Once upon a time, when the celebrity endorsement was born, so was the awareness that a brand entered into the relationship at its own risk. The potential upside was high: Unlike a model, who was effectively a blank slate onto which a brand projected itself, a celebrity was a vessel already filled with associations, be it glamour, masculinity, philanthropy. If cracks appeared in that facade, however, they could send shock waves to the products.
“In the past, when a celebrity was accused of something, almost anything, even before they went to trial, a luxury brand would distance itself,” said Robert Burke, the founder of a luxury consultancy. Luxury brands were notoriously averse to controversy, and any association that could upset consumers or tarnish the golden glow of the brand’s name.
But, said Lucie Greene, the founder of the forecasting and strategy company Light Years: “We’re also seeing some big celebrity bounce backs and redemptions. Almost to the point of being cyclical.” Think, for example, of Kourtney Kardashian’s Dolce & Gabbana-“hosted” wedding, which was another stage in that brand’s return after multiple offensive statements by the designers.
“The general public has gotten worn down by cancel culture and accusations, and brands are not as quick as they might have been to take a position,” Mr. Burke said. He and Ms. Greene believe this may be the beginning of a shift.
Johnny Depp’s Libel Case Against Amber Heard
Reactions are no longer knee-jerk. That’s a good thing. But the silence, at least on the part of Dior, which did not respond to multiple emails requesting comment, seems less measured than calculated.
Dior may well be betting that despite the intense public interest in the Depp-Heard trial, consumers will be on to the next escapist distraction now that the verdict is in. That, as a company, Dior’s loyalty to its chosen celebrity, and the understanding that we are all fallible beings, will outweigh the sort of behavior Mr. Depp has already acknowledged. That upsetting Ms. Heard’s fans is less potentially damaging than upsetting his fans.