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Showing posts with label Mercedes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mercedes. Show all posts

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: September 2011



 September was a fairly quiet month with only a few decent bumps in fan growth. I'm also seeing a lot less automotive fan driven ads from automotive brands. That's not to say the OEMs are not advertising on Facebook, it's just their ads are driving to the brand's website instead of a Facebook fan page.  Perhaps we are seeing a move away from the importance of fan growth to drive to transaction or consideration at a brand website that hosts content relevant to purchase.


It's been awhile since we've seen a brand lose fans in the span of a month. In fact, the only time it's happened since tracking this data in April 2009 is when Infiniti had lost fans due to their over promotion of a circ de soleil event they did one month where their sponsorship team posted too many photos of acrobats to the annoyance of its fans.  This September Kia dropped 8%, the largest negative drop we've seen in one month. There is nothing blatantly apparent why they had a negative fan growth, perhaps it's due to their younger audience who may have fanned the page due to their hamster Soul campaign only to unfan later once the interest waned?


Mercedes Benz is driving consumers to a social campaign they are running on Facebook. The C-Coupe Your Week contest will give 10 of its Facebook fans a C-Coupe to drive around for a week. Fans will also be featured on the Facebook page and given $2,000 and camera equipment to capture their week. Contestants must complete a form and upload a video by October 14. 

Subaru's 25% increase in fans for September was the largest gain. Their push was most likely driven by their charitable campaign Share the Love Charities where fans voted on several organizations resulting in Make A Wish as the winning charity for the Facebook fans. People who purchase a car between November 19 and January 3 get to choose where to allocate $250 to one of five organizations. The campaign resulted in 183,000 likes demonstrating fans responded positively to the effort. 

Finally in my evaluation of this month's fan growth several fan pages operated outside of a secured connection causing Facebook tab experiences unavaiable if a user has security settings active (use of https.) Odd because this is a fairly easy situation to get around with a good tab development team.  


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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Will RFID be at Every Auto Show Display Next Year?



Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) Facebook status updates are becoming the rage in social media event activations with the latest incarnation coming from Mercedes-Benz sponsorship of this year's PGA Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.



Recently Renault did something similar with RFID at an auto show last April which leaves me wondering if RFID Facebook updates are the next must have accessory for the coming 2012 auto show season? I'm willing to bet they are and with brands looking to activate what happens at an event to share in the digital world, RFID Facebook integration is a great way to extend a brand's investment in event sponsorships by reaching a person's online community too.

The question then is should the kiosks featured in the Renault and Mercedes-Benz examples be configured to support the entire event, where one can register a pass for the auto show and share across multiple brand stations? Or will an attendee after register at each brand kiosk to do whatever that brand wants the experience to be?



We'll probably see several of these RFID registration kiosks from a handful of brands; instead, of a more elegant register once with the event organizer - yeah I'm talking to you North American International Auto Show, New York Auto Show, and Los Angeles too.

No matter what happens, event planning teams across the automotive industry certainly are seeing these examples and the media coverage they are getting and will likely follow suit. So be ready to link your Facebook profile to a RFID card.




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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: April and May 2011



I've been tracking Facebook automotive fans since November 2009 and have never missed a month of data until last month. Unfortunately my early May was extremely busy and I overlooked capturing Facebook fan numbers that month. What is here is fan growth for the months of April and May 2011 combined.

Let’s get to what happened in April and May for automotive brands on Facebook. MINI had the strongest growth over the past 60 days. MINI has been activating user participation with their simple, but elegant idea of “Getting Billboarded” where fans
were able to show their image on a MINI billboard in Berlin. Fans were given the opportunity to share their image from Facebook and those in Berlin were given a photo booth to shoot a picture that would appear on a real billboard. It was a great way to create out of home media with social media. Plus participants were able to save their billboards as images that they could share or use as Facebook profile pictures, but they weren't doing this to only engage but rather to win their very own MINI car.

MINI is also activating their global fan base as a lot of its fans are coming from many countries. This is creating some significant separation on this analysis as brands like Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche are also all activating their global fan base and that is why they are growing at such a stride compared to brands with less of a global impact. Plus all of these brands are aspirational, which helps organic growth dramatically on Facebook, since people fan luxury, high social value brands.


