Louis Vuitton gets Brand-Jacked, Collateral Damage in Anti-Genocide Campaign

Left Image: An impoverished Darfur child is shown holding an LV-like purse, image sold as a T-shirt from artist, now being sued, see Hi-Res version.

Thanks to Søren Storm Hansen for bringing this to my attention.

It could have been your brand
It could have been Rolex, Lexus, Gucci, or even your brand, sadly for LV, it was theirs.

A 26 year old artist named Nadia Plesner has been sued by Louis Vuitton for brand jacking their famous purses in a anti-genocide campaign.

The artist was trying to make a point that the media cares more for Paris Hilton extravaganza’s more than the genocide in the nation of Darfur.

Nadia states her intentions for the grass roots campaign:

“My illustration Simple Living is an idea inspired by the medias constant cover of completely meaningless things.

My thought was: Since doing nothing but wearing designerbags and small ugly dogs appearantly is enough to get you on a magasine cover, maybe it is worth a try for people who actually deserves and needs attention.

When we’re presented with the same images in the media over and over again, we might start to believe that they’re important.

As I was reading the book ”Not on our watch” by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast this summer, I felt horrified by the fact that even with the genocide and other ongoing atrocities in Darfur, Paris Hilton was the one getting all the attention. Is it possible that show business have outruled common sense?

If you can’t beat them, join them. This is why I have chosen to mix the cruel reality with showbiz elements in my drawing.”

LV: “Cease and Desist”

Luxury brands certainly have teams of brand police within Marketing to ensure their products aren’t being misplaced or improperly positioned, and have taken action by first sending a cease and desist letter (notice they “applaud the efforts) PDF.

Nadia: “Free Speech”

Nadia then sent a return note, stating this was her ability to self-express and claimed the logo was not referring to LV in particular (PDF).

LV files lawsuit
The letter was not met well, and LV has now filled suit against Nadia, claiming damages of over $20,000 a day, each day the campaign is continued.

The Groundswell begins
Since then the Darfur has grown in awareness, having now been on Digg, a Facebook group formed, spread in the news, and hundreds of blogs pointing to her site.

LV has two a few options

Here’s my take, from what I can tell, Louis Vuitton (and the dog) have nothing to do with Darfur, and their brand is being dragged through the African mud. Their response is pretty standard and expected, to protect the image and brand that they’ve been working to build. I’m sympathetic to them getting brand jacked, as they’ve not done anything to occur this unwanted attention.

Option 1: Continue legal path: Continue this path and settle with Nadia, given the many lawyers they have access to and resources, they will likely win a copyright infringement for the design being on another paid product.

Option 2: Join the campaign: They could drop the suit, and work with the Save Dafur organization to help raise funds by doing events, creating a specific product, or help promote the cause. This too has it’s downsides, the brand will be brought into the human rights spotlight, and if they have any dirt in this arena (perhaps oversees manufacturing) they’ll be in turn scrutinized. Secondly, this would be a nod to activitists everywhere to brand jack major brands in order to get support –and funding, the cycle will continue.

Option 3: Redirect focus on issues: Submitted by John Bell. I enjoyed John’s option so much, that I’ve embedded it here on the post as an update. “What they could do is work with Nadia and other artists to host discussions about media focus. They could partner with a neutral party like my friends at ifocos.org to steward the conversation. Keep the discussion away from luxury brands (which is not Nadia’s point anyhow). LV can become part of teh solution without taking on the brunt of an issue they do not own.”

Option 4: Walk away: Submitted by Alison Byrne Fields: “Drop the suit. Walk away and wait for the dust to settle. This little hullabaloo will have no long term negative impact on their brand.”

I’m weighing both options here for LV, there’s really not a great way out of it for them. I believe they are collateral damage, having done no wrong to invoke this groundswell, yet this is a nod to what could easily happen to other brands.

I asked my Twitter community to voice their opinion, on the topic, here’s what was said in public

ronbailey: – why not just donate a few bucks to the cause in exchange for her NOT using LV products in her campaign?

Dan Lewis: legalities aside, I’d be mighty upset if my name were wrongly associated with genocide. the artist is morally wrong here, no doubt

Alberto Nardelli: besides LV point being morally disturbing, IP case doesn’t stand: would be like campbells suing warhol

Kim Pearson: I’m a former PR person, not a lawyer, but I’d argue that LV is doing itself more harm by its response, not protecting its brand.

Ed Saipetch: ironically in the same vain, I heard the (RED) campaign benefits retailers and product producers much much more than the AIDS fight

Rainne: I say not, b/c the artist did not use the vuitton pattern, she simply invoked its similarity.

mlogan: They turned this into a big story and managed to put themselves on the wrong side of a humanitarian crisis. Smooth

bethdunn: it’s another case of a company doing more harm than good to their brand by trying to halt something they can’t control

ronbailey: how has LV been harmed by Nadia’s campaign? – She was poking fun at celebrity culture in general, not LV in particular

ronbailey: They could have easily turned a blind eye to the whole episode.

Ok, you weigh in, If you were the CMO, what should LV do?