L’Oreal Paris’ big debacle: Drops endorser days after announcing partnership.
In one of the biggest blunders and PR fiascos in recent times, L’Oreal Paris terminated transgender model Munroe Bergdorf just days after making the big announcement of her signing.
On August 27, L’Oreal announced an influencer-led marketing campaign “True Match” to promote its line of different color shades of face foundation.
The five new shades were aligned with five new “faces”, one of which was Bergdorf.
The naming of transgender Bergdorf was huge news, yet instead of both parties basking in the enormous accomplishment of this historic endorsement deal, things blew up.
Bergdorf was fired just days later after her views on racial matters in the U.S. were posted on her Facebook page, including comments condemning white people saying “white people must admit their race is the most violent and oppressive force of nature on Earth”. (her entire post, which contains very strong language and beliefs, can be found on-line)
Although everyone has the right to their opinions, the question is:
What due diligence did L’Oreal do on Bergdorf to learn what her beliefs are?
Did anyone from the brand sit down with her to get a feel for who she is?
Did anyone from the brand read her prior social posts to explore her beliefs?
Maybe they did.
Maybe that’s exactly why they hired Bergdorf BECAUSE she appeals to a key demographic that L’Oreal hasn’t connected with and is now trying to reach.
So, was it really unforseeable that Bergdorf would say something controversial?
In the past, brands set forth rigid criteria for selecting endorsers, looking at:
- what have they accomplished?
- what are their skills, talents?
- are there any skeletons in their closet?
- what are their values and do they align with the brands?
- does their persona enhance the brand’s messaging?
Nowadays, are these questions even asked?
Often, the benchmark seems to be how many followers the endorser has or whether their selection will make the brand look hip.
And, if these questions are asked and answered, does the brand really care unless something happens and there is backlash? In which case, they move quickly to get rid of the “problem”.
Maybe it’s time for brands to get real on its brand ambassadors.
If brands want them to completely align with its values and beliefs, then do the necessary homework on them.
If brands want to push the envelope a bit and choose controversial personalities, then they should own that decision and stick with that endorser even if there’s some blow back.
If not, the industry will be seeing many more of these debacles.