Owning a Mercedes is an emotional experience even before it happens — it's about hopes and aspirations. The purchase is an achievement. A feeling of having arrived. And Mercedes-Benz USA marketers knew that when working on the recent “bucket list” campaign targeted at Millennials, but the brand took that emotional connection even further — using martech and its own vehicle technology. And that move is a synecdoche of Mercedes’ overall drive to seamlessly blend martech into its marketing mix.
Mercedes decided to treat its first-time buyers like first-class citizens, putting its newest tech in one of its more attainable luxury cars. The decision to house MBUX in the yet-to-retail A-Class happened before Mercedes-Benz USA leaders decided how to market the vehicle.
“This is a very emotional brand,” says Mark Aikman, MBUSA’s GM of marketing services, “it's a lifestyle brand, it's very powerful.”
And with the marketing campaign aimed at creating awareness about the vehicle that debuts in 2019, Aikman says Mercedes is taking the long view — hoping the customers who buy the A-Class stay with Mercedes down the road.
Giving New Customers New Tech in the Car
Mercedes used to reserve luxury for its higher-end models. But, as the decision to install MBUX in the A-Class shows, MBUSA is matching its German parent’s evolution.
As Donna Boland — MBUSA's manager of corporate communications — puts it:
"[Mercedes-Benz User Experience] (MBUX) ... is certainly new technology, very new for us, because it goes so far past what we've had in the past in terms of infotainment, telematics, all of that sort of stuff. 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, as Mark points out, you want to bring it to the people who will probably appreciate it most. So bringing it into a vehicle that is oriented toward a first-time Mercedes buyer, and one who is a digital native, and expects to be wowed in the car, this was a really good match ...
"Typically a long time ago, we used to spend a lot of time saying, ‘Will 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, Daimler is, Stuttgart is likely to bring technology to market when it's available. That's certainly true for, without question, for safety-related, but it's becoming true for more and more technology. ... 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 New MarTech-Driven Marketing
The A-Class bucket list campaign’s marketing is just as first-of-its-kind as the tech in the car.
Aikman says from Oct. 15 to Nov. 9, MBUSA may have been the first auto brand to advertise a model using Instagram Stories. Instagram put the videos in front of Millennials and, by Nov. 9, more than 200 million people saw the stories the thousands of viewers entered the contest. They used the brand’s template, added #AClassBucketListEntry and @MercedesBenxUSA, then told the brand what they wanted to cross off of their bucket lists.
"So I think there's kind of a few objectives of A-Class Bucket List,” Aikman says. “Obviously, the A-Class is an all-new gateway to the brand for Mercedes-Benz; so an incredibly exciting product that has amazing exterior design, amazing user interface inside the car. It's a technology we call MBUX. And one of the most notable features of that MBUX is it has this 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 campaign of A-Class Bucket List, 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, also off the bucket list.”
The martech for this campaign was fairly straightforward. Mercedes and its digital and social media agency, R/GA, worked on the campaign as so:
“Capturing Instagram stories is something that we had to find a way to capture all those, store them and evaluate all of them,” Aikman says. “So there's kind of a number of back-end photo management solutions that we used across the community managers to screenshot those stories which ... they're only available for a period of time. And then log them, and then ultimately use kind of like a tech back-end to figure out ‘how do we actually capture all these Instagram stories, save them, evaluate them, pick our favorites based on the content criteria that's in the terms and conditions, and then ultimately pick the winners.’ And then reach out to them through Instagram direct messaging and let them know that they've won.”
Aikman says for this campaign, most of the martech came from the platforms themselves.
"So the targeting is largely through the media targeting for those above-line parts of the communications,” he says. “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.”
MBUSA’s Relationship With MarTech, Overall
“We're using it in a lot of different ways,” Aikman says. “I mean, you have a huge spectrum in marketing technology. We have, of course, 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 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.
“And then from the marketing communications side, of course, we're leveraging programmatic media,” he continues. “We're pretty advanced in dynamic creative optimization. And then we're always making sure that you'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. So 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.”
‘Bucket List’ Isn’t MBUSA’s First First
"Every time we have the opportunity to do one of these major campaigns, we've kind of broken a precedent before,” Aikman says.
From being among the first brands to use social media influencers to being a pioneering Instagram advertiser, MBUSA takes the road less traveled, and that’s made all of the difference.
But don’t expect Mercedes to slow down.
“We're always putting up both vertical video, as well as Stories to complement the News Feed,” Aikman says. “It's always been a major part of activating all of our sponsorships and events with the real-time content. But I think we also are leveraging both Instagram Stories, and Instagram TV to debut really powerful, snackable, thumb-stopping content as often as possible. So Instagram TV, it is something that has been a part of the A-Class Bucket List, where we're showing these adventures in kind of longer-form vertical video. But our entry in to Instagram TV was a really cool piece that we had done around the 130th anniversary of the first road trip in history that was taken by Bertha Benz, Karl Benz's wife.
" ... That Bertha Benz video that debuted on Instagram TV was just such a cool story and use of the landscape. And you're going to see a lot more from us. I mean, there's almost not a single production that we do, that we don't also think about how's it also applicable in vertical video.”
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