L’Oréal Paris Next to Suffer Wrath of Chinese Netizens

What Happened: Make-up brand L’Oréal Paris has officially appointed Korean actor Lee Jongsuk (Li Zhongshuo in Chinese) as its brand ambassador for China. Revealed through its official Weibo, the news sees Lee added to the list of spokespersons joining Zhu Yilong, Deng Lun, and Gong Jun. As a star of many popular film and television dramas, he is loved by countless Chinese fans (his popularity has surged to 10 million followers in the country.) He is also favored by many international brands, from Chanel to Jo Malone.

Yet, despite his admiration, some netizens lambasted L’Oréal for choosing Lee over someone with Chinese heritage. Following the discontent, the brand amended it’s announcement to say ‘brand ambassador’ – effectively removing the word China from his title.

Netizens expressed their frustration under L’Oréal’s announcement post, commenting: “Are you crazy? Choosing a Korean to be a China ambassador?”

The Jing Take: Western names are currently having a tough time than usual in China. From Nike to H&M, they have been blacklisted for their positions on Xinjiang cotton. But now, even icons are taking heat for wearing specific brands, namely the lead dancer of the K-pop girl group Blackpink. And although K-Pop stars are revered in China, the country has just recently started to relax its Korean entertainment ban. Since then, the local entertainment industry has changed significantly during that time.

Today, China’s domestic stars (Wu Lei and Wang Feifei) have no less influence on fans than Korean stars previously had.

Meanwhile, L’Oréal stated that its sales reached $9.1 billion in the three months leading up to March; this was higher than forecasts and has been attributed to strong growth in China. Still, under these auspicious circumstances, brands need to be acutely aware of national sentiment. The quick erasure of a full job title shows that, for now, the company is banking on the well-known phrase: “When in doubt, leave out.”

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.