How Mercedes-Benz Vans got customers to see past the price tag

The B2B brand’s ‘Keeping Business Moving’ campaign shifted the conversation towards lifetime value, resulting in its annual sales record being broken.

Mercedes-Benz VansIn the B2B world, as in B2C, Mercedes-Benz evokes associations of quality but also of the accompanying price tag. That had become a problem for Mercedes-Benz Vans, which had been subject to all the effects that come from decades of consumer communications positioning the marque as a high-end brand.

While the vans’ reputation for being reliable and efficient was well known by customers, such as cash-strapped NHS trusts, there was a perception that for a business fleet they were something of a luxury. They were seen an unnecessary expense that would raise suspicions about whether a company was spending its money wisely or overcharging its own customers to pad out its margins.

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To counter these associations, Mercedes-Benz Vans briefed its agency Storycatchers to change the conversation from up-front cost to lifetime value, while adopting a less glossy, more relatable tone of communication. The campaign would need to make an impact on both awareness and consideration metrics while targeting purchase decision makers in key segments in order to meet the brand’s sales objectives.

The result was ‘Keeping Business Moving’, a brand platform that serves as both a mission statement and customer promise, and which highlights why organisations from the NHS to the catering and delivery sectors choose Mercedes-Benz Vans. Real customer stories were put at the heart of communications, which focused on the added-value services the brand provides and how these reduce unexpected costs.

Over the course of 2017, the campaign expanded the conversation across all media, shifting the emphasis from the vans themselves onto what the brand can do for customers. That included Mercedes-Benz Vans’ first UK TV ad, seeking to humanise the company and use emotion to drive action.

As well as an increase in brand awareness at a time when most competitors were suffering a fall, Mercedes-Benz Vans broke the 40,000 annual sales barrier in the UK for the first time, representing a 12% year-on-year increase and beating its target. Its financing business saw a 19.5% increase in lending, meanwhile.

All this was achieved while spending £400,000 less on media than in the previous financial year. The boost in engagement rates across all media demonstrates the resonance the new brand platform had among target customers and the campaign went on to win Marketing Week’s Masters award in 2018 as the outstanding entry in the B2B category.

Even with decades of accumulated brand associations behind it, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Storycatchers showed how a compelling proposition and carefully targeted communications can completely change how a brand and its market think about it.