Last Thursday (29 Sep), Shopee Philippines unveiled its latest endorser, actress Toni Gonzaga, who is better known as the incumbent president’s primary celebrity campaigner.
For those who do not know, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr is the son of the dictator and former president of the country who ruled the country under martial law from 1972 until 1981. As the Philippines’ 10th president, his rule was infamous for three reasons: corruption, extravagance, and brutality.
With Gonzaga being chosen as the endorser of Sea Ltd.’s e-commerce business Shopee, many called for the boycott of the brand, which has also recently announced massive layoffs not just in the country but in their platforms in different regions across the world.
These netizens raised the issue of the brand preferring to allocate millions of pesos in endorsement budgets (for an apologist, at that) rather than the salaries of its employees. When you come to think about it, what does it actually say about the priorities of the brand, its company values?
Or is it a calculated move? A Shopee spokesperson mentioned that Gonzaga was chosen for her mass appeal (which is strategic for the brand’s market) and not her political views. Come to think of it, this may actually be a good plan — to target the 31 million supporters of the current president.
But at a time when Shopee says it is suffering from major losses as a company, can it afford to spark the ire of the minority 14 million supporters of the opposition? This might be choosing poorly —considering that these markets have good purchasing powers, it might not be a good move for the brand to sow divisiveness at this time.
At least not as part of their marketing strategy.
Especially not when their competitor, Lazada, can conveniently reap the rewards of their blunders (hello, free publicity!). And especially not now when Amazon is just started offering free shipping in the Philippines.
Saw this on reddit #ByeShopee #LazadaPH pic.twitter.com/SAIvzEkv3D— GARA (@ameyzinggrace) September 29, 2022
In a bold move, Gonzaga even thanked the internet for the mentions and engagements. Unsurprisingly, one of the most common memes now includes a scene from one of Gonzaga’s past movies wherein her character was called out for a deplorable decision made. I find this kinda witty.
“Ang tanga lang.” – Bobbie— Cinema Centenario (@PHCinema100) September 14, 2021
🎬 Four Sisters and a Wedding, 2013 pic.twitter.com/kestMPIbqb
As #ByeShopee and #BoycottShopee continue to trend, it’s not just the buyers that have expressed their disappointment with the brand. Sellers are likewise leaving the platform and announcing their decisions on social media.
I guess these small businesses are big in showing their brand values — and for that I give credit. Hopefully (so it could also make business sense), this also comes from a good knowledge of the sentiments of their existing market. As a sentimental lot, Filipinos love to have a brand to love.
As a small local business that was planning to use shopee as a platform to sell. We are glad that we haven’t used our account yet let alone pushing through after this act by Shopee.— Long Street Co. (@LongStreetCo) September 29, 2022
Business has always been political and we do not support an enabler.#ByeShopee #BoycottShopee https://t.co/kZk22x7FGh
Nonetheless, sellers also expressed their operational complaints against Shopee — among others, how fees have been raised, and how the returns process is biased against them. So for some, the choice of endorser may have been very well the last straw.
Personally, I loved being able to find great bargains at Shopee. but then again I know that there now are almost similar offers in Lazada. It’s such a pity they lost in on so many holiday sales (Christmas is big in the country, you know!). Why didn’t they stick with Jose Mari Chan though?
Right now, it would be nice for them to make an official statement about this decision. Apparently, they did issue a press statement (they even launched a survey about their endorsers), but I don’t think it says anything at all, just that they stand by their decision.
Ultimately, I guess we’ll just have to see the outcome. As the biggest impact of this marketing move would appear on Shopee’s bottom line in the coming weeks and months — I think it would be loud enough to say it all.
PS. Your move, Lazada! How do you endear yourself to a ready market?