Genius and No. 1 brand in L2’s China Beauty Lancôme fell out of favor with Chinese consumers once it canceled the performance of pro-democracy Cantopop singer Denise Ho. Lancôme called the canceling of the concert it had planned to sponsor due to “safety reasons”, but protestors and Ho did not buy it. Ho wrote a Facebook post calling on the corporation to take on social responsibility and refuse to self-censor in order to bend down to the Chinese regime. Protestors carrying yellow umbrellas filled in inside the Lane Crawford store in Causeway Bay and shouted “L’Oréal! No self-censorship.”

Instead of issuing a statement as requested, Lancôme temporarily shuttered its stores in response to the protests. Now many Chinese consumers are calling on Estée Lauder (commenting on the brand’s Facebook page) to take advantage of this consumer backlash to market its products.

Both Lancôme and L’Oréal are Geniuses in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beauty China, with Lancôme nabbing the top spot. Much of Lancôme’s success rests on community building. In Q3 2015, it grew its Sina Weibo fan base 14 times that of the average Index brand by collaborating with influencers in a series of social campaigns. The Cushion CC Cream campaign garnered 24.7 million impressions and 57,000 UGC mentions on Sina Weibo. It also drives awareness and word of mouth publicity by running sampling campaigns across seven online and mobile platforms.

Estée Lauder also leverage beauty communities and sampling in addition to ads. The “Stand Out to Be Cool” sampling campaign sponsored stickers on mobile social app Nice, generating 144, 288 UGC photos. As these brands benefit from word of mouth publicity and consumer enthusiasm, they could easily find themselves on the other side of consumer sentiment.

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