Lancome’s hilarious PR wreck


The Standard invites readers to Feel Sorry for Lancome. Lancome, as the whole world now surely knows, is the overpriced-gunge-women-smear-on-their-faces brand that HKFP-BoycottThditched trendy Hong Kong starlet Denise Ho after Chinese state media objected to her pro-democracy/Tibet leanings, prompting a backlash from the non-Mainland public. The predicament the company has put itself in is immensely entertaining to all right-minded people, whose response to the newspaper’s pleas will be ‘Excuse us while we fall about laughing’.

Denise Ho’s activism (thoughtfulness, awareness, conviction and individuality) are what make her trendy enough to warrant the company’s sponsorship in the first place. But with luxury brands having over-expanded and saturated the regional market, the Lancome Asia management are presumably under orders from head office in Paris to meet very tough sales targets, and are therefore hyper-focused on the bottom line. So when Communist propagandist mouth-frothers raise the possibility of a Mainland consumer boycott, the local managers freak out.

What is truly amazing about this is the amateurishness of the local Lancome PR. I always assumed these luxury labels, with their hefty profits and heavy investment in image, would have some top-notch corporate-communications voodoo expertise on call. Mais non. The clueless Hong Kong Lancome execs apparently asked the office cleaner to put out a quick and curt press release distinctly lacking in suave sophistication, panache, savoir-faire and much else…


It did convey guilt-stricken panic – not so much fear of having injured the precious feelings of the Chinese people, but terror in the face of head-office wrath and loss of end-year bonuses.

There’s a petition going in France, and Hongkongers are gleefully mocking and threatening the cosmetics brand with their customary wit and flair.

This could become a business-school case-study – in reputational risk when a company panders to a supposedly vast but brainwashed/nationalistic Mainland consumer market. Any presence in China requires some tacit potential kowtowing to the Communist regime. By hitching your corporate fortunes to the world’s biggest ongoing ‘soft power’ failure, you gamble your name and standing among the freedom-loving rest of your global customer base. Is it worth it?

And what better crappy, exploitative, space-wasting industry could this happen to?

Denise Ho's reputation soars after ending association with ludicrous junk.

Denise Ho’s reputation soars after ending association with ludicrous junk gunge.


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16 Responses to Lancome’s hilarious PR wreck

  1. I always go in to the face whitening beauty salons here and ask if they do chest waxing.

    If that fails, I ask about anal bleaching.

    In Body Shop we always asked for ELDERBERRY AND ALMOND ELBOW OIL. Such a joy to see them looking for it in the online catalogue.

    You can have so much fun if you put your mind to it.

    Satire begins at home.

  2. Feilo says:

    The press release looks like the work of an expat, perhaps giving the company origins a Frenchman/woman. I doubt a local would want to associate to what is increasingly becoming an image disaster. Speaking about France I understand the number of residents in HK coming from the country are steadily increasing, it’s ironic that while normally frenchmen are pretty vocal on how fantastique, merveilleuse et douce their home country is, still they are leaving in droves, to be replaced perhaps by standard cookie cutter chinese billionaires laundering their money on Bordeaux chateaux.

  3. MS says:

    Exactly. Where are they getting their local advice from? There are a million other Canto-pop stars and TVB actresses that they could have chosen from to entice the local tai-tais without pissing off Beijing. It’s crazy that Western countries still come here with no local knowledge or appreciation of local politics. It’s that, or some French honcho got the wool pulled over his eyes…

  4. AHW says:

    “… continuous support to…” [rather than “of”] is a very HK grammatical construction.

    Lancome appears as a client on the website of Muse Group HK, which seems to be staffed entirely by locals. These days in HK, PR is all about the number of celebs you’ve got on your phone’s contact list rather than crisis management strategies (that is, unless you want to pay the big bucks that the global comms companies charge).

  5. Chinese Netizen says:

    “By hitching your corporate fortunes to the world’s biggest ongoing ‘soft power’ failure, you gamble your name and standing among the freedom-loving rest of your global customer base.”

    This should be a MANDATORY business school case study quotation to be memorized by all the future corporate bottom feeders and P.R. hacks!!