The other brand with some significant growth is Mazda. It’s an interesting time to see some big growth from Mazda since they do not have a vehicle launch during this time.

Mazda is doing their best to increase engagement with their fans and are leveraging their other social properties on the Facebook fan page. They added YouTube and Flickr tabs and are actively promoting content through wall posts. They have also implemented a #MiataMonday idea that asks open questions to their fans.

Mazda is also doing a “Flickr Photo Spotlight” where they are actively looking for Mazda photos on Flickr and then asking photographers to join a Mazda photo Owners Group. Then they are choosing photos to feature on the Mazda Facebook fan page. See the image at left showing one such engagement from Mazda with a Flickr user. This is a great example of showcasing owner enthusiasm and it also brings some fame from the brand to the owner and does it in a simple, respectful way. Bravo to Mazda for being creative in how they leverage multiple social media channels.

One quick thought...

Most automotive ads I’m seeing on Facebook seem to be driving less and less to the brand’s fan page. Most automotive ad buys on the site are sending people to the brand’s website. This makes me wonder if brands are not seeing significant value in growing fans and instead are finding value in Facebook’s ability to segment ad buys by consumer interests and bringing people to brand pages where there is abundantly more information about the products than the brand’s Facebook fan experience.

We are all learning what works and does not work so well on Facebook. After seeing massive ad buys the past couple years from automotive brands spending media to grow fans and now not seeing that behavior; it causes one to wonder if fan growth is not THE metric of success as it once was, that said this blog will still track it to see how a brand’s audience grows.




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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: January 2011



There wasn’t a lot of growth in January’s Facebook fan numbers. Perhaps it’s all of the ad agencies working on their Super Bowl ads. Many brands were pushing their vehicle sites and a couple of German companies were focusing on their USA Fan pages, instead of their global brand pages.

Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW created USA focused brand pages in 2010 (see the USA pages growth in the image below to the left.) Mercedes just completed a “Tweet Race” contest between 4 teams spending all kinds of money on celebrities, charities, providing luxury vehicles, and all congregating this weekend at the Super Bowl in Dallas, Texas. Even though it was a “Tweet” contest, Mercedes spent quite a bit on advertising the event on Facebook throughout most of January.

BMW ran several advertisements promoting the new X3 and the all-new 1M. The X3 Matchup was promoted in January ads on Facebook to promote their coming Super Bowl ad. Players match different images and watch for clues in the Super Bowl ad to win a X3 for 2 years and a VIP trip to their Spartanburg plant, museum, and most importantly their Performance Driving School. Facebook fans are asked to build a X3 where they try to guess the exact build of the one appearing in their Super Bowl ad. I’m guessing silver.

Toyota heavily promoted their name the “Prius Goes Plural” campaign after the brand launched several new Prii, Prius, Prium vehicles at the Detroit Auto Show in early January. It seemed as if every day Toyota had the reachblock bought on my Facebook’s Home screen. With all of their promotion, only one of my Facebook friends voted and I have a ton of friends who are car nuts and in the industry (661 friends total.) Sure my checking my friends against people participating is far from scientific, but it did surprise me when the typical auto ad on Facebook has at least 3 or 4 of my friends liking it. Voting of course is different.

An important note on Toyota’s Prius campaign, it didn’t drive fans to the brand’s Facebook page; hence, the measly 2% growth rate for them in January. Fortunately, Toyota has a pretty strong presence with their Prius brand and many in the industry wonder if they’ll ever move Prius off to its own brand. Perhaps with so many new models that scenario may be playing out.


Finally, the strongest growth came from Acura. They recently abandoned their separate vehicle pages so now whenever they have a vehicle promotion they drive traffic to their brand page. In January, they ran a promotion to their “Compete Like A Pro” contest for the all-new TSX Sport Wagon. What’s great here is that they grew their overall fans instead of just a single vehicle fan page so they can promote other products to those fans. It was a smart move for Acura and their growth in January shows how it helps the overall brand presence.



