Mercedes-Benz is making a concerted effort to reach out to younger consumers. Case in point: its global campaign, rolling out this week, which promotes the E-Class Cabriolet with model/actress Milla Jovovich in a colorful headpiece by avant garde hat designer Philip Treacy.
It's the latest feather in its cap as Mercedes woos millennials, a choosy cohort it's been actively researching since 2008. That's when the brand launched Generation Benz, a private online community to engage Gen Y in conversation and feedback about the brand.
The luxury auto brand has been approaching that fickle group with a soft-sell research approach it's calling “customer intimacy” – a relationship that goes deeper than traditional research. According to Steve Cannon, VP of marketing for Mercedes-Benz, the tactic creates brand disciples and advocates as it engages the next generation of car buyers.
"I'm talking about getting that much closer to your customer -- that makes some of our ways of targeting them look Stone Age,” Cannon said at the recent Association of National Advertisers' Brand Innovation Conference in New York. "We have actually taken money away from things like focus groups and the like and moved it to these new programs."
In the brand's attempts to woo the 16-33 year-old demographic, which Cannon calls "digital natives," he says, "We asked them questions like, what do you think of brands, who do you turn to for decisions, what kind of TV do you watch -- so we were getting rich sets of data. What I love about this is, it's quick, easy and so comfortable for them. They just hang that camera in front of their face and talk to us."
They also offer an M-B Advisors program where regular live chats and group feedback help tailor television spots and tweak product performance. It was this group that convinced the company to not succumb to "Luxury Shame" as the economy was sliding downwards - so they listened, and launched the E Class.
The brand is savvy about social media and has its own YouTube channel, Facebook page, and a shiny new app for iPhones and the iPad. It doesn’t hurt that Warner Bros. upcoming release of Sex and the City 2 on May 27th is Mercedes-saturated, showcasing four models next to the four SATC models: Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda.
As Cannon observed, "Based on the success of the first movie and its ability to attract trendsetters and style-makers, Sex and the City 2 is a natural fit for Mercedes-Benz. The movie provides a great stage for us; it showcases our new eco-friendly flagship S-Class, ruggedly sophisticated G-Class and ultra luxury Maybach line in their natural elements. It also perfectly positions the new E-Class Convertible just as it arrives in showrooms."