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Three years after ad controversy, D&G is still struggling to win back China



Written by Megan C. Hills, CNN

Chinese consumers have neither forgiven nor forgotten Dolce & Gabbana.

Almost three years after the luxury fashion brand was dragged into a race row over a series of controversial ads — and offensive private messages allegedly sent from co-founder Stefano Gabbana’s Instagram account in response — D&G appears to still be a label non grata on Chinese social media.

Over the weekend, Hong Kong pop singer Karen Mok came under fire on social media for wearing a D&G cloak in the music video for her new song, “A Woman for All Seasons.” The backlash was swift, with a hashtag about the incident viewed 490 million times on Chinese microblogging site Weibo as of Thursday.

Karen Mok wearing D&G in her music video “A Woman for All Seasons.”

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Credit: Karen Mok/Vevo/YouTube

Users criticized Mok for insulting China, with one calling her a “two-faced person who comes to the mainland to make money.” And while others defended the singer, her studio Mok-a-Bye-Baby-Workshop released a statement Monday saying that it “checks all partner brands” but had “neglected to conduct an in-depth investigation” on this occasion.

“We apologize and hope to be forgiven by the public,” the statement read. The music video has since been purged the from the studio’s official channels. “I am truly sorry for being reckless this time. I have no excuse. My team and myself are definitely in the wrong here,” Mok later told reporters.

The backlash only added to D&G’s woes in mainland China, where a series of controversial promotional videos released in 2018 continue to affect the brand’s reputation. The ads, which were posted ahead of a Shanghai fashion show, depicted a Chinese model struggling to eat pizza, cannoli and pasta with chopsticks.

Set to a soundtrack of stereotypical Chinese music, the videos featured a patronizing Mandarin voiceover instructing her how to eat the Italian dishes. At the time, D&G apologized for the videos, and said they were “unauthorized” posts. But the ads were berated online by many social media users as racist and disrespectful of Chinese culture.

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A still from Dolce & Gabbana's 2018 advertisements, starring model Zuo Ye.

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A still from Dolce & Gabbana’s 2018 advertisements, starring model Zuo Ye.

Matters worsened for the brand when screenshots of private messages on Instagram appeared to show D&G co-founder Stefano Gabbana responding to the ad controversy with a series of derogatory remarks about China and Chinese people. Alleged screenshots, which circulated on social media — and were posted to Instagram by fashion watchdog account Diet Prada — showed messages, allegedly sent from Gabbana’s account, describing China as “the country of…” before a string of excrement emojis.

At the time, D&G said that Gabbana’s — and the label’s — accounts had been “hacked.” The Italian designer denied sending the messages. The brand this week declined to comment on the incident or any other aspect of this story.

Deserted by ambassadors

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The fallout from the 2018 incident was immediate. Social media users filmed themselves destroying D&G products and mentions of the brand surged by 2,512% on Weibo, according to a report by research firm Gartner. The brand’s Shanghai fashion show was canceled just days later, and its products were pulled from Chinese ecommerce sites. Gartner reported that D&G went completely dark on Weibo for over three months.

Chinese models and celebrities, including popstar Karry Wang, terminated their contracts with D&G en masse, while “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” actress Zhang Ziyi said via her studio that she would never buy or wear the brand again. Hong Kong actress Charmaine Sheh was later criticized online for simply liking one of the brand’s Instagram posts. Zuo Ye, the model who starred in D&G’s controversial 2018 videos, meanwhile said that her career had almost been ruined and that she, her family and her agent had “received lots of attacks and threats online.”

The brand has not signed a major mainland Chinese name since the incident. For a 2020 Chinese Valentines Day campaign, it used a combination of White and CGI models, dubbed “virtual idols.” And although hiring Chinese celebrity ambassadors and influencers could represent a way to regain trust in the country, it would be “career suicide,” according to Shaun Rein, founder and managing director of China Market Research Group.

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According to Rein, it is the alleged Instagram messages, rather than the ad campaign itself, that continue to affect the label’s reputation in China. “It’s probably the only brand that I’ve seen the Chinese stay angry at for so long,” he told CNN.

The label’s recent moves to sue Diet Prada for defamation have only continued to “keep the story alive,” added Rein, who likened it to the “Streisand effect,” whereby attempts to cover something up only draws more attention to it. The lawsuit, which D&G declined to comment on, has created the impression that Gabbana “was mad that his private correspondence got out,” Rein said, adding that Chinese consumers felt the messages were “the true feelings, potentially, of the founder denigrating the Chinese people” — despite the fact that Gabbana and co-founder Domenico Dolce filmed an apology video shortly after the 2018 incident.

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Not that the video won them any goodwill at the time. “(It was) like he was trying to save money and his brand, but it wasn’t coming from the heart,” Rein said. “Because again, if you say something publicly but then allegedly say ‘Chinese are s**t’ in private, then who’s going to believe you?”

Impact on retail

The online furor has had real-world ramifications for D&G. In 2018, the brand had 58 boutiques in China, according to NPR. Three years on, its website lists just 47, with shops recently closing in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, according to industry publication Business of Fashion.

The label remains entirely frozen out of major Chinese e-retailers Tmall and, both of which pulled the brand from its virtual shelves soon after the 2018 incident. According to Rein, it is unlikely that the platforms will stock the brand anytime soon, as they are “petrified by these nationalistic consumers.”

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“If you can’t sell on Tmall, you can’t do business in China,” he said, adding: “If I were Dolce and Gabbana, I would take two or three years off from investing in China.”

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Shoes displayed at a Dolce & Gabbana boutique in China in 2019.

Shoes displayed at a Dolce & Gabbana boutique in China in 2019.

Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

It is a bad time to be locked out of China’s luxury consumer market, which consultancy Bain & Company estimates it doubled in size in 2020 to $54 billion. D&G’s Asia-Pacific market meanwhile shrank by 3% between March 2018 and 2019, according to Reuters, which reported seeing company documents saying the brand expected a further decline in sales for the following year.

D&G is by no means the only label to suffer the ire of Chinese consumers. Brands including H&M and Nike have recently faced boycotts after expressing concerns that cotton from the Xinjiang region is allegedly being produced using forced labor. By unintentionally wading into issues from the Hong Kong protests to Taiwanese sovereignty, numerous other clothing companies have also experienced backlash in China, though none appear to have yet suffered the long-term consequences experienced by D&G.

The West appears to have been more forgiving. Although no major stars were seen wearing D&G on 2019’s Golden Globes or Oscars red carpets — both of which happened within months of the ad controversy — the label has since returned to the pages of magazines like British Vogue. It has also been publicly worn by celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Priyanka Chopra and Lizzo in recent months.

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Whether D&G can manage a similar feat in China remains to be seen.

“Frankly,” Rein concluded, “I think it’s a lost cause.”

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August





Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …





Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android





Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly


We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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