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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Automotive Facebook Fans by Brand: December 2010



Milestones are a time for celebration. BMW gave thanks to its fans when it crossed 1/2 million fans. Audi recently celebrated its reaching 2 million fans and Mercedes Benz also showed some appreciation when it hit 2 million fans. All of these prior celebrations involved a wall post and video, but none of the automotive companies have done anything truly creative to celebrate such a milestone until now.

Porsche passed the 1 million fan mark a couple weeks ago and as part of the celebration they are placing a special model Porsche in the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. Fans can ask for their name to be on the displayed vehicle by signing up on their Facebook fan page tab called "1,000,000". It's a creative way to bring the milestone to life, much more interesting than some thrown together ad agency video.


Major milestones aside, GMC blew everyone away with the most significant monthly fan gain - a whopping 95%. Like most double-digit changes, GMC's rise is attributable to media spend driving fans to their Facebook page. GMC has a sponsorship with the NFL that has fans voting for the "Never Say Never Moment of the Week." There are weekly prizes, a trip to the Super Bowl and a chance to win a 2011 GMC Sierra Denali.

Hyundai ran some reachblocks in the beginning of December. Other companies that did some marketing in Facebook were Lexus, Chrysler, and Dodge (this is not a comprehensive list just some of the ads I personally saw.) Mercedes-Benz worked to promote their Tweet Race. The ad units sent people to the recently created Mercedes-Benz USA Facebook fan page.

Yes, Mercedes like BMW, Mini and Smart now has a "USA" fan page. As part of their way to create interest for the page they are doing the "World's First Twitter-Fueled Race" which looks basically like a road-trip with four teams driving from four different cities to the Super Bowl in Dallas. This sounds eerily similar to last year's Chevrolet SXSW road-trip scavenger hunt. (Look for a coming article on Mercedes' event around when it begins on February 2.)

A final insight in December comes from Mazda. I find it interesting how some brands promote sales events (Acura has one right now), or they keep a corporate logo, or others promote a new product as part of Facebook's profile image. Mazda is promoting their new Mazda5 but they also found a nice, clean way to promote their other social media brand destinations in the profile picture. The promotion of other channels and their dot.com site is effectively communicated.



Download the Excel file: Facebook Auto Fan File (December 2010)

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Would You Pickup this Hitchhiker in Your Benz?



I love the truly bizarre marketing ideas. One of favorites was last year's An American Werewolf in Yaris. It has been replaced by an even stranger idea - this one from a Berlin street artist and photographer Stefan Gbureck for Mercedes-Benz. It's called "Tramp a Benz", and for those lacking a German to English dictionary "tramp" is basically German for "hitchhiking."

The idea comes from the German advertising agency Jung von Matt. The travels of street artist Gbureck are captured digitally via a blog and Facebook fan page, and what blog doesn't have a Facebook page these days - except my blog.

I wonder how this would translate in America. I'm guessing only hitching rides with Benz drivers would involve a lot of walking and wondering if hitching a ride with a Chrysler when Mercedes owned them would count.

The only time I ever picked up a hitchhiker was in high school at 16 when I saw two older girls (probably 18-20.) I cruised up in my '76 Chevy Vega and they giggled a lot at me, but fortunately didn't kill me and throw my body in a vacant lot which is pretty close to what my mom said would happen if I picked up a hitchhiker again.


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Friday, September 11, 2009

This Week: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


The Good

Land Rover released a whimsical Freelander 2 ad that playfully expresses the fun and family aspect of the Land Rover brand.





The Bad

MINI is getting set to reveal two new products at this week's coming Frankfurt Auto Show: the MINI coupe and Roadster Concept. To promote the twin reveal, MINI has released their Two Untamed campaign. It has to be the strangest, most disturbing thing I've seen from MINI, who usually creates great ads.





The Ugly

As the hosts of Burnout Radio shared with me "this afternoon regarding the new Mercedes SLS AMG, "oh god that's hideous, i think i just threw up a little bit."

