Picture this: It’s July 2010. Seaside Heights, N.J. is packed with people enjoying the boardwalk and beach. Children are running around and screaming, and there is one woman — at 4 feet, 8 inches, not including her hair — who is blatantly intoxicated.
It’s the setting for one of the most iconic reality TV show moments of the 2010s, when Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi ended up getting arrested on camera for public intoxication in the middle of the day, with her enormous Gucci bag in tow.
While Polizzi was in the midst of filming the third season of MTV’s highly successful “Jersey Shore,” she upgraded from Coach purses to a $900 Gucci bag, which seems like quite a financial jump for a person who was pulling back her hair with a chip clip two years prior.
As with most celebrities and influencers, Polizzi was gifted the Gucci bag — but not from Gucci.
Marc Sebastian clocked in over 3 million views for his TikTok explaining the situation. It had allegedly been Gucci’s competitor, Louis Vuitton, who gifted the bag to Snooki knowing she would be out participating in drunken debauchery while carrying the recognizable purse.
“Louis Vuitton used to send Snooki Gucci bags in order to make their competitor, Gucci, look cheap and tacky — therefore making Louis Vuitton look more luxurious and elite,” Sebastian explains in the TikTok.
The process of sending a competitor’s products to an unlikeable person was dubbed “unbranding.”
Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, explained why this type of marketing works in a 2018 interview with NPR.
“It turns out influence is very much like a magnet … but it just as well repels us,” Berger said. “If Snooki is hanging on to a Gucci handbag, maybe that will help their competitors because no one will want to wear Gucci anymore. So we need to understand how social influence attracts, but also how it repels.”
On the flip side, Sebastian also claimed in a follow-up TikTok that Abercrombie & Fitch used to pay Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino to not wear their clothes while filming.
Love reality TV as much as we do? Check out this article on the best memes to come out of reality TV shows.
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