Depp & Dior: A Savage Arrangement

Last weekend, Caffeine’s Managing Partner Simon Bailey contributed to a Sky News piece on Dior’s decision to continue to employ Johnny Depp as celebrity endorser of its Sauvage fragrance, despite a UK court finding it ‘substantially true’ that he abused his former wife Amber Heard.

This story brings to life one of the riskiest aspects of celebrity endorsement and its effect on brand reputation.

Before going any further, it is important to say that Caffeine obviously abhors all acts of domestic violence. Dior, however, may have taken the view that all publicity is good publicity, perhaps believing that because Depp lost a libel case (vs. a criminal one), customers and fans will at least (for now) continue to support him.

And whilst we can’t see the sales figures for Sauvage or the rest of Dior’s portfolio, there is some public evidence to support Dior’s position: searches for Sauvage are reputedly up 25%, and the perfume shop has the product listed among its top-sellers in the UK.

The judge in the libel trial found the accusations that Depp had committed acts of violence against Heard ‘substantially true’. So understandably, there is a lot of anger surrounding the fact that Dior has stuck with Depp.

It is true that many other celebrities have managed to survive things that have impacted their reputation, but this is often achieved, through a show of remorse, an apology, and a commitment not to repeat their past behaviour – whereas Depp is denying that these events ever happened at all.

Seeking to ride a short-term bump in attention, may not turn out well in the long-term. Especially if Depp is not able to move beyond his current radioactive status and it causes reputational damage to the rest of Dior’s brands. After all, a huge amount of fragrance is bought by women.

Time will tell whether this was ultimately a wise move for Dior or not…

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