This ugly isn't about the idea or production value of the reveal video Mercedes-Benz TV released. No this ugly is the product. After a 46 year hiatus, the return of the Mercedes Gullwing should have resulted in a perfect vehicle - much like the beauty that is the timeless 300SL. Instead, Mercedes gave the world a stub-nosed, rakish rear-end coupe that disappoints. Maybe they were set up for failure as following the 300SL really is an impossible task.



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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Brand Initiated Automotive Online Communities In Practice


Forrester Research’s Jeremiah K. Owyang released a whitepaper last week titled “Community Launch Checklist: Creating A Pragmatic Approach To Launching An Onine Community.” It covers some strategic recommendations on how a company should best prepare before embarking on an online community.

There really isn’t anything revolutionary in the white paper, nor should there be, since it is meant as a simple checklist. It’s your typical stuff:

  • Define clear business goals and benchmarks to track success or failure
  • Prepare the organization so it knows its responsibilities both time and budget.
  • Research your competition
  • Define a process for participating and/or monitoring the community
  • Find the right technology implementation that fits your business objectives
  • Promote the community similar to how you promote any new product launch

Unfortunately, the article is light on any examples of companies using online communities. It does, in passing, mention Mattel’s “The Playground”, Microsoft’s Channel 9, MGM’s Facebook group, Dell’s support community and MyStarbucksIdea.

The good news for readers of this blog is that I have been actively engaging with three automotive brands that have started some very elaborate online communities. The three are Mercedes Benz’s Generation Benz, Hyundai’s Think Tank and Saturn’s ImSaturn. Here is a chart breaking down some differences and similarities across the communities:


As you can see from the examples, different companies make different content choices -- hopefully based on different strategies. It is also important to note that only one has a relatively significant media buy to promote its community, and that is ImSaturn. The Hyundai and Mercedes communities were promoted (from what I can gather) through invitations from their customer data, email-marketing data, and they allow members to invite friends. ImSaturn is promoted through their CRM data too, but they also have had media placements and promoted their content on social networking sites like Facebook where they also have a related Fan Page and Facebook application promoting the site.

Goals, Goals, Goals

Let’s get this out of the way now. The number one objective of all these sites should be to sell more cars or accessories. That doesn’t mean you measure sales against site membership numbers; rather, the sites should be about brand building by getting people more engaged with the brand through content, relationships with company staff and other enthusiasts, and should energize members through event promotions or exclusive chats. All of these activities strengthen the relationship between the customer and the community’s membership, which in turn should result in more purchases from a brand the community members have built a stronger relationship with thus leading to better loyalty retention numbers.

All three sites are clearly trying to energize their members to become vocal advocates for the brand; though, at different levels. And, by definition, if the sites create stronger advocates for the brand they will share their experiences with others, buy more products from your company, and hopefully persuade their social network to consider the brand.

Other goals include traditional market research objectives. Here Mercedes and Hyundai implementations are more aligned to these activities. They are leading the conversation through polls, discussions, and activities. Much like a virtual focus group, the two communities gather feedback from members and use that research outside of the community or they participate in discussions by responding to member comments. I tend to look at this type of effort as a way to do quick research without all the hassle of having to setup focus groups, which can be quite expensive and time consuming. Instead the benefit here is that you have this group you can bounce questions off of, provided they are the right target(s) you are wanting to engage with and provided there are enough that stay active in the community.

Saturn’s Ning

Saturn has made a stronger push to get owners to communicate with each other by allowing friending, member photo galleries, and most importantly letting members start their own groups and discussion topics. The ImSaturn site is modeled after a Facebook social community approach. Why do I say this, because the site has a very similar layout to a social community site like Ning. It also is big in creating social networks within the community; whereas, Mercedes and Hyundai are more about members being led into discussions with a company’s staff. Saturn is essentially trying to create its own social network that borrows from things that make automotive forums attractive: photo posting, public profiles, comments on member pages, having your own mailbox, and getting members to create friendships with others.

I haven’t researched the level of activity on Saturn auto enthusiast forums but they do exist. I was originally a bit surprised ImSaturn was built the way it was. It seemed to me Saturn could’ve just joined a large Saturn community that already exists and engage that way, basically Listen.

