Scandal leaves multinational companies facing boycott

February 29, 2016 | 11:48
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A range of goods from various multinational companies sold in Vietnam are being boycotted by consumers due to the bad reputation of their brand ambassador.

Consumers were quick to distance themselves from products endorsed by Ho Ngoc Ha as words of her alleged adultery spread

The companies, which hired 32-year-old Ho Ngoc Ha – a female celebrity in the middle of an adultery scandal – to sell their products, include Unilever’s Sunsilk and Vaseline brands, California Fitness & Yoga, Yamaha Motorcycles, Nestle’s Lavie, and many others.

Ha is said to have been romantically involved for years with a wealthy married man who has three children. The man has attempted to divorce his wife, embroiling his whole family in scandal. However, the boycott reached its peak a few days ago when the man’s wife, for the first time, expressed her sorrow on a social networking site and received only a cold response from her husband. The public were quick to express their support for the woman, with her post receiving 200,000 likes in less than an hour.

The boycotting campaign is spreading like wildfire around social networking communities, particularly Facebook, by thousands of married women. Activists have also prepared lists of goods made by major competitors, such as Procter & Gamble or Suntory Pepsi Co., to use in place of boycotted products.

Vong Thanh Cuong, managing director of social listening and consulting services provider Boomerang Company, said that “these developments have certainly had detrimental impacts on firms’ business operations. The social networking community proves their influence, as many brands have quietly removed photos of Ha from their websites.” Thus far, only Unilever’s Sunsilk shampoo products and California’s Fitness and Yoga continue to use Ha’s image. VIR contacted them for comments, but received no response.

According to Cuong, in some cases, brands can exploit major scandals caused by their representatives to capture public attention, for example the case of Adidas’ ambassador Luis Suarez biting a competitor during the 2014 World Cup, which made him a household name around the globe.

“In my opinion, this case is not similar, but most brands simply cannot risk damaging their reputation and causing an outcry in the community,” Cuong said.

Nguyen Thi Thu Trang, aged 29, an advocate of the boycotting campaign, told VIR that “there is no problem with the products’ quality, but consumers need brands to respect our cultural perspective. An example of a bad lifestyle like Ha’s cannot be used to promote our consumption.”

Regarding the future of the boycott, Cuong said that the scandal had passed its peak of interest, and was likely to gradually subside provided that no new details were disclosed. The boycott has even targeted all entertainment shows starring Ha as well as online newspapers supporting her.

By By Thanh Xuan

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