‘The Best or Nothing’: Mercedes-Benz Outlines Brand Transformation

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Nicki Minaj for Mercedes-Benz ad (2018)

Daimler is punching the accelerator to build its worldwide car-sales lead for the long term, and its modus operandi for that push is illustrated by a new US brand campaign for Mercedes-Benz.

On Thursday, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche outlined why 2017 was the most successful year in the company’s history at its annual meeting in Berlin and also laid out how he’s leading the company through the greatest transformation in its history, with a focus on five strategic areas.

“We take advantage of the opportunities that arise from change,” Zetsche said at the meeting. “That’s  why we occupy the top spot today.” And why Mercedes-Benz can build a credible case around its current brand positioning—”The Best or Nothing.”

Indeed, thanks to a determined effort to diversify its vehicle lineup—ranging from more utility vehicles to sedan upgrades, from new performance vehicles to a fleet of EVs—Mercedes-Benz kept BMW and Audi at bay to remain the world’s biggest seller of luxury automobiles, with about 2.2 million sales, up about 10 percent from 2016. Daimler as a whole sold about 3.3 million vehicles. The brand also was the top-selling premium vehicle brand in the United States for the second consecutive year.

He also pledged that Mercedes will keep its foot on the gas as it attempts to catch up with Tesla in EVs, be among the global leaders in the emerging autonomous-vehicle era, and stay ahead of its traditional rivals in selling the luxury and performance vehicles that upscale consumers want today.

The automaker’s five strategic areas for focus and growth: expanding the core business; pushing forward with connected and autonomous vehicles and electrification as well as mobility services (where it just announced a broad cooperation with BMW); further developing its corporate culture; optimizing its internal structure; and focusing on the customer.

Tapping Nicki Minaj and Jon Hamm

The positioning is playing out in its current marketing efforts. In the U.S., a cinematic campaign, “What Makes Us,” Mercedes-Benz launches six highly stylized, 30-second TV spots that showcase the diversity of its vehicle lineup—from the AMG Project ONE Hypercar to off-roading SUVs to sleek sedans—with each commercial being attached to virtues that range from the objective to the subliminal.

Jon Hamm provides the voiceovers to the flight of ads, which all in various ways speak to the brand’s innovations in luxury, sustainability and performance.

“While most of the world knows what goes into producing unrivaled Mercedes-Benz products, not many people have a real understanding of what drives the company to continue to challenge the status quo and never rest on its laurels,” stated Drew Slaven, vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA.

“Stubborn is invincible” shows a G-Class SUV grinding out a path off-road. “Difficult is worth it”  is a technology story. “Curious is incurable” shows off the AMG S-63 Coupe.

“Fearless is fuel” shows the animalistic AMG GT-R traversing a winding road at blinding speeds. And so on through, “First is forever,” and “Can’t is a challenge.”

In Europe, its new campaign—for the Mercedes-Benz A-Class compact hatchback—takes a different and more practical tack, underlining how the range of technologies available via the MBUX control system in the vehicle make it “Just Like You.”

There’s even a cameo by Nicki Minaj, who appears in the campaign as part of the automaker’s partnership with Jay-Z’s Tidal music service. The ads were shot in Madrid and will appear globally in TV, social media, digital, out-of-home and print.

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