How Mercedes Used Instagram Stories to Get Millennials to Aspire to Luxury
Purchasing a Mercedes can be an emotional experience, tied to the buyer’s hopes and aspirations. The purchase is an achievement, symbolic of having arrived at a certain status. Mercedes-Benz USA marketers knew this when working on the recent “Bucket List” campaign targeted to Millennials, and the brand extended that emotional connection even further using social media, specifically Instagram Stories.
The campaign is also emblematic of Mercedes’ overall drive to support its brand strategy with marketing technology and customer data.
Giving New Customers New Tech in the Car
Mercedes decided to treat its first-time buyers to a first-class experience, putting its newest tech in one of its more attainable luxury cars. The decision to house the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) multimedia system in the A-Class that debuted on Feb. 3 at the Super Bowl in Mercedes-Benz Stadium happened before brand leaders leaders decided how to market the vehicle.
With the fall 2018 Instagram Stories marketing campaign aimed at creating awareness about the vehicle, the company was taking the long view, hoping the customers who buy the A-Class stay with Mercedes down the road, says Mark Aikman, Mercedes-Benz USA’s GM of marketing services.
Mercedes used to reserve its newest technology for higher-end models. The decision to install MBUX in the A-Class shows the brand’s desire to wow first-time Mercedes buyers; which, in the case of this campaign, were digital-native Millennials, says Donna Boland, MBUSA’s manager of corporate communications. “MBUX is certainly new technology, very new for us, because it goes so far past what we’ve had, in terms of infotainment and telematics. It bundles them up into what we’re confident at this point in time is the most comprehensive user experience on the market. If you’re going to bring that to market … you want to bring it to the people who will probably appreciate it most.”
The opportunity to orient a campaign around new in-car technology was a perfect match with the digital natives who want “to be wowed” by a luxury car, says Boland. “We used to spend a lot of time saying, ‘With this driver-assistance system, should we use it on E-Class or should we wait for S-Class?’ And those discussions took place all the time. Those don’t happen anymore. Today, [the company] is likely to bring technology to market when it’s available. With the rate at which competitors can catch up or copy, if you’ve got something, you want to get it out there.”
Giving New Customers Tech-Driven Brand Experiences
Like the car itself, the A-Class “Bucket List” marketing campaign was also a first-mover in digital marketing technology. Aikman says that with the campaign, which ran in the fall of 2018, Mercedes-Benz USA may have been the first auto brand to advertise a car model using Instagram Stories. Instagram put the videos in front of Millennials on Oct. 15, and by Nov. 9 more than 200 million people saw the stories and thousands of viewers entered a contest for a chance to have Mercedes help them fulfill something on their bucket list. Instagram users were instructed to use the brand’s template, add #AClassBucketListEntry and @MercedesBenxUSA, and tell the brand what they wanted to cross off of their bucket lists.
The A-Class Bucket List campaign was meant to mirror the techy appeal of the new A-Class, says Aikman. “Obviously, the A-Class is an all-new gateway to the Mercedes-Benz brand. One of the most notable features of the MBUX is that it has natural language processing where you can say, ‘Hey Mercedes, I’m cold. Hey Mercedes, put on some hip-hop. Hey Mercedes, change the light color in the car.’ Which is super interactive. And we’ve tried to mimic that through a number of the pieces of creative. But psychographically in the A-Class “Bucket List” campaign, we also really want to connect with a new generation of buyer. This [is the] Millennial generation that is as concerned about checking experiences and incredible things off their bucket list, and with the introduction of the A-Class, we hope that they check one item, which is owning your first Mercedes-Benz, off the bucket list.”
To execute the campaign, Mercedes worked alongside its digital and social media agency, R/GA. One of the challenges was finding a way to capture all of the Instagram Stories in order to store and evaluate them, and then to reach out to the contestants through Instagram direct messaging to notify them that they’d won.
Much of the campaign was performed on the Instagram and Facebook platforms themselves. “The targeting is largely through the media targeting for those above-line parts of the communications,” says Aikman. “Right through Facebook advertising, and Instagram advertising, and through sponsored kind of stories on Instagram. We’re using the targets that we believe will actually be the target for the all new A-Class, which is largely that Millennial consumer that is going to be in the market for this vehicle. So we’re using a lot of the core targeting, and then native inside the platform to be able to reach that audience.”
In addition to using Instagram Stories, Mercedes also created short videos featured in the main newsfeed to support the Bucket List campaign. Aikman refers to these as part of the marketing team’s practice of producing “powerful, snackable, thumb-stopping content.”
Data Fuels Mercedes’ MarTech
Aikman says Mercedes-Benz employs “a huge spectrum in marketing technology,” largely centered on customer data. “We have huge amounts of customer data through our customer data management. We have a long loyalty of Mercedes-Benz customers, so we want to make sure that we know who they are and what their communication preferences are in order to be able to reach them. We have a great ecosystem from MBUSA.com to Mercedes Me, to our digital dealer tools inside dealerships to explain the product that we have, to show the availability of inventory, and to foster that excitement and ownership experience with the brand.”
Aikman continues: “From the marketing communications side, we’re leveraging programmatic media. We’re pretty advanced in dynamic creative optimization. And then we’re always making sure that we’re fishing where the fish are, so you want to make sure that you have
really compelling content that is native to the platforms that people are using. For example, creative in LinkedIn, or Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook or any other platform, is operating in a way that performs in that platform. And what works on Snapchat may not work in Instagram Stories, or what works in Facebook may not work in Instagram.”
From being among the first brands to use social media influencers to being a pioneering Instagram advertiser, Mercedes-Benz USA takes the road less traveled, and that’s made all of the difference.
“Every time we have the opportunity to do one of these major campaigns, we’ve kind of broken a precedent,” Aikman says.