Mercedes-Benz is seeking to reach a younger audience and respond to rapid technological change by launching a new marketing strategy based on “human-centred innovation” and “customised agencies”.
The plans were set out at a media event at the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, earlier this week. Mercedes-Benz also provided an exclusive preview of its advert for the American football Super Bowl on Sunday 5 February, which is directed by the Coen Brothers and stars Hollywood legend Peter Fonda.
The spot riffs on Easy Rider, the 1969 cult film in which Fonda made his name alongside Dennis Hopper. The premium car brand’s ad shows a group of bikers hanging out in a bar just off Route 66 in California, with ‘Born to be wild’ by Steppenwolf as the backing track. The bikers come face to face with Fonda, who subverts his Easy Rider image by driving off in a Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster, rather than a motorcycle.
The advert’s humourous tone reflects Mercedes-Benz’s new brand direction, which aims to put greater focus on people rather than product engineering. Speaking to Marketing Week, its vice-president of marketing Jens Thiemer says this more “casual” and “light-hearted” approach will help to make the brand “cooler” and more appealing to young people, as well as ensuring its relevance as connected car technology accelerates.
“The messaging approach that we will follow more and more in the future is to take direct proof points like safety, comfort and digital, and decode those to say ‘what is the benefit for the consumer – what is the human point of it?’” he explains.
“Car safety is really about trust and having a brand you can trust, so with something like artificial intelligence people are looking for data security. They want to have that trust. As the car becomes more computerised and digital, it can be de-humanising, so we are bringing the human factor back with this [marketing] approach.”
New agency model
In addition to the Super Bowl advert, Mercedes-Benz unveiled a new campaign for its upcoming series of compact cars. The campaign, which uses the strapline ‘Grow Up’ and is due to go live in Spring 2017, is another attempt to target younger car buyers. It features a wide range of youth imagery, such as people partying and dating, and represents a clear move by Mercedes-Benz towards producing more of its own digital and social content.
Thiemer said that one of the pillars underpinning Mercedes-Benz’s marketing strategy is a new “customised” agency model. The company now works with three principal partners in Europe: Antoni as its lead advertising agency in Europe, Cinteo as its partner for digital solutions and content agency the Looping Studios.
The latter was hired to support Mercedes-Benz’s fledgling ‘media and content house’, which is charged with making content for the various platforms where it has a presence. Ultimately, the brand believes that content will become its primary form of marketing communications.
“Customers are interested in content, irrespective of which particular channel they use, and it is against our ability to provide this that we will be measured,” says Thiemer.
“The guiding principle for us is therefore: content marketing becomes paramount and will beat advertising. We shall be continuing to implement our strategy of building up a network of high- calibre service providers working exclusively for our brand, who will have a tailored structure and team that enable them to respond quickly to the needs of Mercedes- Benz. We see customised agencies as one of the key factors to future success in marketing.”