Picture this; you’re a 20-something, brand-loving Genfluencer, who saves up to purchase an AU$1140 Chanel advent calendar. You’re excited to share the event with your 200k+ followers, and decide to make a video early to showcase a few products inside as a sneak peek. You peel back the tightly bound plastic wrapping, pry open the matte finish packaging, to find a giant Chanel No. 5 shaped advent calendar. Running your fingers across each box inside, you pick number 16, a large box that is surprisingly lightweight compared to the dimensions and find… stickers.
Well actually, if you don’t have a great imagination then never fear, you don’t actually have to picture it. You can watch Elise Harmon live that reality on TikTok right now. In four days, her video has had 2m likes, 24k shares, and countless articles written about the shocking move made by the heritage brand. As I type, Diet Prada has picked up the video, and accused the brand of repurposing past gift-with-purchase items.
Now it’s no surprise to us all that large luxury brands are often slow to resolve social media scandals - I’m looking at you Dolce & Gabbana - but when your latest move is being dubbed the “Fyre Festival of Social Media”, it’s time to pull out the big guns. Unfortunately, this is where this story goes downhill. Fast.
At first, the social media managers took a “see no evil” approach to the growing backlash, blocking Elise’s TikTok and Instagram from their accounts. This led to the unfortunate comment-bombing of Chanel’s TikTok page, with people desperately trying to get in touch with anyone who could give them answers. Cut to today, and we’ve seen that the brand has shut down it’s account, and limited comments across it’s other social media platforms. There is yet to be a press release, statement, or even influencer-style apology story posted to any platform.
Here’s the thing about Genfluencers, Gen Z’s, or even social media in general - it’s a head on world. Reactions to these kinds of posts say a thousand words, even if you don’t, so it’s always best to be on the front foot with feedback. Sometimes you just have to put your hand up and call it what it is, and this was a bad move by the brand.
It’s not all despair for Chanel though, and every mistake even if it isn’t your own is a chance to learn. So here’s a few things you, and Chanel, can implement to hopefully make sure your brand isn’t used as a case study in what not to do.
First off, prevention is key. Most of the time you can avoid issues escalating to this scale by having a clear process for urgent responses. It’s all about having the right decision makers in the room (or video call) and getting their buy in right away. Templated responses are going to make your brand seem like it doesn’t care about consumer feedback, so you need to be creating bespoke messages for the first, largest, and most engaged posts.
When it comes to responding to negative feedback, it’s always best to acknowledge it directly. Use their name, they are human after all, and you don’t want this to feel like a copy/paste job. Thank the person for taking the time to create that content, as it takes a lot of courage to speak out about your experience. Offer them a solution, be it someone who can contact them to communicate about the issue directly or if possible send them a replacement product.
Don’t forget, one day in real-time is a year in social-time, so you’ve got to have a quick turnaround on your urgent responses. As a rule, I say 12-hours maximum from identifying a post that is a danger to the brand to replying to the complaint. Social media doesn’t stop when we aren’t in the office either, so have a think about out of hours community management and social listening to make sure you are on top of your branded mentions.
Now if it starts to get more attention after you’ve responded directly, it’s time to up the ante. Bringing those same decision makers back together is extremely important as they know the context of the concern, and you are all going to need to make some big decisions very quickly. If we’re talking about a product, is there the possibility of recalling it? Was it a poorly-executed social media post with good intentions? How about an apology or statement from the brand. You know your brand, so find the space for you to flex as this is all about compromise.
Whatever you do, don’t run from the conversation or act like it’s not happening. Just because you aren’t a part of it, doesn’t mean it will go away, so take the time to understand how you can best approach the topic and just press send.
Oh and Chanel, if you’re reading this, we’re available for consultation.
Gorgia Brewer is the Managing Director of Creative Services at Resolve.