  6. Chinese Netizen says:

    @Feilo: Froggies going to HK in droves because la republique is going to soon be overpopulated by swarthy and coffee colored peoples and Arabic will be the de rigueur language.

    Plus, they’re pulling a Depardieu and avoiding taxes…

  7. Headache says:

    Having worked with the local offices of supposedly high-end international PR agencies, I can attest to the fact that they are staffed with twenty-something bimbos apparently hired on the basis that they look the part, not for their ability to craft an adequate press release or manage any crisis more demanding than where to eat lunch.

  8. Walter De Havilland says:

    All I know is Ms. Ho can’t sing. I had the misfortune of hearing her perform a few years ago. She has a voice that could curdle milk. Maybe Lancome could employ her in that role, and use the end product as a face cream.

  9. bagesty says:

    The only person who doesn’t come out of all this smelling like turd is Denise Ho.

    The morons protesting about this though… speechless.

    Reminds me of a Father Ted episode. “Down with this sort of thing!” “Careful now!”

  10. gweiloeye says:

    There is an new ‘over exposure’ of French accents in Kennedy Town – The French version of the mid levels?? Based on overheard conversatons yep they should stick to the French language not write or talk crap English. We have plenty of locals that can do that…n we love it!

  11. Sun Wu Kong says:

    French invasion here in BKK too, and I have noticed during occasional trips to Shanghai many more Frenchies there then euros from elsewhere…

    Unfortunately in my experience the gender profile of the French diaspora leans heavily to the masculine… and the males of the species generally appear to be even more insular and delusional than the British about the superiority of their culture, based no doubt on their ‘recent’ colonial dominations…

    Oh but French ladies… je les aime trop … definitely the tastiest of the European nationalities, like the Italians but less stuck-up and with a healthy regard for collaborative physical exercise…

    When we have direct democracy in HKG, with referenda a la Switzerland, I shall mount a campaign to correct years of gender discrimination in HKG with (French) female first immigration policies… Perhaps a bit of efficient market competition would help to shift the heavy domination and subjugation of the Cantonese male in Hong Kong by the uber materialistic, LV bag and diamond ring demanding gong-ju-beng local pretty girls…

    I just hope all my equipment still works when that day comes, given the rather glacial pace of social and cultural evolution in this neck of the woods…

  12. Sun Wu Kong says:

    p.s. apologies in advance to any offended feminists in the crowd…

  13. Sun Wu Kong says:

    OT – for any interested in an insightful analysis of NIRP…

  14. Red Dragon says:


    You pick out one error with this clunky, barely literate “statement”. Let me share some more.

    Sentence 1: It should be “spokesman for” not “spokesman of”. “Spokesman” itself is problematic in this day and age. Denise Ho is clearly female, so “spokeswoman” or “spokesperson” would be better. “Actress” should be in lower case.

    Sentence 2: Grammatically correct as it stands, but weak in terms of cohesion with sentences 1 and 3. It mentions confusion, but fails previously to make clear what confusion has arisen and why such confusion, if any, arose.

    Sentence 3: “Continuous” is wrong. It should be “continued”. As you point out, it should be “support for” or even, at a pinch, “support of”. Certainly not “support to”.

    A pathetic little offering from a tacky bunch of frog losers who can’t get anyone to write for them other than in a melange of franglais and chinglish.

    I was just about to chuck my White Aura Regenerating and Brightening Cream down the lav (I’ve been using it on my ears, which now glow amusingly in the dark), but realised just in time that it strips the glaze off vitreous enamel. A near squeak, indeed.

    Anyway, here’s hoping that we soon see a flurry of LANCOMMIE outlets pulling down the shutters for the last time. Sure, it’ll mean a few score etiolated bimbos looking for alternative employment, but I think Hong Kong can live with that. Oh yes.

  15. Red Dragon says:


    I note that in my last comment, I made a mistake. LANCOMMIE did use the word “spokesperson” in sentence 1. The rest of what I said stands.

    My inattention must have been the result of the bloody soju.

  16. It looks like Edina Monsoon is running Lancome’s local PR. How Absolutely Fabulous.

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