It is difficult not to upset China in marketing these days, even when a product is not necessarily aimed at Chinese buyers. Just ask MAC Cosmetics, an Estee Lauder retailer based in New York which also managed to infuriate people in the United States and France.
The company got into trouble with Chinese consumers when it neglected to include the island of Taiwan on a map with a promotional email sent by the publication Women’s Day to its US customers. Released under the tagline “Girl Power”, the email featured several countries with different types of makeup. Some copies found their way to China, and online viewers had only one question: “Where is Taiwan?”
Beijing considers Taiwan to be Chinese territory and the “One China” issue has become a hot topic. Earlier this year President Xi Jinping called on Beijing and Taipei to start talks on unification and end the 70 years of division across the straits.
Some Chinese viewers accused MAC Cosmetics of having no respect for China’s grand vision of unification, with one person commenting: “I’m Chinese first, then a consumer. Only if you respect the market can the market support you back.”
To make it worse, viewers noted similar mistakes with the maps of France and United States. Alaska and Hawaii were not included in the US ad.
MAC immediately asked its e-commerce service department to issue a corrected email and launched an internal investigation. The company said it respected and supported the “One China” principle.
Zhang Yixing, MAC’s brand spokesman in China, added his own comments on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter: “I believe that every Chinese employee at MAC is as clear as I am: No mistakes can be made on territorial questions. I hope that the (MAC) headquarters in the US can attach the same level of importance, correct the error as soon as possible, and never do it again.”
Last year the US clothing retailer Gap apologized for omitting Taiwan, Tibet and the South China Sea from a tee shirt sold in overseas markets.