How to Lose Friends and Alienate (1.3 billion) People

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Well done Sharon Stone – for providing a classic example of what not to say (see the link below for how she thinks the earthquake was a result of bad karma).

The media, and the Chinese people, have been quick to react to La Stone’s almost unbelievable comments. Forget the obvious confusion about politics, religion and national boundaries – what about a little bit of humanity?!

While the things that ill-informed Hollywood celebrities say might not really matter in the grand scheme of things, Stone’s comments have already had a business impact – many Chinese will choose not to watch Stone’s movies again, but, more importantly (as the movies are likely to be pirated copies anyway!), Dior has been quick to drop Stone from its advertising in China. And the company (good for it) was quick to react – a lesson that has been learnt the hard way by others. SFGate reports:

    “…bosses at Christian Dior have banned ads featuring the star in China.

    A spokesman at the company’s Shanghai headquarters said, “We don’t agree with her hasty, unreflecting remarks and we deeply regret them.

    “Dior was one of the first international brands to enter China and has won the affection and respect of the consuming public. We absolutely do not support any remark that hurts the Chinese people’s feelings.””

Dior has been unlucky, and this whole thing must have cost it dear, despite the rapid and well-run damage limitation. But in a twist, worthy of a Hollywood storyline, Dior is owned by LVMH, which was recently linked to protests against Carrefour, the French supermarket chain, in China. The reason for the protests? LVMH, a major shareholder in Carrefour, was reported to have given money to the Dalai Lama. Perhaps this experience helps explain why Dior had their eye on the ball…

Other international businesses, as we are always pointing out to clients, should make sure that they (and whoever they pay to represent them) are clear on communications policies, and the sensitivities that exist in China (and, in relation to Stone’s comments, the whole of the thinking world). They can then avoid their “Murdoch moment”. Or, in the worst case scenario, put that (hopefully) well-rehearsed crisis managment plan into play.

See news sources:

Updated 30/05/08

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