JD.com apologises for sexist marketing campaign as Singles’ Day shopping event nears
- The e-commerce giant’s JD Beauty business unit caused an uproar in Chinese social media for a sexist tagline on boxes shipped to customers
JD.com, China’s second largest e-commerce company, has apologised for a business unit’s sexist marketing campaign, which sparked an outcry among social media users more than a week before the country’s annual Singles’ Day, the world’s biggest shopping event.
The newly established JD Beauty ran a campaign in which about 300,000 express boxes for the cosmetics products sold on the online retail platform were printed with the tagline: “Without lipstick, how are you different from a man?”
About 1,000 express boxes with that tagline were recently shipped and received by customers, according to JD Beauty.
It promised on Tuesday to replace those boxes and provide an undisclosed beauty product as compensation to the customers who received the package, following an uproar on popular microblogging service Weibo.
“How can such a sexist ad come with the products from such a big company,” one Weibo user posted on Tuesday. Another Weibo user said: “Please show your respect to women. The ad discriminates against women who do not wear make-up.”
Although its business was still “in a development stage”, JD Beauty owned up to its mistake, saying in a statement that the campaign was “inappropriate” and showed a misguided approach to engaging customers.
The marketing faux pas by that JD.com business unit has come at a sensitive period for the Nasdaq-listed company, as preparations in China’s vast e-commerce market are now under way for Singles’ Day – the world’s largest shopping festival – on November 11.
JD.com’s main rival, Alibaba Group Holding, earlier this month pledged to hold its largest ever Singles’ Day promotion, as the company pulls together its entire retail ecosystem in China and overseas to participate in the country’s annual shopping extravaganza. New York-traded Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
JD Beauty's sexist campaign also does not reflect well for a company whose founder, Richard Liu Qiandong, was accused of rape in Minneapolis, a city in the state of Minnesota in the US. Liu, who serves as chairman and chief executive of JD.com, has denied any wrongdoing. The matter has been handed to local prosecutors for possible charges.
Beijing-based JD.com has expanded into cosmetics and fashion in recent years to further diversify its business, which was built on its strength in selling a wide range of computers, communications and consumer electronics products online.
In August, the company reported a loss of 2.2 billion yuan (US$316 million) in the quarter ended June, as heavy spending on promotions weighed down on growth. Its revenue for the second quarter was up 31 per cent to 122.3 billion yuan.