Mercedes and stress relief.

merc31.jpg      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.

Advertisements

3 responses to “Mercedes and stress relief.

  1. It is evident that you are not the target audience for the Mercedes E-Class. Your making comments about the whole brand by taking an example of one particular Class in isolation shows your lack of awareness about the product category and the buying behaviour of Mercedes (or should that be car) customers.

    “Does this new “stress relief” communication widen the target audience of E-Class beyond Mercedes’s traditional mature buyer? ”

    It does not have to. Brands – in this case, the Class of the car – can have different target audiences and they do.

    “This potentially can be a big idea which cuts across the entire Mercedes range ( not just E-CLASS). ”

    As mentioned earlier, different Mercedes Classes focus on different target segments. Seeking stress-relief is not on the mind of a convertible CLK driving hip yuppie. He is after excitement and the ‘flash’ value of a Merc. Why offer him benefits you would offer an older buyer, who has a family (who do you think buys E-class?) typically with kids and hence a greater need for stress relief!

    “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.”

    Car buying is an emotional purchase like house buying. But in both cases, due diligence underlies the final decision, with your bank account making the final call for you.

    Typically, Mercedes buyers do not buy it just for flashy features but for the guarantee of German precision engineering which means your car practically never goes to a garage for repairs. They are highlighting their strengths and sticking to the knitting is a good idea for a brand that is not ‘broken’.

    “Best parking sensors, best car navigation, best driving view, best climate control , best audio etc come to mind.”

    And by the way not all Mercedes ship with parking sensors as default. Parking sensors work more or less the same and are not differentiators. Seasoned drivers do not rely on them and are hardly likely to consider them a ‘value-added’ feature.

    Car navigation also works as standard in all cars and relies more heavily on software and GPS than on any patentable engineering technique. Hardly a USP.

    Best climate control? I suppose you just had to list something…

    Best driving view? What??

    Best audio? Most Mercedes ship with Harman Kardon (BMW ships with Blaupunkt) audio systems; you could argue your point but they already do ship with the best in audio. However these are now considered hygiene factors in auto marketing and not things which can be claimed as USP.

    “…also differentiates it from the “driving pleasure/fun” aspect of BMW, where it cannot compete in any case.”

    Clearly you have never driven either. Pleasure in driving is not an armchair concept but a real experiential element of branding.

  2. Thanks for your comments and visit, An only Mouse. The only point being made in this post is that “Stress-relief” as an idea ( not the specific set of words) has potential in the auto category and Mercedes hasn’t fully thought through it. If they don’t think it is a good idea why spend advertising dollars on it and if they think it is a good idea why not take it through the line. Either way due diligence on the “idea” is missing from their side.

    Also I am not sure your observation of “..a brand that is not broken” applies fully to Mercedes. They were in serious trouble in 2005-6 with a plummet in JD POWER quality ratings. You might find this link an interesting read.

  3. Hello, Neat post. There’s an issue together with your site in internet explorer, may check this? IE nonetheless is the market chief and a huge part of people will pass over your wonderful writing due to this problem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s