How Mercedes is driving innovation in the automotive industry
Five Questions with Rita Felder, Director, Mercedes-Benz Brand and Marketing Strategy
We believe there is a shift from organization-led brands to brand-led organizations (e.g. Disney, Amazon, Apple) where the business is the commercial manifestation of a powerful brand. Do you recognize this shift? What are the challenges and opportunities in it?
Yes, indeed. A desirable product is absolutely key for our positioning in the market. But creating a desirable brand around it and making every single touchpoint with that brand an ultimate experience – this is what creates true value. That’s why our brand experience is at the core of our thinking and acting and we put it as the first pillar of our corporate strategy. We build on the emotions of our customers. We’re creating memorable experiences that appeal to their minds but equally as much to their hearts. Because buying a car might be a functionally led purchase. But buying a Mercedes-Benz is more than buying a car, it is fulfilling emotional desires.
Our Best Global Brands data suggests that brands who not only provide superb experiences but also take a leading stance on social issues are more relevant to consumers. How are you approaching this in your organization?
We are convinced that luxury brands must show attitude and provide orientation. Especially the younger generation is looking for a brand that shares their values and acts ecologically and with social responsibility. This means taking a clear stance on trending topics like LGBTQ+, gender inequality, social distancing, and human rights. We at Mercedes-Benz have made ESG the guiding principle of our business strategy. To name just a few examples: this year we have auctioned our Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé from our Classic Collection for an all-time record price of 135 million EUR to establish the “Mercedes-Benz Fund” that will provide educational and research scholarships in the areas of environment science and decarbonisation for young people. We are convinced that access to education in these areas will be crucial in encountering the great challenges of our time and contribute to greater stability, prosperity and social cohesion.
Furthermore we have partnered with fashion designer Heron Preston, who made innovative clothing out of upcycled airbags. And together with Alica Keys we started the “Key to success” campaign to inspire women to empower each other, learn from each other and grow together – to make positive changes in social interaction beyond the music industry.
We build on the emotions of our customers. We’re creating memorable experiences that appeal to their minds but equally as much to their hearts.
Why, in a recession, should a business continue to invest in their brand? How do you think the investment in brand and marketing, will evolve or change over the next 12 – 18 months?
Luxury has been in our genes since the beginning of our brand and we will focus our thoughts and actions even more strongly on it in the future. The combination of brand strength and cutting-edge technology made us successful from the start. For more than 130 years we have built products for the world’s most demanding customers. The customer is the focal point. This has always been rule number one for Mercedes-Benz and it will gain even greater emphasis going forward. The purchasing experience and the customer journey play a central role in the luxury segment. With this in mind, we have established new marketing and sales channels – online and offline – and planned further measures which offer a seamless customer journey. Excellent ease-of-use pairs with high experiential values at every touchpoint – starting with digital communication. Finally, we have a stringent target operating model for all our marketing initiatives. We increase brand value by creating the surprising and brand-shaping moments, generate halo effects by providing hero cars and extraordinary collaborations, and assure consistency through a uniform global brand presence.
How has your competition evolved over the past 24 months? Where are you seeing or experiencing the greatest threats? What are the biggest opportunities? Are you seeing new or surprising competitors entering the space?
Our strategy has a strong focus on modern luxury, making it an integral part of all products, customer interactions and our digital technologies for the whole company. Our ambition is to offer the most desirable cars in all segments, and across all brands.
In times of transformation, there are always new players coming into the market. Additional players will further increase the intensity of competition. That’s positive for customers because technical development is getting more dynamic. We are keeping a close eye on these competitors and making sure that we stay ahead technologically.
The customer is the focal point. This has always been rule number one for Mercedes-Benz and it will gain even greater emphasis going forward.
We have come to recognize brands as being powerful acts of leadership. In what ways do your brand’s moves reflect you/your organization’s belief system?
We want to reach both existing and potential customers directly in their respective living environment, their spheres of influence and to insert ourselves as a natural companion. Decisive factors for the successful anchoring of a brand in particular environments are: longevity, authenticity and credibility. It is important to us to meet our target groups openly and at eye level. Wherever a customer comes into contact with our brand, we want to inspire them. This inspiration also applies to the attitude that Mercedes-Benz represents in public. Our attitude is to motivate as many people as possible to take responsibility for our planet and society. This has a direct impact on the brand image and thus on the brand value.