Don’t mess with netizens on Chinese social media. That is the lesson learned by Taiwan’s computer hardware company Gigabyte Technology. The company became the victim of a nationwide boycott in mainland China after one of its marketing campaigns claimed Chinese brands produce subpar products.
On Tuesday, Gigabyte released its “Made in Taiwan Demanding High Quality” campaign, stating that “unlike other brands who opt for low-cost and low-quality contract manufacturing in mainland China, Gigabyte Technology is committed to producing outstanding and high-performing components and laptops.”
Against a backdrop of rising tensions between the island and mainland China, the company said “being a Taiwanese computer hardware company, we ensure that 90% of our laptops are made in Taiwan.”
It wasn’t long before the ad campaign caught the eye of Chinese netizens who didn’t take the implicit suggestion that mainland China produces low-quality products lightly.
One member of the Communist Youth League of China wrote on social media: “Gigabyte, who gave you the audacity?”
The Youth League has 16 million followers on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, meaning that the dissatisfaction with the campaign quickly went viral. Only hours after it was first published, Gigabyte took down the ad and released an official apology, stated that “the content of the text published on the official website is seriously inconsistent with the situation in reality.”
It blamed the mishap on “improper internal management” and added that “in-depth reviews and rectifications will be made to comply with national principles. At the same time, internal management and training will be strengthened.”
Gigabyte followed up its apology with a post on its Weibo account: “Gigabyte has always adhered to the one-China position and opposes any form of separatist behaviour and remarks. The inappropriate remarks will be reviewed and comprehensive rectification will be carried out in line with China’s national principles.”
However, the damage had already been done as many netizens in mainland China did not buy the apology. One person wrote on Weibo: “Seriously, don’t waste your energy. You have crossed the red line of the central government.”
By Wednesday, Gigabyte products disappeared from most major Chinese ecommerce platforms. A search of the keyword “Gigabyte” yielded no results on either JD or Taobao, two of China’s biggest online shopping platforms.
Following the whole ordeal, the company’s share price in Taiwan plummeted almost 10%, suffering a loss of approximately 10bn Taiwanese dollars (about $358m).
According to GlobalData’s companies database, Gigabyte is a technology company that manufactures, processes, sells, and trades in computer peripherals and component parts. The company provides products such as motherboards, graphic cards, tablets and accessories, laptops, notebooks, smartphones, PC peripherals and desktop PC products, among others. The company was founded in 1986 and is headquartered in Taipei.