• Unfairness;
  • Brand Management;
  • Complaints;
  • Consumer Behavior

Mr Sheng Wang demonstrated his perception of Mercedes-Benz's unfair treatment and insensitivity to Chinese buyers by having his Mercedes sports coupe towed by a water buffalo through his Chinese hometown, Wuhan. But he did not stop there. Next, he ordered workers, specifically hired for this purpose, to pound the car with sledge hammers and sticks until the exterior was completely disfigured. Journalists love the story's inherent drama, and in subsequent days, media reports showed images of the car being towed and ultimately smashed. The event created strong public awareness about both Mr Wang's dissatisfaction about the treatment he received from Mercedes-Benz and the subsequent Mercedes-Benz's management reactions triggered by the event. In our paper, we explore this case in more detail, highlighting the crucial role of brand fairness in managing brands in China. Although brand managers implicitly emphasize the importance of fairness in branding strategies, brand management emphasizing fairness is an underdeveloped research concept. Our paper provides an understanding of theories and concepts of brand (un)fairness and brand fairness management illustrated by what we refer to as the Mercedes-Benz case. We identify three dimensions of Brand Fairness Management: prevention, procedures, and outcomes. This framework will assist brand managers in China in developing successful brand fairness strategies and management programs. We posit that implementing these branding practices will increase the likelihood that consumers perceive the brand in question as fair, leading to an increase in loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.