another big problem (see the end), this is a really big blunder for D&G.

D&G is estimated to lose USD500 million from this fallout.

The fallout from Dolce & Gabbana’s video ads promoting its fashion show in China over the weekend has been swift, harsh and powerful. Watch the ad below and tell me what you think. Was it culturally insensitive? The model, wearing a D&G dress, is clumsily eating Italian pizza with chopsticks. Another ad showed the model eating spaghetti with chopsticks. Is this the kind of message they expected people in China to like? It doesn’t make any sense!

Chinese consumers spend over $100 billion a year on luxury goods. China represents one third of the world’s luxury market. Chinese consumers are discerning, especially luxury goods consumers. Their buying decisions are often influenced by feedback from their friends & other people.

That’s why this scandal will turn many people off the D&G brand. For many, it’s likely to be forever because this was the 2nd blunder by them in China.

Will D&G be able to recover and rebuild their reputation in China? Some people will not forget this. As a big branding fail, it’s pretty bad. Other high profile western brands have made mistakes in China this year. Why didn’t D&G learn from them?

“Why give them our money when there are other luxury brands who welcome our business and respect our culture & history?”

Celebrities have boycotted their Fashion Show in Shanghai and it was forced to cancel. Actually China’s government issued them with a notice cancelling the event. D&G’s products have been removed from e-commerce platforms and stores in China and Hong Kong. D&G had over $1 billion worth of sales this year plus many customers will be refunding their goods.

The backlash on #socialmedia has gone outside of China to Europe and Canada. Former fans of the brand have shared their shock over the insensitive and disrespectful nature of D&G’s ads, especially the disrespectful anti-China tweets, “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia” by co-founder, Stefano Gabbana. Also his comments are found here…

Gabbana’s claim that his account has been hacked fell on deaf ears as he has been known to be critical of other people. They’re only apologising because they got caught. Not because they’re truly sorry. There is a big difference between creative ads and disrespectful, racist ads and comments (on twitter) coming from the founder himself.

One thing about #socialmedia, you cannot totally delete your comments. Someone would have saved it or taken screenshots of it.

“I love China and the Chinese Culture,” Gabbana wrote on his personal account. “I’m so sorry for what happened.”

The two founders made a special video, apologising for what happened.

“Our dream was to bring to Shanghai a tribute event dedicated to China which tells our history and vision,” the founders said in a statement posted to Instagram and Twitter on Wednesday. “It was not simply a fashion show, but something that we created especially with love and passion for China.”

D&G are known for being politically incorrect. They expect people to either accept it or to leave it.

“Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana unspool politically incorrect opinions with little more than a shrug. They evoke rage and fury on social media. Then they douse the flames with some of the most breathtaking fashion imaginable.”

They got into trouble with Elton John in 2015 and Elton John pledged to boycott them. His #BoycottDolceGabbana was tweeted over 35,000 times compared to D&G’s #BoycottEltonJohn 1,200 times.

So they may have thought that China could handle their “political incorrectness.” They have seriously miscalculated the speed and size of the backlash in China. Plus its impact in other markets as well.

This is what happens when any brand, let alone a luxury brand, becomes too fixated on making money. Forgetting that money comes from people and people have feelings.

When it becomes too arrogant and believe that it’s too big to fail.

D&G cared more about the money they could earn from China, instead of truly getting to know and love its culture, the history and its people.

When you’re talking about a huge market of 1.4 Billion people, any mistake like this may not be fixable. D&G’s competitors would happily jump into the vacuum left by them.

American Luxury Brand Michael Kors Learns Chinese

In contrast, American luxury fashion brand, Michael Kors, even learnt some Chinese for his New York Fashion Week show when he invited fans of his Chinese global ambassador actress Yang Mi to meet her at a special event. It was a big success!

People appreciate it when foreigners make an effort to learn their language and culture. Not just China. Any tourists going to a foreign country who have done their homework and are genuinely interested in their culture and people, would be received warmly.


D&G could find it very difficult to get any Chinese celebrity willing to help them to recover their reputation. These celebrities would be afraid of the backlash from their fans if they choose to support this brand.

What if they do it again?

China’s social credit system could punish people who show disrespect and bad behaviour. Anyone stepping outside of government’s or the community’s approval could lose points, possibly making them socially unacceptable.

China uses its citizens to report people who step outside the rules. No one can escape this system, unless they choose to leave China. Some critics have said that it’s sinister, draconian and intrusive.

China’s radical plan to rank their 1.3 billion citizens. Rewarded for good behaviour, punished for bad behaviour. They’ve been building this since 2014.

Their prospects in China are looking very bleak indeed. It looks like D&G may miss out on China’s luxury market boom.

“Alienating customers is always bad for business. But for luxury brands, pushing away Chinese shoppers is a disaster.”

Do you agree?

D&G will become a Big Brand #marketing Case Study in colleges and universities in the future.

Thanks for reading, clapping, commenting and following me.

Have you read this yet?

If you haven’t heard of China’s social ranking system, please check my post below.

China’s Social Credit System: Judges People as Good/Bad.

Luxury Fashion Brands’ Cosmetic Lines are a Big Hit in China. How can this help you?

Ivonne Teoh

I write on #LinkedIn about #mentalhealth #blockchain #AI #robots. The #futureofwork is a national & global emergency! Please check my #futureproof jobs series where I explore new mindsets, trends & new jobs/industries. Can we save our jobs? It won’t be easy; best to start early.

Blockchain, Social Media, Mental Health Educator & Writer. Please check my series on LinkedIn about #AI #robotics #futureofwork #futureproof jobs.

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