With Travis Scott Collab, Dior faces the “apocalyptic” marketing dilemma
When fashion giant Dior decided to make their entire upcoming spring / summer menswear collection a collaboration with Travis Scott, co-branded with his label Cactus Jack, the company thought they were making an invaluable partnership with a titan of youth culture. But in the wake of the deadly tragedy at Scott’s Astroworld festival, Dior now faces an unprecedented business nightmare, experts have said. “This is an apocalyptic marketing turning point for this brand”, says Eric Schiffer, president of Reputation Management Consultants, “When you overtake that Gen Z icon that has now exploded in your face.” “
“We are very concerned,” said a Dior staff member who requested anonymity. (A company spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.) The Cactus Jack Dior line has almost certainly already been made, experts say, and is likely to hit stores in early January. “In terms of the supply chain, these products must be cut six months in advance,” explains David Loranger, Assistant Professor of Fashion Marketing and Merchandising at the University of the Sacred Heart, who has had a long career in luxury retail. All the promotional material is probably already finished, he added.
ThomaÃ¯ Serdari, luxury retail expert, professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business and founder of branding firm BRAND (x) LUX, said she would advise Dior to take the plunge and shoot the product all season. âI think that could happen,â she said, noting that she had not seen the contract between Scott and Dior. âAnd I wouldn’t be surprised. It is about social responsibility and respect to the public.
Other companies face similar dilemmas, but on a smaller scale: Nike, which has a long-standing and hugely successful partnership with Scott, has a new five-pair Air Max 1 collaboration with Scott underway. âNike also has a lot of products unrelated to Scott,â says Loranger. âThey spread their risks well enough to always be able to fall back on another person with whom they collaborate. They could put it aside or pump the brakes. (Nike did not respond to a request for comment.)
Several experts agreed that Dior’s best option – unless it shoots an entire season of already manufactured and heavily promoted products – might be to add a significant charitable component to its line. Experts have also advised Nike to put the new Air Max 1 on hold, and if not, announce their own charitable donations. âIf the line has already been shipped,â said a music marketing veteran who requested anonymity, âand it’s too late to shut it down, I would make a significant contribution on every product sold that goes to. [Astroworld] victimsâ¦. But do you really want to promote a clothing line on Travis Scott in the next three months? You will get [destroyed]. You will understand the Christian’s letters well. The media is going to be all over you. You’re going to need crisis management, damage control. Notably, Dior has just started promoting its pre-fall men’s collection earlier than usual, the season after the Cactus Jack Dior collaboration.
Dior has an ongoing marketing partnership with another tarnished celebrity, Johnny Depp, and he has never pulled his line of Sauvage cologne in the face of domestic violence charges, which he has denied. âThey stayed with him,â says Schiffer, âwhich bodes well for the fact that they’ll probably move on.â
The Dior partnership is emblematic of a shift in the luxury industry, “from an industry based on quality to an industry entirely focused on branding and marketing,” said Loranger. “And if you want to put all your eggs in that basket, then you should be prepared to own whatever comes out of it.” If you take a collaboration partner and put their name on a whole collection of your brand, then that’s a huge risk you are taking as a brand. So from a risk management perspective, it’s almost not smart for brands to give too much of a footprint to collaboration partners. “
Even McDonald’s teamed up with Scott for a special meal last year, but the fallout from the Astroworld tragedy could scare the brands of forward-thinking musicians in general. âEveryone wants to be in the music business because it’s hip and cool,â says the music marketing veteran. âBut anyone could do an OD or get caught with their pants down, literally, anytime. This is the company in which we work. If you want to get your feet wet in rock & roll, hip-hop, whatever the world, yes you could get burned. On the other hand, says Schiffer, brands might view Astroworld as a one-time incident that is unlikely to happen again.
And Scott himself, regardless of the facts about his conscience or his guilt in the tragedy, will struggle to enter into any brand new partnerships for the foreseeable future, experts say. âEndorsements for new products? Not a chance, âsays the music marketing expert. According to Schiffer of Reputation Management Consultants, Scott’s team should be creative in their choices. âYou might see brands where they don’t care about the negative implications,â he says. “So, for example, cryptocurrency deals or something like that.”