When I joined the community it had 600 members so it seemed like a lot of effort and cost to grow a community to a critical mass. Fortunately, they do have a decent size community that is now over 5,000 members, but it has taken nearly two years to do that and I’m sure at a decent cost. Seems to me they could’ve just plugged into existing communities and engaged that way at a lesser cost; though, they would’ve lost some insights, though that depends on what they were looking to get from ImSaturn and that I don’t know since I’m not part of the internal team.

Going back through my communications from the ImSaturn site, there is really nothing more than some public relations communications and some event promotion. All of this could’ve been done through their Facebook site and by engaging with existing online Saturn fan forums. So, it is unclear what strategic advantage the ImSaturn site really provides.

Consumer Insights at Your Fingertips

Mercedes and Hyundai are clearly building virtual focus groups where they can gather quick marketing insights from their members. This is very different from the social community approach of ImSaturn, where the emphasis is on social. Most interesting, Generation Benz has a particular membership requirement and that is you must be under 30 years old, since they are interested in aspirational opinions about their brand and products. Hyundai is open to all ages. Neither community restricts non-owners; even though, a lot of the content on Hyundai is very owner focused. I’m sure they divide poll results by owner/non-owner as well as other demographic data.

The company’s marketing representatives also lead both communities. The moderators start all discussion topics. When you enter either site, you are required to respond to survey questions that look to get feedback about new products, possible future products, and/or get your thoughts on current marketing efforts.

Even though the two sites are marketing department driven and are really about getting research to help assist marketing plans, they do try to energize their membership. One way that is done is through having fun polls or questionnaires that try to get more psychographic profiles about members. Sure this is used by the marketing team, but it is also a way to make the community appear more fun. Does it work? Possibly, I’m way too much of an industry person to be objective.

What’s In It for the Members?

So what keeps people coming back? Of course there are many reasons, but there are several that exist.

  • First Finder Fame: Getting exclusive information before others outside the community.
  • Brand Relationship Factor: Establish a personal relationship with a brand you like
  • Community Friendship Factor: By establishing “friends” within the community, engagement with like-minded people keeps people coming back
  • Rewards: Special offers. Hyundai recently gave members a special code for buying their cars at discount.
  • Support Reasons: Look to communities as a way to get support information for the product they own or are interested in owning.

It is interesting looking across all three communities and seeing how people interact within. Harvard Business Review did an excellent article on how people interact within communities identifying 18 roles, and those same behaviors exist on all three of these sites. There are a couple roles that dominate these marketing based, company-sponsored communities.

Every community is full of “Learners” who seek out information to improve their knowledge of the products. “Storytellers” permeate membership also as many share their ownership stories through words or photos, especially on a site like ImSaturn that encourages such behaviors.

But it takes regular engagement and the creation of fresh and interesting content by community administrators to keep the conversations going. Mercedes and Hyundai are enabling new conversation topics all the time, the only issue I see is that the discussions are more for the brand marketing team’s purpose and less for the benefit of the members. Most activities involve watching commercials and this of course can get boring quickly and cause member drop-off; hence, the idea of giving content to appeal to first find fame by letting the membership see content only available on the community before releasing it to the public, but this is a rather weak benefit that only appeals to hardcore brand advocates.

To involve more than just the hardcore members, Mercedes’ site will actually send out reminders via email saying inactivity will get you removed from the community and that one needs to login soon to remain a participant. Other sites like Hyundai’s sends out email communication that are less threatening. They simply invite me to see new content or invite me to participate in a coming product chat that hopefully appeals to my interest. I have participated in chats with product specialists on both sites and there seems to be only about 20 or so members on Mercedes chats I’ve been on. Hyundai, because it is open to a larger audience, has a slightly larger turnout, but not much better.

Direct, Responsive Access to People Inside Your Company Is Your Advantage


Engaging with the community is an active process. The people who join a manufacturer’s community expect fast responses and respect for information they seek. One member of the Generation Benz website made a statement after a moderator switch occurred last month. Referring to the prior moderator, he was highly satisfied with the moderator’s quick responses and how he would respond to any question no matter how crazy.

