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D&G’s Marketing Missteps in China (A): How to Balance Fashion Brand Strategy and Cultural Sensitivity?

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On 18 November 2018, Dolce & Gabbana S.R.L. (D&G) released three short videos on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as well as Sina Weibo in China to promote its first-ever fashion show in mainland China. The campaign was specifically designed to drum up excitement about an important catwalk event to be held at the Expo Center of Shanghai on 21 November 2018.  However, the videos did not create the intended positive effect.  In fact, the incongruous or extreme presentations in the videos jeopardized the entire promotion campaign. From the Chinese audience’s perspective, the D&G videos were not entertaining but inappropriate, offensive, and racist. The result enraged the Chinese audience and fueled a heated online debate.  Within 24 hours, under public pressure, D&G was forced to remove the videos from its Weibo promotion channel. While many Chinese media users were demanding a formal apology from D&G for the videos, the company allowed the debate to simmer and boil for the next few days. 

This case is the first case of a three-part case series.  It can be used on a stand-alone basis or in combination with Case B (D&G’s Marketing Missteps in China (B):  The Deepening Crisis) and Case C (D&G’s Marketing Missteps in China (C):  The Epilogue).


Learning Objective:

This case could be used to lead class discussions in advertising, cultural sensitivity, crisis management, and communication as well as international marketing/advertising.  The teaching objectives of the case are to:

  • Discuss the difficulties of using humor in advertising and how social and cultural values play an important role in influencing consumers’ responses to such strategy.

    Discuss the potential advantages and risks of using humorous appeals in advertising campaigns.

  • Understand the concept of crisis management and communication and the damages caused by ineffective handling of crisis communication.

  • Identify barriers to effective crisis management and learning and examine how learning from crisis can be maximized.

  • Illustrate the significant effect of social media in escalating a crisis situation.

  • Understand the power of social media and explore ways to integrate social media channels into the crisis management and communication process.

  • Demonstrate the value of crisis communication timing for reputations.


Year of Publication: 2019
Ref. No.: 19/644C
Discipline: Marketing, Strategy & General Management
Industry: Apparel, Accessories and Luxury Goods, Consumer Goods
Country: China (People's Rep. of)
Company: Dolce & Gabbana S.R.L. (D&G)
Languages: English
Pages of Text: 11