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Mike Redwood discusses the recent Balenciaga scandal and the consequences of marketing products without thought.
Who said marketing was easy? Please have a word with Balenciaga! They have managed two major errors in short order and are on their knees praying for forgiveness from all and sundry, in particular a very well-paid brand ambassador you may have heard of called Kim Kardashian.
Brands, even a component brand such as leather, function like a deposit bank account. Savings are built up slowly and steadily, rarely with quick wins, but are lost dramatically with a single bad mistake. If a brand chooses to be edgy and break the rules, then it obviously needs to take care it does not go too far. Britain recently had a Prime Minister who wanted to run fast and break the rules and she only lasted 44 days. Remember her? No, long forgotten except in poor jokes. These things matter.
In much of the leather industry, the problem has been getting any sort of budget in the first place and, when this is achieved, stopping overzealous CEOs from interfering and endlessly refining the creative until there is next to nothing left to buy media space.
This was a lesson I learned as a student in the 1960s when standing for a student office. A budget of £5 (US$6.10) could be spent on marketing and the norm was to produce one multicoloured poster and place it in the student building. Since almost none of our 6,000 students who used this building would vote for me, I needed a better solution, so decided to go black and white with smaller, cheaper paper and get a few more posters with “Vote Redwood” plus three or four supporting words as campaign themes.
I found a printer, offered my £5 explaining I was after maximum impact for the money, and he responded that he could do a few foolscap (216 × 343 mm) sheets for me but since he would have the print set up, he could run 400 compliment slip size sheet as well (compliment slip sizes used very low-cost paper) with just the “Vote Redwood” on them.
While I like to think I won my big majority against the odds based on my excellent proposals and ideas, there can be no doubt that the wide distribution of my little posters all around the University and its residences, popping up in windows and on notice boards everywhere, made a big impact. I was very pleased I had not wasted my £5 trying to decide on a perfect colour palette for a single useless poster. A lesson learned.
Risky thinking can lead to trouble
Balenciaga designer Demna appears to be thinking that being risky by harking back to curiously old-fashioned ideas about bondage and BDSM in fashion is clever and required to maintain the hard-earned position of his brand.
The first shock was showing background documents in an advert that were from a Supreme Court case on child pornography – documents apparently rented for the occasion. Although their staff were supposedly present throughout, Balenciaga sued the agency but has since backed off.
Their second mistake was adverts using children holding teddy bears dressed in BDSM gear. It caused an immediate reaction and #cancelBalenciaga was soon trending all over social media. This will make recovery difficult for the brand whatever Kim Kardashian decides.
While I applaud the absence of an over-meticulous CEO demanding detailed reviews of the creative, if Demna was not present at either shoot, curious in itself, he surely checked the work with colleagues to give final approval. There is no escape from responsibility.
Personally, I will stick with my early learning. Obtain a budget and establish a clear uncomplicated message distributed widely in a way planned to ensure the target audience will get plenty of opportunity to see it. Perhaps some things are easy after all.
Follow Dr Mike Redwood on Twitter: @michaelredwood
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