Mercedes Benz is sending consumers back to a sweeter time—sixteen years old, to be exact—in its latest digital campaign, “Play By Your Rules“. As the auto industry continues to transform, here’s why the luxury carmaker’s revamped appeal could help it get ahead.
When it comes to advertising, Mercedes Benz has long been known for its classic, sophisticated style. In its newest campaign for the CLA Coupé, the automaker shifts gears by showing a trip down memory lane as a man bogged down by the trappings of modern life comes face to face with his sixteen-year-old-self. The film follows the two as it becomes increasingly apparent that it’s not always a good idea to abandon the rebellion of youth for the discipline of adulthood. It also comes flanked with a matching hashtag, #PlayByYourRules, and an AR Instagram filter that employs the same glossy, neo-Tokyo effects as the film.
Over the years, Benz has benefited from the highest paid visibility against model keywords and the highest visibility for nonbranded luxury keywords, but it fell five spots from last year’s digital ranking. One reason behind this could be the changing of the times. Energy efficiency has come to the forefront, as brands like Volkswagen commit to offering electric versions of all models by 2030 and 29% of customers prefer alternatives to traditional internal combustion engines, up from 20% the previous year. Meanwhile, the fully electric Tesla Model 3 is soaring in popularity across the nation, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Auto.
In tandem with the evolution of digital discovery, the purchase process is changing. What was once a limited set of inputs (friends, relatives, Kelley Blue Book and local car dealerships) has multiplied into hundreds of potential online touchpoints. Armed with this wealth of information, two-thirds of U.S. customers now report that they spend fewer than ten hours researching products and complete the auto purchase process in less than three months.
That said, airing a five-minute film on the world’s second-largest search engine is a smooth, and stand-out move for the brand. Finally, though brand-born filters can come off gimmicky, Benz’s filter is subtle enough to swerve that risk. Like the brand’s rigid film protagonist, Mercedes Benz’s new promotion proves that breaking away from the norm can be a welcome, and even needed, breath of fresh air. And based on the positive reception, consumers seem to agree. Consumer expectations are changing. Auto brands shouldn’t be afraid to change too.