Mercedes-Benz – Brand Engagement

Mercedes-Benz is a premium, German automobile manufacture.  But as a brand worth, $30,097m – according to Interbrand – chances are you already know that.  What is particularly interesting about the Mercedes-Benz’s brand is that it’s valuation has increased by a rapid 10% in 2012.  So what are Mercedes-Benz doing right?

I think part of the success of the Mercedes-Benz brand is down to engagement; Mercedes-Benz World (pictured above) is a great example of this.  Mercedes-Benz World, is essentially a mash-up of different ways for consumers to interact with the Mercedes-Benz brand.  This includes learning about the brand’s history, taking part in driving experiences and viewing past, present and even future Mercedes-Benz cars.  While being the ‘holy grail’ from a  marketer’s perspective, from the consumers’ perspective the site is considered a great experience – and not just an attempt to brain-wash visitors with Mercedes-Benz advertising.

But what can marketer’s learn from Mercedes-Benz?  How can other brands increase their engagement with consumers?  Here are three key lessons that can be applied to just about any brand:

1)  Get permission!

Perhaps the most important ingredient to successful brand engagement is that consumers must want, and be willing to, interact with a brand.  Mercedes-Benz World is so effective because consumers choose to visit the place.  By doing so they essentially given Mercedes-Benz permission to engage with them.  This extends further: visitors enjoy sitting in the cars and testing them out as much as possible, whether this by a test-drive or track experience.  All this is done without a car salesman; the consumer is in total control of the service encounter.

Hence, successful brand engagement can be achieved by creating compelling content that ‘sells itself’.

2)  Do not rely on social media.

Although social media is an efficient way to connect with consumers, to an extent, I think there has been an over-statement of its effectiveness.  Namely, ‘engagement’ has almost become inter-twined with ‘online’, like engagement can only be achieved by digital technology.  However, it could easily be argued that when consumers physically interact with a brand with experience is more powerful and longer-lasting.

Having a consumer drive a car at Mercedes-Benz World has to have a greater impact than getting a click-through via social media.  This holds true when today consumers may be ‘following’ your brand, but they are also following 100+ other brands…

The lesson here is: social media is a great tool for efficient, low-cost engagement, but cannot rival offline engagement for effectiveness.

3)  Help consumers remember the engagement.

Lastly, Mercedes-Benz World augment the experience with memorabilia and merchandise that is available for sale on-site.  In addition to generating a quantifiable return on investment – via profit margins – physical products help extend the experience when consumers return home.  The amount of visitors likely to be converted into brand advocates should mean there are no shortages of consumers willing to wear a Mercedes-Benz t-shirt.  I cannot think of any other type of advertising medium where the brand is paid for having its logo on display.

Simply, consumers should receive both physical and emotional reminders of their brand engagement.

Earlier I said that these lessons can be applied to almost any brand; and I would like to re-enforce that brand.  Consumers have shown willingness to engage with even low-involvement products: take a look at the success of Cadbury World and M&Ms World.

This demonstrates low-involvement products can become high-involvement through brand engagement – and benefit financially from it.  With regards to finances, brands do not need to break the bank and develop these ‘worlds’ to engage effectively with consumers.  Rather applying the three above rules, where applicable, to a brand strategy can help generate incremental, low-cost engagement.

© Joshua Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing, 19/05/2013

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