It takes a serious commitment of time and knowledge from the company to find the right people to actively engage with the community’s users. Owyang talks a lot about developing proper processes for positive and negative events that will happen. Knowing how to respond before something does happen will lead to a more effective experience for everyone.

The users expect engagement and this personal relationship with brand representatives is an appeal the enthusiasts’ forums don’t provide, as a brand this is your community's strategic advantage. Use it well and you can build a great reputation with your participants.

In Closing

Before embarking on a community site, brands would benefit from the Forrester article (and the Harvard Business Review article too.) There are some fundamental items you need to consider before engaging with existing communities or starting your own online community space. Oh, and don’t forget to have a strategist as part of your team.
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Mercedes E-Class Making Sheep Nervous


Okay, I've been a fairly observant automotive industry watcher and pay particular attention to how companies advertise. Until today, I've never seen two sexy nurses, a midget, midget unicorn, and a really nervous sheep get booted out of a new car to launch that car's new technology feature.

One YouTube watcher left the comment most viewers are probably thinking, "Don't understand. Strange characters get out of the car, driver drives off. WTF." WTF, is right. It's Mercedes way of communicating the new E-Class' feature Attention Assist that alerts the driver from dozing-off.

The ad will not run here in the States, it's apparently too risque for our country's Mercedes intenders; instead, it will show in Europe where admitting you dream about circus midgets is appropriate behavior.

My feeling about the ad: It is odd and took me a second to get what it was leading to. I'm not sure it is as succinct as some other creative efforts to communicate complex technology features in a fun and compelling way. My favorite example of showing advanced technology in an effective, playful spot goes to the BMW 7-Series TV spot on Night Vision.

What are your thoughts? Did you get what it was trying to communicate? Was it fun and interesting or dumb and boring or somewhere in between?
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Monday, March 2, 2009

Luxury Certified Pre-Owned Sales Up! (really)


From the Wall Street Journal, Sales of Used Luxury Cars Rise: “Demand for used luxury cars is remarkably strong compared to the wilting new vehicle market. The trends suggest affluent car buyers aren't paralyzed. But they are searching for a new balance between saving money and hanging on to the lifestyle to which they became accustomed in better times.”

Picking up a used luxury car is a good idea in today’s market where Used Exotics are Going for Honda Accord Money.

So who is pushing certified pre-owned (CPO) in their marketing? BMW, who is mentioned in the article, is running a promotion for 0.9% financing. Lexus is doing a 2.9% promotion n the RX model. Other brands are also providing financing incentives across their CPO fleet.

I did a quick survey to see how the luxury brands promote CPO on their homepages. Of luxury brands in the USA, 77% have CPO links on their main navigation. Some brands make it a bit more difficult to locate pre-owned models. Mercedes-Benz is one who does not include a link to CPO from their main navigation; though, they do promote the content using a link from the main image on the homepage (it’s a simple small-font text link.)

Bentley actually makes the most prominent promotion of their used-vehicle offerings. There are two prominent access points to used car listings. Bentley suffered a new vehicle sales drop of 20% for all of 2008, so moving product, even used is imperative to keep sales going in this economy.
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Generation Bling


Social media is all the rage in digital marketing these days with companies venturing out to FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, and even creating their own community web sites. What approach a manufacturer takes should depend on what goals they want to accomplish with social media and the brand must understand how their customers behave on the web.

One experiment is Generation Benz, an online community established for “an invited group of Gen Y netizens to open up about the brand.” In fact, when I tried to register for the site -- using my real demographics -- I was not accepted. A fellow co-worker had informed me he had a similar issue and “got in” when he completed a profile as a 29 year old. So, keep trying to sign-up if you want to take a peak at the site.

According to Mercedes-Benz USA VP/Marketing Stephen Cannon, “Our Generation-Benz community is a natural extension of our desire to broaden the Mercedes-Benz family, and establish a dialogue with future buyers to guide us with the design of our vehicles and direction of our brand."

So we know Mercedes is interested in taping into their aspirational customers and after spending weeks on the site they are doing a lot of consumer research, online focus group engagement.

