Monday, 23 March 2015

Dolce & Gabbana and The PR Disaster

The last week in the fashion industry has definitely been an interesting one, but what topped the conversation was an interview given by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana (obviously of Dolce & Gabbana), where they questioned non-traditional family sets, and were quoted saying the following: "I call children of chemistry ‘synthetic children.’"

Although this article fell fairly under the radar at first, it wasn’t until it came into Elton John’s notice that their words began to be picked apart, especially by John himself who posted a very passionate response to the interview on Instagram, defending both his children (who were born of IVF) and family values.

What I wanted to really focus on in this post was how D&G responded to John’s call for people to #boycottdolcegabbana, and whether it was the smartest move given the size and mass-market awareness of the Dolce & Gabbana brand. I personally would have thought the designer duo would have kept quiet, and then issued one statement in which they laid the issue to rest (similar to what Beyonce’s PR team did following elevator gate last year). Instead, what they’ve done is essentially add fuel to the fire by reposting messages of support, or the thoughts and conversation of those who have been marred by their words, on their personal social media accounts ( counted almost 50 instagram posts addressing the topic on their respective pages).

Although I’m no PR expert, from a branding perspective taking a very defensive approach, and drawing out the issue seems very counterproductive. Once the damage was done, they should have just reached out to John and apologised for the misunderstanding (they later regretted their choice words, and clarified their acceptance of all family sets). What they’ve instead done is made people question the values of their brand, and potentially alienated key customer sets who are from or support non-traditional families, or have had children via IVF.

It’ll be interesting to see how this whole debacle affects D&G sales over the next 6 months, but D&G definitely have their work cut out for them in resolving the dissent their words have caused, and re-building positive associations surrounding their brand.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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