What Happened: Coinciding with International Women’s Day on 8 March 2023, L’Oréal Paris China launched “36 Strategies,” an anti-harassment initiative designed to help protect and empower Chinese women.
The campaign was developed under the “Guard Her Against Harassment” project that was rolled out in China in 2022. Over the past year in China alone, more than 200,000 women and men have undergone training in preventing, recognizing and dealing with sexual harassment.
“36 Strategies” aims to reach a wider audience through a deeply Chinese context and online-offline integration. The name refers to a seminal Chinese essay, Thirty-Six Stratagems, which outlines unorthodox or cunning ruses used in politics, warfare and civil interactions.
To keep the message clear and concise, five core strategies for dealing with sexual harassment have been linked to well-known Chinese idioms. These include: “Make a sound in the East and strike in the West” to distract and interrupt; “Lend a hand in times of trouble” to help others and ask for help if needed; and “Follow with evidence” to record relevant information.
The safety plan is unlocked by scanning a QR code through WeChat, where users are presented with five common harassment scenarios and asked multiple-choice questions. Soundtrack and videos will show strategies and tips aimed at stopping harassment in a safe and timely way.
In conjunction with the online campaign, a series of offline events will tour China featuring celebrities and experts, including popular stand-up comedian Niaoniao and He Lingfeng, a professor of Psychology, doctoral supervisor at Shanghai Sports University.
The Jing Take: L’Oréal Paris fared comparatively well in China last year. Admirably, the French cosmetics behemoth is pushing its agenda beyond beauty by tackling social and environmental issues in China and around the world.
L’Oréal’s “We Are Worth It” slogan, coined in 1971, has defined the brand’s attitude towards female empowerment across generations. The “She economy” is obviously an important one for the world’s largest beauty brand and shows no sign of slowing. According to global consultancy Accenture, China is home to nearly 400 million female consumers aged 20 to 60, who account for as much as $1.4 trillion (10 trillion RMB) in spending annually.
Extending female empowerment to tackle issues like sexual harassment is a big leap as it requires exploring cultural sensitivities across areas as diverse as Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, India and China, and necessitates careful localization.
In China, sexual harassment is often a taboo topic, although amendments to China’s Women’s Protection Law, which came into effect this year are an improvement. A 2018 survey of almost 30,000 people by KnowYourself (KY) online community found that 69 percent of respondents in China aged 14 to 55 had been sexually harassed. Of those victims, 75 percent were women and 79 percent had not sought help, either through embarrassment, fear of criticism or lack of education.
L’Oréal Paris has been both bold and smart in finding ways to broach the topic comfortably in China. Approaching harassment like conflict and linking it with well-known Chinese idioms is a meaningful and memorable way to connect with Chinese consumers. Similarly, using the medium of stand-up comedy — which has become hugely popular, particularly among female fans – helps to tackle thorny issues in a way that entertains and resonates with young Chinese audiences.
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.