Mercedes’ Global Communications and Marketing Director Natanael Sijanta likely wore the largest grin of any of the marketing giants lined up on stage at Dmexco 2016, the annual conference held last month in Cologne. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the typically stern-faced brand and its representatives was no doubt surprised and anyone following Mercedes’ most recent operations closely, would likely understand why.
“We have no lack of respect. What we lack is love…” These were the words of Sijanta, attempting to clarify what led Mercedes to shift directions. This time,Mercedes decided to forgo the bombastic declarations about their far-reaching efforts and instead focus on an agile digital strategy, which implements a game of trial and error for nearly every new tool developed.
So when the Pokémon GO app was launched in the German app stores, Mercedes worked quickly to catch the opportunity. Within a week, record time in the Mercedes universe, their ploy was off the ground: the sales staff (usually 50-60 year olds) received instructions in advance. Lures were purchased for each dealership. All of Mercedes’ marketing platforms pushed the gimmick and very quickly, as the first Pokémon hunters appeared, the Internet was abuzz. It was a short hop from there to the media, and the coverage was spectacular, no doubt because of the dissonance between the classic brand and the playful scheme. One particularly dominant piece of proof of the gimmick’s success was the fact that the dealerships quickly recognized that many of the young people attracted by the marketing scheme found it difficult to keep their children occupied long enough for them to take the long-awaited test drive. The dealerships arranged a small bus to take the kids on a “rare Pokémon tour” lasting an hour and a half around the dealership, just long enough for the agents to make their pitches and close deals with the parents who enjoyed a quick break from their kids.
This kind of move carries a bonus beyond just the reaching a younger audience and bringing new blood to the brand – it creates motivation and empathy among the employees as well. The senior sales team enjoys fresh, high-quality traffic at their dealerships and the company’s social media team, which initiated the move, receives an injection of reinforcement, encouraging them to continue to bring new and innovative ideas to the drawing room.
But Mercedes didn’t stop at reinforcing their brand and collecting new leads in the field – in the field of online sales as well, the company learned about a fresh and agile approach through a new collaboration with Amazon. While you can’t yet buy your new Mercedes online, you can go on Amazon and find a product page much like you would for any product – with customer ratings, thorough specifications and more. Instead of a “Buy Now” button, you’ll be able to order a test drive. Needless to say, Amazon’s complex data and algorithm machines are working behind the scenes to create a targeted campaign in order to make the process many times more efficient. According to Sijanta, thousands of test drives have already been ordered through the successful pilot, which is operating in four countries.
After years of Mercedes proving that they can get your respect, now they want your love. In order to win the hearts of the younger, desirable audience, it has attached itself to popular, innovative brands such as Pokémon and Amazon. Mercedes isn’t satisfied with simply meeting branding needs and is looking to gain leverage in the worlds of e-commerce and data from their belief that this audience can appreciate the new, accessible and experience-oriented approach that the company has adopted. It might not be love at first site. But for Mercedes’ Communications and Marketing Director, it turns out that a little bit of love from consumers is enough to make sure he doesn’t stop smiling.