If you have yet to hear about Balenciaga’s recent brand reputation crisis, let us dive in and share the good, bad and how to prevent something like this from happening to your organization.
In November, Spanish fashion house Balenciaga released not one but two campaigns that caused public outrage. First, a holiday 2022 ad featuring the brand’s new plush bear purses — styled in bondage — held and hugged by toddlers. Days later, an ad previewing their Spring 2023 collection included a photo of a purse laid on a messy desk — hidden in plain sight were documents of a Supreme Court case that ruled on child pornography laws in the United States. Eagle-eyed consumers and internet sleuths saw a connection and cried out disgust; a massive crisis for the top brand ensued.
While Balenciaga quickly responded, it took nearly two weeks for them to claim responsibility for the “oversight.” Many felt, rightfully, it was an offense that crossed a line. Not only has it placed the company, its management, designers and photographers in the hot seat, but critics and the media have also come after A-List stars that have endorsed the fashion house in recent years. With many celebrities slow to respond, it allowed the crisis to snowball.
Balenciaga’s management was not prepared for a crisis.
First, the company needed to have the proper chain of command or a crisis committee in place. A brand so committed to pushing the limits in design should have safeguards in place.
Second, Balenciaga was entirely reactionary once the scandal broke. As a company that courts and employs huge celebrities as brand ambassadors, it should have been clear those individuals are an extension of the company. Instead of leaving each of them on its own, Balenciaga should have proactively reached out to its most prominent endorsers with a consistent message. In turn, the message could have been shared with its ambassadors’ millions of fans and followers.
It’s a cautionary tale: poor decision-making, a brand damaged, millions of dollars lost and employees fired. A better crisis plan would have mitigated it from happening.
What is essential to learn from crises like this one is that no one is immune to disaster. Especially as an organization grows — financially, operationally, socially — it is crucial to plan for the worst with help from the experts like The Mach 1 Group.
Learn more about the crisis work we do here.