A luxury brand that shows children with objects used in BDSM practices... This association seems surreal, and yet it is the one that the brand Balenciaga has made for its Christmas campaign called Gift Shop. The scandal has gone out of control, and the brand says that the people responsible for this campaign will be prosecuted. While this campaign is certainly one of the biggest crises of 2022, Strategic offers you a quick deciphering.
What really happened?
@Balenciaga Christmas campaign Balenciaga Gift Shop 2022
Staging children with sexual objects from the BDSM universe... The association of children with sexual practices of adults is decried for its pedophilic and child pornography connotations. A wave of global indignation that goes far beyond the world of fashion. The photos speak for themselves.
If the picture was not already dark enough, we can add the photo of a campaign in preparation for spring 2023. Behind this bag are documents that refer to a case of child pornography in the United States:
@Balenciaga campaign Spring 2023
Finally, this confusing photo published in November 2022, where in the background appears the university diploma of John Phillip Fisher, convicted of incest in 2008. This escalating scandal has not gone unnoticed, and has triggered chain reactions with serious consequences for the brand.
@Balenciaga campaign November 2022
Crisis of image and values.
With 734 000 negative mentions about this campaign on social networks around the world, #BoycottBalenciaga or #CancelBalenciaga are used massively, and brand ambassadors s such as Kim Kardashian have disassociated themselves from the brand. A real hecatomb, this crisis questions the image and values of Balenciaga, and will go as far as a boycott of the brand in the fashion world: the artistic director of Balenciaga has had his award of Global Voices,received earlier in 2022, withdrawn.
Many influencers went even further, burning or cutting up the brand's shoes or clothes, then reposting videos of their actions on their social media accounts. A strong signal to firmly condemn the dubious values and associations induced in this campaign.
A brand overwhelmed by its own internal decisions.
Beyond the condemnations on social networks, it is the whole ecosystem and the functioning of the brand that is questioned. What are the limits of creativity? How do we approve a campaign or a project? How do we choose our service providers? This crisis questions the values and validation systems of an organization, both internally and with regard to its service providers. Establishing a reference framework makes it possible to limit such excesses and align internal decisions with the company's philosophy.
An apology that marks a turning point.
However, the brand says: "It was never our intention to include child abuse in our story". The art director will apologize for a "poor artistic choice for the concept of the gift campaign" and considers himself responsible.
"We apologize for displaying disturbing material in our campaign. We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved elements for our Spring 23 campaign shoot. We strongly condemn child abuse in any form. We stand for the safety and well-being of children."
Cedric Charbit, Balenciaga's president, will publicly express a willingness to "learn from our mistakes," with changes, a new structure for the image department, the involvement of a communications agency and the adoption of an in-house image consulting entity to validate content. At the same time, Balenciaga wishes to support associations for the protection of children.
Despite the sincere apologies expressed and the actions taken by the brand, they do not erase the loss of consumer confidence, the crisis of values internally and the sulphurous image of the brand after this campaign.
All sectors have a crisis on the horizon.
Sometimes all it takes is a shadow of a doubt or misinterpreted decisions, which can turn a small spark into a scandal or global crisis - from which a company will struggle to recover. While some sectors may be considered at risk, all business areas have a crisis on the horizon. How can we prevent a crisis from happening ? Testing the limits of an organization's operations, determining strong core values, simulating a crisis, preparing teams to react... Anticipating certain factors and questioning the limits of an organization can help detect potential risk situations.
Strategic's consultants support today's leaders, employees and entrepreneurs in their crisis communication: crisis simulation exercises, crisis communication training and awareness, crisis management, media and social network monitoring.