Car advertising in print usually doesn’t elicit a second glance from me. However the recent Mercedes E-Class ad in the Aug 11 issue of Economist caught my eye. Instead of the customary car shot with some body copy, this ad gave more prominence to an illustration of a “stress” fuel gauge with the needle pointing at E i.e empty.
The body copy talks of the beautifully designed interior of the E-Class being a haven of tranquility in a pressure filled life. There was a dedicated web link also, which talked about stress in today’s life.
The E-Class competes in the mid-size luxury sedan segment(according to the J D Power site) which is led by the Lexus ES series and the BMW 5 series, in the US market (the no.1 premium car market in the world). Audi A6 is another key player in this segment. The E-Class is the most expensive car in this segment.
Is this campaign the start of something new and interesting? Does this new “stress relief” communication widen the target audience of E-Class beyond Mercedes’s traditional mature buyer? Is this a relevant benefit for its core target audience?
My assessment of the communication campaign: Good strategy but execution lacks conviction.
-Stress relief is a relevant benefit for its “mature” core audience, which has traditionally been attracted by Mercedes’s prestige and reliability. With the aging demographics in the developed world and the increasing wealth concentration amongst the mature, Mercedes is right in focusing on getting a bigger share of this segment. Stress relief builds on its historical strengths(reliability) and also differentiates it from the “driving pleasure/fun” aspect of BMW, where it cannot compete in any case.
-Stress-relief as a benefit is potentially appealing to less mature consumers also, as driving stress cuts across age segments.
– However, the link with stress relief ends at the first page of the web link(and thus seems superficial). After that the descriptions are generic and technical. Either the new features don’t really focus on stress-relief or the engineers have won over the marketeers on web site copy. Either way it shows lack of conviction.
This potentially can be a big idea which cuts across the entire Mercedes range ( not just E-CLASS). By developing features which deliver on the stress relief promise better than competition, Mercedes can perhaps own this territory and provide an emotional dimension to reliability. Best parking sensors, best car navigation, best driving view, best climate control , best audio etc come to mind. What a pity they end up talking again of engines and crash tests.