Unfortunately, I cannot share content screen shots from the community due to the community’s participant legal agreement that I accepted:

In addition, except as provided in this Agreement, you may not copy, modify, translate, reproduce, publish, broadcast, transmit, distribute, perform, display, license, sell, or create derivative works from any Member Content or any other content appearing on or through the Service.


That said, I can definitely describe what content is presented on Generation Benz. Mercedes is doing several things to engage. Whether they are the right thing to connect with 20-somethings is another thing all together. There are consumer opinion polls where you can vote on how an interior palette makes you feel. One discussion asked users to share their opinion on competing Lexus and Mercedes Benz commercials currently running for the RX350 and M-Class SUVs. None of this really sounds all that compelling to a Gen Y audience but they are getting some participation on the site, particularly when it comes to new and future product content. I should state that community members can "suggest a topic".

A private community is definitely the right strategic approach for Mercedes based on the demographic they are targeting and the type of engagement they are doing. Finding the right topics though seems to be a struggle since this is a marketing organization that starts the discussions, topics are not user-generated which probably reduces usage.

One of the best behaviors on the site is the engagement from Mercedes’ staff that really participates with the community members, making the community feel they have the ability impact the brand’s decisions. Their email communications also encourage participation and repeat visits (see image to the right.)

Without access to primary data showing how effective the site is with attracting repeat visitors, it is difficult to know how well the community is doing. After evaluating all of the current discussion threads on the site, it is clear repeat visits are low and there are only two dominant users of the site with over 300 posts each, others who post tend to have less than 10 posts. Active users only appear to include maybe 20 or so participants, at least across all forum comment sections.

One way it could improve engagement is by giving users a reason to participate. “Consumers have to have some incentive to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences on a company Web site,” according to the Wall Street Journal. There is no incentive on the site. Some things that could improve that include:

The site does give users an indicator showing how many posts they have done. Post indicators provide a visual "game" on community boards which leads to an increase of usage. An indicator should also move people to new levels like newbie, contributor, expert, et cetera as a way to show degrees of engagement. Believe it or not, this stuff actually works in communities as some users view it as a fame reward.

Other incentives could include cash incentives or product promotions, which could include Mercedes lifestyle discounts for apparel. Or really encourage participation by offering a Generation Benz logo hat or t-shirt that could further promote the site to the user’s personal network, make them feel special and that they have exclusive access to the brand.

All in all, the Generation Benz web site is a good example of a community site from an automotive company with a very clear set of goals, reaching out to a target audience they want to engage. It just seems like the site moderators need to find more relevant topics for their users, and less for their marketing department's purposes. They also could benefit by rewarding users with incentives to participate more.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Handcrafted AMG Snowflakes for the Holidays


Every snowflake is unique. Mercedes-Benz wants it’s customers to know that every AMG engine is unique too. Using engine parts, visitors to the new Mercedes-AMG Snowflake Creator, can move around engine parts into various repetitive designs to generate their own snowflake to send it to their friends along with a message. I’m thinking I should send one to my wife letting her know what I want for Christmas – a $194,700 AMG SL 65 Black Series. She can skip the giant red bow.

The snowflake creator is a somewhat interesting execution. It’s not particularly entertaining as you only have five auto parts and an AMG logo to create your masterpiece, but adding more parts isn’t really necessary.

What is interesting is taking the idea expressed on the homepage, “’One Man – One Engine.’ This is one of the signature components of the AMG philosophy, speaking to the unique hand-craftsmanship utilized for every AMG Mercedes built.” We all know snowflakes are unique. (Or are they?) Bringing together an idea we all understand, take a symbol of the holidays, and mesh it together back to your brand’s desire to communicate the uniqueness of your product. It is a compelling message and a great way to reinforce the special quality of AMG.

Sending an email works well at a time when people are exchanging e-cards over the holidays. I like it when companies can find a way to make the holidays relevant to their marketing efforts. Besides, I’m sure it’s more welcome than getting this e-card.

