Dior needs to spike its upcoming Travis Scott collection

Andrew Knowles, partner at SKMG, discusses the dark side of celebrity endorsements.

We’re more than aware of the power of clever celebrity endorsements, particularly in fashion. All the way from Harry Styles’ iconic work with Gucci to the original – and surely still the greatest – Jordan and Nike, celebrity endorsements and collaborations have the power to reinvigorate legacy labels and engage new audiences.

It’s not just big names either: according to Hootsuite’s recently released social trends of 2022, the smartest brands are finding new ways to build communities by partnering with the right content creators at a local level.

There’s nothing new in saying that these sort of brand partnerships work, but something often overlooked is the risk factor associated with hanging a legacy brand’s social capital on an individual personality – let alone one with millions of followers. Without a backup plan, it could be a brand-sinking PR disaster.

Right now, media are wildly speculating about the future of Dior’s upcoming Travis Scott collection following the Astroworld tragedy, where eight people lost their lives as a result of a crowd surge at the rapper’s own festival. Dior’s upcoming Spring/Summer menswear line is designed entirely in collaboration with Scott, who plans to share his own Cactus Jack branding.

The executives at Dior have a crucial decision to make. The prospect of dropping a collection this close to its release is terrifying even for a top-tier luxury house. Supply chains, still slowed due to COVID, combined with design manufacturing and the sheer cost of manufacturing an entire new line means there’s a high chance Dior could be entirely absent from men’s boutiques over the European Summer. At this point we can all take a collective sigh of relief we’re not sitting in on those boardroom chats – unless of course you are, in which case, sorry.

Dior is staring down the barrel of a seemingly impossible decision, weighing up whether the fiscal loss of dumping the line is worth more than the potential brand damage if it goes ahead. Note the use of “seemingly” here: it’s important, because even in this dire situation, Dior’s dilemma is held up by nothing more than a sunken cost fallacy. In reality, at least from a PR and communications perspective, there is no choice: the (most likely beautiful) collection must be abandoned, and fast.

The long-term damage to reputation done by persisting with a collection affiliated with an embattled celebrity – regardless of the outcome as to Scott’s direct involvement in or responsibility for the deaths themselves – could mean a years long dip in revenue for the brand.

Now, more than ever, people buy a community, not a shirt, and now more than ever, social conscience defines that community and dictates buyer behaviour. This could not be more critical for a legacy fashion house whose name means everything. Just look at Dolce & Gabbana: three years after a series of controversial ads and leaked racist messages from Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram account, the brand is still struggling.

Like any crisis, time is a key factor here. The longer this draws on, the more media will continue to speculate about the collection’s future and the brand will be inadvertently affiliated with poor festival management and the tragic loss of life. The damage is being done in real time and demands immediate action, particularly when you consider Scott has an inordinate number of followers in by far the most socially conscious generation. This could mean a real consumer loss for Dior; let’s not forget that despite their age, Gen Z are far more predisposed than their Gen Y counterparts to invest in luxury goods.

While the decision for Dior should be clear, it could have been mitigated, even if only slightly. Brands should consider that there is always an inherent risk associated with tying themselves to a celebrity. It’s often a worthwhile risk to take as the reward is high, but you always need a Plan B. For Dior, hedging its entire Spring/Summer menswear line on one celebrity was just poor portfolio management. Even a small line of standalone Dior products for Spring/Summer would mean the brand could still have presence – now its chances look very slim. In this instance, it appears Dior had no Plan B, meaning it really has no choice: the line must be ditched and a firm stance on the issue needs to be taken immediately, as an investment in the future of the brand for this generation and generations to come.

Andrew Knowles is partner at SKMG.


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