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Thursday 14 May 2015

Rolex, Skittles and the brands caught in world events

The saying goes that "any publicity is good publicity", but how much truth is there in this new age of social media shaming and widespread news sharing?

This is the issue recently faced by luxury brand Rolex when they were connected to demonstrations in Milan.

The Italian government hoped the Milan Expo global trade fair would hit the headlines for positive reasons, highlighting the benefits of investing in their country's industries after several years of economic decline. "In these coming months, the world will be able to taste Italy, its specialities but especially the profound desire it has to write a new chapter of hope," said Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

However, the headlines instead focused on apparent disorganisation at the event itself, and then violent clashes between protesters and police.

The Guardian reported:

"The protesters have been angered by Expo’s reliance on volunteer workers, the involvement of corporations like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola and a perception that much of the public money ploughed into the project has been lost to corruption."

In the wake of protests, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano referred to the rioters as "spoilt brats with Rolexes" after one was photographed wearing what appeared to be a £5,000 timepiece. The aforementioned luxury brand was less than impressed with the sullying of their image, even going so far as to take out adverts in the Italian press distancing themselves from the violence and stating it wasn't clear from the photographic evidence whether or not the protester's Rolex was the genuine article.

The BBC took a look at Rolex's reaction, and asked ESCP Europe Associate Professor of Marketing, Dr. Ben Voyer, to comment:

"But was this the right reaction? Dr Ben Voyer, a marketing professor at ESCP Europe Business School and visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, said firms risk overreacting when responding to events beyond their control.

'Replying is not necessarily a good thing,' he said. 'It is very difficult to dispel negative stereotypes - a quiet press release might have been better for Rolex.'"

You can read the full article and discover other brand-event connections that have proven tricky for marketing teams by clicking here.

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