Appointing a local brand ambassador in China is a strategy many luxury companies have embraced in the hopes of attracting domestic consumers, especially the younger ones. Chinese celebrities, and more increasingly fashion bloggers, have taken up the mantle sharing their influence with tony fashion houses.
Successful case studies abound, including former boy band mega-star Kris Wu who strutted down the runway for Burberry and actor and singer Lu Han who cut a sleek youthful figure for an abstract Cartier commercial. However, as the recent social media fracas surrounding Angleababy’s appointment as the brand ambassador to Christian Dior shows, luxury brands sometimes inadvertently spark online brouhahas with their selections whether because the celebrities are lightning rods for criticism, bring with them scandals of their own, or simply don’t fit the brand (in the minds of the consumers). But even though the controversy seems risky for the brands, it also brings its share of attention.
The following six celebrities are examples of some of those luxury collaborations in China that took a turn for the controversial.
1. Angelababy and Christian Dior
French luxury powerhouse Christian Dior appointed Chinese actress Angelababy to be the first brand ambassador in China on April 28. Almost immediately, the announcement ignited a heated debate on China’s social media, with most commenters questioning Dior’s decision. Chinese internet users think Angelababy’s public image does not match with Dior’s up-scale standard. The actress has long been affected by rumors that she has done plastic surgery to her face.
2. Lin Dan and Montblanc (See featured image above)
Montblanc, the German manufacturer of classy pens, chose Chinese badminton player and Olympic gold medalist Lin Dan to become its regional brand ambassador in China in late 2014. With his healthy glow and athletic prowess, Lin Dan’s image was impeccable. However, in 2016, pictures emerged on Weibo of Lin Dan with a “mystery woman” a few days after his wife gave birth to their first child. After the pictures caused a furor on the social media site, Lin took to Weibo to apologize.
3. Coco Lee and Chanel
In 2001, when French luxury brand Chanel invited Hong Kong-born American singer Coco Lee to be its regional ambassador in Asia, the collaboration met negative feedback from Chanel’s loyal fans in Hong Kong. Affluent female consumers in Hong Kong were taken aback by the appointment, expressing concern over Lee’s sexy figure, complaining that it was not in line with Chanel, a brand known for its elegance. “Coco Lee is more of a hot chick,” one VIP consumer of Chanel jewelry told Epoch Times in 2001, “more suitable for DKNY or Dolce and Gabbana than Chanel.”
4. Gogoboi and Louis Vuitton
One of China’s most influential fashion blogger Gogoboi also brought controversial buzz to Louis Vuitton when he took the brand’s Weibo handle to broadcast 2015 Autumn/Winter Fashion Show from Paris. Even though Gogoboi had worked closely with Louis Vuitton before, but most of brand’s followers said that they could not accept a fashion blogger to be the face of the brand they like.
5. Bai Baihe and Chanel
Chinese actress Bai Baihe caused a stir during fashion week last October when she appeared at the Chanel show along with fellow actress Sichun Ma. But in April this year, the paparazzi allegedly took photos of Bai, who is married with a nine-year-old son, vacationing and being intimate with a younger man in Thailand. The scandal exploded on Weibo when the media alleged that she had been cheating on her husband. On March 8, 2017, not long before the scandal broke, Chanel announced via Weibo that Bai had been appointed as a brand ambassador for Chanel’s watch collection. It’s unclear if the partnership will be affected by the scandal.
6. Papi Jiang and Jaeger LeCoultre
Swiss watchmaker Jaeger LeCoultre created a similar sensation on China’s social media when it featured the country’s top video blogging sensation Papi Jiang in its commercial video last year. Papi, the comedian known for her bold videos in which she lodges acerbic comments, poking fun at everyday scenarios, has accumulated some 44 million followers across a variety of platforms, according to the New York Times. The campaign launched by the watch company to leverage Papi’s massive online following and attract young consumers received mixed reviews though. Many people complained that she compromised Jaeger LeCoultre’s classical image. “Papa Jiang is famous for her acerbic comments. She earned her fame by being sarcastic and criticizing others harshly. Who is she to teach people about behaving positively in this video. I don’t understand what she’s trying to say.”