Social network becomes a stage for indignation and demands, and not even Chanel escapes

by

The New York Times

There is no fury like that of a social media mob that believes it has spotted a scam by a luxury goods company.

Or was that what seemed to be happening this past weekend when a series of videos about a Chanel Christmas calendar, selling for $825 (about R$4,600), and the disappointed buyer who acquired it went viral hits, inspiring a crowd of users to ask for a penalty against the brand. Or at least protesting on your Instagram page.

In a way, this is just the latest example of taking justice into their own hands applied to powerful global brands by people determined to point to injustices and alleged injustices, including cultural appropriation, design copying and other forms of misbehavior; and it’s also an indication of how the balance of power is shifting between brands and audiences.

But the emotions aroused by the campaign against the Chanel Christmas calendar [formado por pequenas janelas a serem abertas uma por dia nos 12 dias anteriores ao Natal, cada qual contendo um brinde] they seem to be especially intense, perhaps partly because of the holiday involved and the idea that, rather than representing goodwill towards customers, this particular gift seems to suggest that they have been cast in the role of suckers.

Here’s what happened: On December 3, California TikTok user Elise Harmon posted a video that showed her opening a Chanel Christmas calendar package in the shape of a Chanel No. 5 bottle. say I’m crazy?” she asked. “Absolutely. But I’ve never seen a Chanel Christmas calendar, so let’s see if it justifies all the fuss.”

Harmon gave the calendar a “score of 10” in terms of packaging, but was annoyed when he opened the box and found Chanel stickers. (She liked a hand cream sample that came with the order, however.)

And so the videos went, a series of eight, in which Harmon showed off perfume (good), key chains (not so much), lipstick and nail polish (generally good, but sample size), a mirror (not), a bracelet of ribbon with a wax seal (huh?), a small plastic snowy globe and… a Chanel bag, used to pack shoes and other accessories. Looks like it was the bag that really pissed people off.

As of December 6th, the videos had been watched over 50 million times and each had thousands of comments, most of which were like “you’ve been stung” or “who do they think they are?” To cap the confusion, Harmon told his followers that she had been blocked by Chanel.

Although Chanel has a TikTok page, it’s inactive and doesn’t accept comments or followers, which doesn’t clarify exactly where Harmon would have been blocked — she didn’t respond to requests for comment — but that didn’t stop viewers of her videos from take over Chanel’s Instagram account, which has more than 47 million followers and has been posting messages about Métiers d’Art, an event that took place in Paris on Tuesday (7).

Underneath every photo of work from the various specialty ateliers that Chanel now sponsors — flower maker Lemarie, embroidery atelier Montex, among others — and promotional film clips from the collection are hundreds of comments: “Don’t ignore the inevitable! answers!” and “Was this movie funded by calendar sales?”

On Monday (6), four days after Harmon posted the first of her videos, the action was still going strong — and her following was still rising. (A similar negative reaction occurred in China, where a blogger also defined the brand’s Christmas calendar as incompatible with the price charged.)

As for Chanel, the company has not addressed the issue publicly, but Gregoire Audidier, director of international communications and customer experience strategy at Chanel Fragrance and Beauty, wrote in an email that “one person’s recent claim about being blocked by Chanel on TikTok does not proceed. We never block anyone’s access to the Chanel page on TikTok, because the account is not active and we do not publish any content on it. Our commitment is to share our creations with our followers on all social media where we are on Our pages are open to everyone and our followers are free to express their feelings and opinions, whether enthusiastic or critical.”

In fact, Chanel isn’t the only luxury brand to offer expensive Christmas calendars, even though its product is the most expensive. In fact, she was slow to get into the game she started about a decade ago.

There are now several of these limited edition Christmas calendars, including products by La Mer, Guerlain and L’Occitane. Dior (US$550 or R$3,080​), Armani (US$310 or R$1,730) and Saint Laurent (US$300 or R$1,680) also offer Christmas calendars. None of them are cheap, and most contain a mix of beauty product samples — the miniaturized versions often given away as freebies to accompany purchases — and limited or regular-size editions of some items.

And the versions created by beauty product brands are just the latest in the advancement of Christmas calendars, invented in mid-19th century Germany to teach children about catechism and religion. They have always been marketed. Even the Nazis produced Christmas calendars as a form of propaganda.

(The most expensive Christmas calendar on the market is perhaps the new $150,000 version [cerca de R$ 840 mil] created by Tiffany, a four-foot-tall cabinet that features a reproduction of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting used in the recent “Equals Pi” campaign on the front, and 24 gifts inside.)

So why did the Chanel version bother people so much? After all, luxury brands have never been reluctant to admit that, to a large extent, what their customers buy is the brand equity itself. A bag with the Chanel brand is worth more than a bag with no brand at all.

In addition, Chanel informs you about the content of the calendar on its website, so what people get for their money is no secret. Nothing indicates that the brand offering with its calendar is more deceptive than what any other brand offers.

But because the calendar was new, because its price was so high, and because it was a Chanel product with all the mythology built into that name, expectations may have been higher: there was more at stake. And the sense of betrayal from people whose expectations weren’t met was thus more intense — as was the desire to attack the company, apparently.

Those who profit from brand insights can also lose because of them. What Harmon opened wasn’t just a miniaturized bottle of perfume. It was a new reality completely out of the box.

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