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A Chanel Christmas Story: How Important Are Customer Perceptions of Value for Money?

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TikTok outrage strikes again, and its latest victim is iconic, luxury brand, Chanel. In the age of instant video reviews and quick public scandal, Chanel may have just made the one mistake designer brands should do their utmost to avoid: looking cheap.

So, Chanel released its now infamous advent calendar to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the legendary No.5 perfume; the calendar itself came shaped like the perfume bottle and curiously started with the number five, just for that extra bit of brand continuity. With sleek white packaging and intricately stacked boxes of gifts, the unopened calendar just oozes Chanel’s aspirational style.

That is until TikTok user, Elise Harmon, uploaded a series of videos unboxing the items and the illusion shattered. Harmon’s astonished reaction to pulling out stickers, keyrings, and a dust bag, all embossed or decorated with the No.5 logo, was echoed by the rest of TikTok, garnering over 50 million views.

For decades, there has been a level of customer understanding that when purchasing designer goods, what they are paying for is the name and reputation, rather than the physical value of their products. There is massive markup potential for fashion and beauty brands and the ability to charge luxury prices is dictated by building a sense of exclusivity and opulence for your company. Chanel is an icon of elegance and classic style, so what does it say about their brand if their first advent calendar is filled with a flipbook and a dust bag? Harmon was positive about the samples of body cream, perfumes, and lipsticks, but out of 27 products, only 9 are Chanel’s coveted beauty products. The products included in Chanel’s advent calendar are listed online, so buyers can preview the items before they invest in the calendar so many online opinions have stated that customers buying the advent calendar should be fully aware of what they are getting. While transparency is certainly not an issue here, audiences are criticising the lack of value for money within the product.

The argument in defence of Chanel is that the advent calendar was never going to give its buyers a return on investment, it is at its core, simply an item for collectors and devotees of the brand. However, customer perceptions seem to state that if this is how Chanel “treat” their most loyal followers at Christmas, perhaps the brand doesn’t appreciate its customers all that much.

This is not the first time a brand has made a dire mistake with an advent calendar. Zoe Sugg, Founder of Zoella, released an advent calendar in 2017, exclusively partnering with Boots to sell the calendar for £50. Customers were upset that the items in the advent calendar did not reflect the price, especially as it only had 12 doors. The advent calendar included items like a key ring, stickers, a bauble, and a candle, and many felt that Sugg had taken advantage of her young audience by selling them an overpriced product.

Customer perceptions of value for money can make-or-break a business. Chanel will inevitably recover from this year’s advent calendar disaster because of how multi-faceted their business is and the main crux of their customers is interested in the fashion, not the seasonal collector items. The bad PR does not do the brand any favours, especially as consumers become more aware of company behaviours and scruples. Value for money is essentially decided by your audience; if they decide that you are too expensive or even too cheap, they will take their business elsewhere?

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