– something on brands, bloggers, dedication and not shutting up
Two days ago, which was Sunday in my part of the world, life was grand. All was good. Or it would be, as soon as I replenished that pan of blondies that had somehow vanished between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.
So I thought, until I opened up Facebook and discovered an all-too-real horror story to strike terror, outrage and sorrow in the hearts of many, many perfumistas and any perfume bloggers.
Our most treasured resource on all things fragrantly Guerlain, the blog Monsieur Guerlain as well as the Monsieur Guerlain Facebook page and Twitter account was gone, shut down without warning, explanation or recourse by Guerlain PR.
For the few who are unaware, Monsieur Guerlain was a blog devoted to the house of Guerlain, created, maintained and impeccably researched by a lifelong fan of the brand. Whether you were looking for information on reformulations, differing editions of a perfume, or simply the historical context of, say, that white unicorn of vintage perfumes, Djedi, Monsieur Guerlain delivered the goods with a clarity and precision that only underscored his love of one of the world’s most justifiably beloved and renowned perfume houses.
Like many others, I, too, have had a lifelong love of several Guerlains ever since that first visit as a teenager to the Champs-Élysées flagship store that ended with my first perfumed self-definition – Jicky.
I have reviewed Guerlain perfumes I’ve loved, liked or loathed, and never in a New York minute ever considered that my somewhat snarky/underwhelmed opinions on new releases in particular might have unwanted – or unwarranted – consequences.
To have such an event happen to you must be doubly devastating coming from a brand you have done nothing but promote and gild with your encyclopedic knowledge. My sympathies here are solely on the side of Monsieur Guerlain.
Silence is golden, but…
But stop for a moment and think about the bigger implications here. Guerlain – owned, as we’re all well aware, by that corporate juggernaut monster known as LVMH – is adopting non-negotiable bully tactics without recourse to silence a blogger who has given them nothing but the superlative best kind of complimentary and free-to-Guerlain PR.
No matter what degree of awareness the general public has of the name Guerlain, the bottom line is this: Guerlain is a purveyor of products. Whether it’s a lipstick (and this brand makes some nice ones) or a perfume, these are all of them ‘luxury goods’, things that would not make a whit’s difference in the event of a zombie apocalypse, although you might enjoy it more should it happen.
So …these products, some of them with well over a century of prestigious perfume behind them and some released just last week (limited editions, darling) are then sent out into the world. One person – who just so not so coincidentally happens to ardently adore all things Guerlain – decides to spend his free time, his cash resources and his creative capital creating original content at his own initiative and does this for years. Content that gains a loyal following on social media, gets quoted, content far more entertaining and informative than any Guerlain sales assistant I’ve ever met? Content (and this is important, people) Guerlain can then take and transfer into bottom lines and numbers in the black, and everyone knows that’s where the money is.
More’s the pity that in this day and age, it’s never just about the money but the reputation, and that lies with followers, readers, subscribers and backlinks. Could there be an issue with Mr. Guerlain’s followers, subscribers, readers, in that they aren’t controlled by the Guerlain PR department? Even though that blogger celebrates precisely all things perfume and Guerlain?
Was their copyright infringed or their trademark impinged by an article on, say, the creation of Djedi, or the history of Mitsuko? This was not material made available or controlled by Guerlain, so perhaps?
To the PR mavens of Guerlain – I have some rather unsettling news for you. Welcome to the twenty-first century, the two-way street and the archaic bully tactics. Taking away someone’s virtual entire online identity and labor of love does not equal a great PR moment, and with all you’ve been through PR-wise since the turn of the century, one would think you’d be aware of it by now.
You do not own your own brand on social media. Your fans do. It would behoove you to remember this, but seeing as you’re owned by LVMH, who own all the legal sharks any rapacious corporate monster could wish for, that degree of humility is not bloody likely.
Furthermore, in shutting down Monsieur Guerlain in such ratty fashion, instead of showing a bit of class and at least giving some kind of justification, never mind some credence to a blogger who loves your brand, you dare assume you will have control over the consequences.
Any dubious bloggers (that would be me) should just quake in their cheap (non-LVMH name) boots for fear of retaliation.
OMG… we’ll be taken down!
Do we have the right to remain silent in the event we disagree? And if we dare disagree, does that imply possible/probable legal consequences? In which case, why aren’t LVMH targeting those ‘impartial’ fashion bloggers (!) who savage the fashions of LVMH brands yet still get invited to their runway presentations?
All our online identities, social media, Twitter accounts, blogs we maintain at not a little expense and time etc. etc – are now up for grabs should we ever dare state (as opposed to whisper sotto voce) what’s staring us in the face at Sephoras and department stores worldwide?
Everyone’s a critic
For instance, and I speak only on my own behalf, that most new Guerlain releases seem to be made by a marketing committee hell-bent at whatever cost on catering to either sugar-addicted, angora-brained teenyboppers or newly minted gazillionaires with way more money than discernment.
Given that the house perfumer of Guerlain is Thierry Wasser, that seems to me a spectacular waste of talent, not to mention a waste of opportunity to redeem yourself for slipshod reformulations of the truly breath-taking, beauteous perfumes that planted you in that public consciousness to begin with, and where you bloomed so fragrantly for so long.
A friend of mine in the know with the duds and the deeds to prove it once said that true luxury is always inclusive. Think about an alternate scenario for a moment.
What if Guerlain – and by extension, its parent brand LVMH – had decided to embrace this extra exposure? Taken him into the fold, included him, celebrated a fan who has many fans of his own? Would that have been so detrimental to their overall image, or subtracted from their luster? ?
I suspect a lot of indie perfumers would disagree since so many of them have been doing just that with both success and increasing public awareness as a result.
Yet, what about perfume bloggers? Those of us who write about many brands, those of us who are non-commercial, those who do what we do for nothing more than love of our subject, so dear to our souls – the very perfumes we write about.
Why go after a fan and take away all he’s built in a keystroke, when you could have turned this into a PR coup with just a tad more finesse?
I can’t answer these questions, but I can tell you what I’ve done. I’ve written to the PR person listed on the Guerlain website to protest the closing of Monsieur Guerlain’s blog and Facebook page.
Feel free to do the same: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The only thing we shouldn’t do is…