The site doesn’t let you save your snowflake as an image or post it on your social networking page, but that doesn’t seem necessary as this is a holiday card application and who really needs an picture of your “unique” creation. It’s about creating a card that is uniquely you though it isn’t communicated to the person receiving your e-card that the snowflake is part of the AMG philosophy of being handcrafted and unique. It just looks like the typical Christmas e-card with some strange looking circle floating down to the hood of a Mercedes. So, the message of the site is lost when sent along to your friends.

Overall, it’s a nice execution and a timely way to demonstrate the uniqueness AMG is reinforcing about their products. more.
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meet the Peckers Beckers


Audi has been known to poke fun at its competitors. The most infamous jab came in 2004 when Audi made fun of the Lexus LS’s self parking technology. The ridicule of Lexus continues in their new web site experience for the new A4 campaign, but Lexus isn’t the only one to take a hit or two. Mercedes and BMW owners are called out for their stereotypes too.

Meet the Beckers is an episodic experience that has more to do with the “what group do you fit into?” marketing communication approach. The luxury market is ripe with tons of stereotypes about the owners of particular brands: snobby, elitist, arrogant, and just plain assholes who think because they have a nice car they own the road, and two parking spaces (sorry Audi, your owners do it too.) With plenty to make fun of, Audi decided to do some comedy webisodes that highlight these stereotypes and, of course, show the sane, cool driver drives an Audi.

So, how does one find Meet the Beckers? Automotive blogs started promoting it first and I have yet to see any media put behind the site. The Audi USA site does not list the site anywhere off its home page or on the A4 vehicle pages or the A4 launch site. It is also non-existent from the current campaign Truth in Engineering I’m guessing a site that is more about exaggeration doesn’t really fit with “truth”, so Audi has let “Meet the Beckers” live on its own, separate from the current A4 and brand campaigns.

Having a site that is outside of the current brand and vehicle campaign, that even Audi acknowledges doesn’t fit in its current communications (evidenced by the difficulty of finding the Meet the Beckers), is something I don’t recommend since it is so disconnected from everything else they are putting out there about their product. So, Meet the Beckers just doesn’t fit with what Audi is doing.

The site does have the expected YouTube Channel. Views are decent, considering there is no media supporting the content. Unfortunately, nothing is really unique about the content or experience with the channel and you wonder why Audi didn’t just avoid the channel cost and post the videos up on the YouTube site without the burden of a channel to manage.

Regarding the site, there are a couple key things missing. Most prominent is a link to the Audi A4 for information about the product the site is promoting. Also, there is no way to share the video content through Facebook or MySpace. The site is expected to get views through viral communications yet Audi only provides links to “digg it”, “del.icio.us”, and “send to a friend.” The send to a friend execution simply opens one’s email software and places the following language in the body of the message:

Every Thanksgiving the Becker family plays football. And every Thanksgiving, things get worse.
Visit the link below to watch the game unfold.

Meet the Beckers. You're invited.
www.meetthebeckers.com

Does the content relate to the target and is the content funny? I felt the content was right on as I personally enjoyed and felt other consumers in this space would find the jabs funny and offensive in a fun way. Well, after doing a non-scientific poll on a well-known BMW enthusiast site, the verdict is in: 80% of the audience I polled enjoyed the first episode and left comments in support of the site; even though, the site really digs in hard against the BMW arrogant, asshole stereotype. Will everyone get it? No. But the enthusiast consumer does and it looks like that was Audi's aim.

All in all, the site does have some merits but the merits are outside of Audi’s current Truth in Engineering campaign and, therefore, will die a slow viral death since it doesn’t really fit within Audi’s major marketing efforts. I’m guessing Meet the Beckers came up in some brainstorming around what do with the new A4 campaign and someone felt it still was worthwhile to pursue even though the direction went elsewhere.


UPDATE 11/04/2008: Audi released episodes 2 & 3 and well let's just say they fell flat. The humor just wasn't as fun the second and third time around. Unfortunately, only the first video was worth watching and overall the concept became more about the ridiculousness of the characters (even the Audi guy became annoying in his normal-ness.) I did also learn that Audi did run some media to the site when episode 2 went live, they had some banners on ESPN.com. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to catch the messaging.
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