How one “like” on Twitter upset Marriott’s business in China

Aka why geopolitics matter

TRD New York TRD WEEKEND EDITION /
Mar.March 04, 2018 12:54 PM

(Credit from back: mkhmarketing/Flickr, Pixabay)

Doing business in China requires knowing the country’s politics and geography as Marriott International learned the hard way.

The incident, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, occurred in early January when Marriott emailed its rewards-program members a survey which asked them to select their country from a list which included Tibet, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan — the first three of which are part of China and the latter, Taiwan, is claimed by Beijing. The insinuation that any of the territories’ independence amounts to “subversion of national sovereignty” under China’s new cybersecurity law which empowers authorities to monitor and respond to offending online content.

“What companies are up against is what we understand to be a legion of young, talented online technicians that scour the internet for compliance issues,” said lawyer and former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China James Zimmerman to the Journal. Marriott’s problematic survey is one such example of the thousands Chinese regulators have flagged since last fall.

But the hotel chain’s issue didn’t end there: the survey sparked a flurry of tweets to boycott Marriott and, amid the storm, a Tibetan separatist group tweeted a “thank you” to the hotel chain for supporting their case for sovereignty and Marriott’s rewards-program Twitter account liked the tweet.

In response, Chinese authorities brought hotel representatives in for questioning and, for one week, the hotel chain had to stop taking online bookings for its 300 hotels in Greater China — Marriott’s largest overseas market. (The hotel chain also fired the social media manager who liked the tweet and terminated their contract with the vendor who prepared the survey.)

The head of the hotel’s Asia-Pacific division, Craig Smith, issued a statement in response to the Journal: “We made a few mistakes in China earlier this year that suggested some associates did not understand or take seriously enough the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. Those incidents were mistakes and in no way representative of our views as a company.”

According to the Journal, Delta Air Lines, Zara and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz have similarly run awry of Beijing in online marketing efforts. [WSJ]Erin Hudson


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
731 Lexington Avenue and 410 East 61st Street (inset) with Vornado's Steve Roth (Googel Maps; VNO)

Home Depot eyes former Bed Bath & Beyond space on First Ave

Home Depot eyes former Bed Bath & Beyond space on First Ave
Ian Schrager and the Pulic Hotel at 215 Chrystie Street (Getty; Google)

$60M mezz loan on Ian Schrager’s Public Hotel is for sale

$60M mezz loan on Ian Schrager’s Public Hotel is for sale
J.C. Penney at the Westfield South Shore mall in Long Island and  J.C. Penney CEO Jill Soltau (Google Maps; Getty)

J.C. Penney to keep Bay Shore outpost open for now

J.C. Penney to keep Bay Shore outpost open for now
Signature Bank CEO Joseph DePaolo and New York Community Bank CEO Joseph Ficalora (Photos via Getty; Facebook; iStock)

NYC’s multifamily lenders see shares tumble in 2020

NYC’s multifamily lenders see shares tumble in 2020
WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani (Getty)

WeWork sells majority stake in China division

WeWork sells majority stake in China division
The analysis predicts that office vacancies across the world will continue upward (iStock)

Report: Office market won’t return to glory until 2025

Report: Office market won’t return to glory until 2025
Korean wave pours into U.S. commercial real estate

Korean wave pours into U.S. commercial real estate

Korean wave pours into U.S. commercial real estate
The Martinique hotel (Wikipedia, Google Maps)

Operator of Martinique Hotel in Manhattan files for bankruptcy

Operator of Martinique Hotel in Manhattan files for bankruptcy
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...