The « Galliano case »: how LVMH successfully drew the consequences from the Guerlain crisis.
In the communication field, one better not make the same mistake twice. Both LVMH and John Galliano made the same assessment – one to its benefit, the other to its expense – when the fashion designer was charged with anti-Semitic and racist insults on February 24th.
Galliano’s blunder reminds us of the statements made by another emblematic personality of one of the group’s brands, Guerlain. Jean-Paul Guerlain, the “nose” of one the most successful perfume brands, said during an interview: “for once, I’d set to work like a negro. I don’t know if Negroes have always worked like that, but anyways”. The statement deeply chocked the public opinion. In the following days Guerlain and the group it belongs to, LVMH, made serious communication mistakes: the brand reacted too late and clumsily. Therefore, when John Galliano was arrested it was the second time in a few months that one of the emblematic personalities of one of LVMH subsidiary’s was accused of racist statements. But LVMH had learnt from its mistakes, and its communication in this new case has been exemplary.
At first, Dior quickly understood what was at stake when in the “Guerlain case” the brand didn’t realize that its former President’s statements were going to turn against it. On the contrary, Dior understood that Galliano’s insults could seriously and durably damage its brand image, one of the major assets of any luxury brand. If years are usually needed to build a strong brand image, it can be tarnished for long in only a few days.
Second good reaction: LVMH and Dior understood the necessity of communicating when in a crisis situation. LVMH has in mind that Guerlain’s silence was very ill-considered: the brand’s late reaction gave the impression that it had been “forced” to react. Its alleged firmness didn’t really seem genuine, and appeared as a mere support for everyone’s indignation. On the contrary, Dior’s reaction during the Galliano case was fast: the brand keeps the situation under control while showing its full involvement.
Third success: Dior’s message was exemplary. The consequences of the Guerlain case don’t allow Dior to demonstrate any forbearance towards Galliano. Despite the poor timing (the Fashion week was about to begin in Paris), the brand stayed firm: John Galliano is suspended “while waiting the results of the investigation”. This zero tolerance policy was a signal to the entire public opinion through which LVMH mended its way out of its past mistakes.
Whereas LVMH was determined not make the same mistakes again, Galliano was soon caught by some of his own. The video posted on the internet, filmed long before the crisis began, shows him saying anti-Semitic and racist insults. It considerably worsened the creator’s situation and prevents him from pleading that it was an isolated incident. He can no longer explain this was an unusual outburst of anger since a similar event already happened – with proof in image.
Because of the video, Dior’s position towards the fashion designer is well justified, and the announcement of his dismissal strongly reinforces it.
Last step of Dior’s very precise communication: its fashion show was not cancelled. This was a way for the brand to show respect to the people who had worked on it for months. It also shows the difference between Galliano’s personal positions and his creations. Last proof of the fact that Galliano is definitely not Dior: the CEO paid tribute to the people who had worked on the show by making them bow at the end of show in front of an admiring audience.
LVMH has successfully drawn lessons from the “Guerlain case” when Galliano was caught up by his past. In the field of communication, you‘d better not make the same mistake twice: LVMH has been able to draw the consequences from its failures during the “Guerlain case”, which allowed the group to communicate successfully around the Galliano crisis.