MBDSC: 1995-96

 

 

FORMING THE MERCEDES-BENZ DEALERS

OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (MBDSC)


In 1995 Mercedes-Benz North America (now Mercedes-Benz USA) changed the structure of their regional advertising, from one strictly dependent upon national (Tier I) advertising to one also incorporating local, independent dealer groups (Tier II).

 

The Mercedes-Benz Dealers of Southern California (MBDSC) were the first Mercedes-Benz dealer group to organize, hiring:

  • James G. Lewis, Esquire, who wrote their new By-Laws and incorporated the group
  • Doig, Elliott, Schur – a small, New York advertising Agency as their Agency of record
  • DES in turn hired Gary Van Zandt as their Southern California account representative
  • Gary Van Zandt hired Berliner and Partners as the Association’s accountants
  • Earl, Palmer, Brown (Baltimore) as their media Agency — later changing to ICG/LA (which later became Carat)

 

 


 

In Southern California — the bell-weather region for American trends and Mercedes-Benz USA’s largest market, the brand was losing appeal to BMW, which was perceived by consumers as more sporty and fun to drive.

 

After testing the new 1995 C-Class at the Texas Motor Speedway, DES personnel felt that — contrary to general public opinion, the C-Class was “a blast to drive”. The Agency decided that the C-Class should be communicated locally as “fun to drive in a way different from BMW but unique to Southern California.”

 

The Agency next set-out to write the Creative Brief for the first campaign:

 

—MBDSC’s  “Perception-Busting” Strategy

  • Objective:  Increase consideration for Mercedes-Benz for new and used cars and for their service business
  • Target Group:
  • Current owners to whom we want to sell service, repairs (post-warranty) and eventually a replacement vehicle
  • Luxury Intenders:  New or used; lease or purchase.; Male and Female (50%/50%); HHI $75,000+; 35-55 years of age
  • Conquests current owners of cars costing $28,000+
  • Proposition:  The Southern California Mercedes-Benz Dealers will prove to you that a Mercedes-Benz is worth more than you think, and will cost less than you think
  • Tone:  Tone must help drive traffic but not at the expense of the finest automobile and most caring dealer group in the world

 

  • Mercedes-Benz Dealers of Southern California’s Charge to Agency:  Build traffic via dealer-driven advertising:
  • Strategy:  Make Mercedes-Benz more accessible
  • Tactic:  Increase purchase consideration for new and used Mercedes-Benz cars via media-driven advertising
  • Barriers to Consideration:  Poor value for money (M-B too expensive)
    • High cost of ownership:  M-B costs too much to purchase and service
    • Poor performance:  Not a “driver’s car”
    • Personality of Car is Boring:  M-B is old and dull
    • Image of Owners:  M-B is owned by old conservatives
    • Sales Consultants Not Deferential:  Dealers are arrogant and aloof; Sales experience not good
    • Pre-Owned Car Prices Too High:  Bad value
    • M-B “too establishment”
    • Overly-sophisticated
    • M-B not part of the community

 

Cybill Shepherd Announcement to MBDSC

Cybill Shepherd Announcement to MBDSC (cover)

 

Cybill Shepherd Announcment to MBDSC:  Inside

Cybill Shepherd Announcement to MBDSC

 

The Agency negotiated a celebrity endorsement deal with Cybill Shepherd that helped reinvent her TV career.  A mini-series of commercials were created portraying Shepherd as the “customer from hell” and David Naughton (of the cult film “American Werewolf in London” fame) as the Mercedes-Benz dealer she terrorized. But the creative also portraying the dealer as one who would go to any lengths to satisfy a customer — no matter how demanding.

 

The series built a “fun to drive” reputation for Mercedes-Benz and helped reinvigorate Shepherd’s career with a new Network TV show (“Cybill” with Mercedes Ruehl who also appeared in one of the Mercedes spots) while Naughton appeared on “Cybill

The campaign was supported by multi-media alignments with Southern California institutions like the LA Opera, the Academy Awards and various sports sponsorships & became part of the  Southern Californian “fabric” for five years.

The first five spots in the new MBDSC campaign were “Hurry” (1995 Clearance), “Confusion” (Certified Pre-Owned), “Surprise” (C-Class),  “Valuable Information” (E-Class) and “A Few Seconds” (E-Class).


1995 Clearance “Hurry

1995 Clearance “Hurry

Outtake from "Hurry" TV Spot (1995)

Outtake from "Hurry" TV Spot (1995)

Barriers addressed:

  • Poor value for the money:  Starts under $32,000
  • Poor performance:  Cornering and handling
  • Sales consultants not deferential:  Portrayal of Kevin

Watch “Hurry” TV

Listen to “Hurry” Radio


******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Certified Pre-Owned “Confusion

Certified Pre-Owned “Confusion

Outtake from "Confusion" TV (1995)

Outtake from "Confusion" TV (1995)

Barriers addressed:

  • Poor value for the money:  Starts under $32,000
  • Poor performance:  Cornering and handling
  • Sales consultants not deferential:  Portrayal of Kevin

Watch “Confusion” TV

Listen to “Confusion” Radio



******************************************************************************************************************************************************

C-Class “Surprise

C-Class “Surprise

Outtake from "Surprise" TV (1995)

Outtake from "Surprise" TV (1995)

Barriers addressed:

  • Poor value for the money:  Starts under $32,000
  • Poor performance:  Cornering and handling
  • Sales consultants not deferential:  Portrayal of Kevin

Watch “Surprise” TV

Listen to “Surprise” Radio


******************************************************************************************************************************************************

E-Class “Valuable Information

E-Class “Valuable Information

Outtake from "Valuable Information" TV (1995)

Outtake from "Valuable Information" TV (1995)

Barriers addressed:

  • Poor value for the money:  Best import car over $13,000
  • Sales consultants not deferential:  Portrayal of Kevin

Watch “Valuable Information” TV

Listen to “Valuable Information” Radio

******************************************************************************************************************************************************

E-Class “A Few Seconds

E-Class “A Few Seconds


Outtake from "A Few Seconds" TV (1995)

Outtake from "A Few Seconds" TV (1995)

 

Barriers addressed:

  • Poor value for the money:  Best import car over $13,000
  • Sales consultants not deferential:  Portrayal of Kevin


Watch “A Few Seconds” TV

Listen to “Drag Race” Radio

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

RESULTS

Sales

  • In 1996 the Mercedes-Benz Los Angeles Region sold more cars per dealer than any other region:  634 vs. the U.S. average of 332
  • Sales per dealer increased since the start of the campaign — from 473/store to 634/store

Dealer Reputation improve significantly (Allison-Fisher Q3 ’96)

  • Buying, servicing (will be) good experience:  + 23 vs. M-B national campaign
  • Friendly Dealers:  +21 vs. M-B national campaign

Mercedes-Benz Image Improved Significantly(Allison-Fisher Q3 ’96)

  • Contemporary:  +21
  • Responsive:  +22
  • Creative:  +23
  • Innovative:  +15

Purchase Intent

  • Consideration increased 20%
  • Highest increase of any M-B Region

Shopping

  • Increased 180% from the highest base in the U.S.

Customer Satisfaction with LA M-B dealers improved significantly:

  • Very satisfied with salesperson’s helpful, courteous attitude:  +2.1
  • Very satisfied with — Salesperson’s knowledge of competitive products: +6.6
  • Very satisfied with — Entire dealer transaction:  +4.8

SUMMARY:  1995-96

  • “Price” remained the key barrier to purchase
  • “For Young People” was the greatest image weakness
  • “Distinctive” was M-B’s greatest competitive emotion strength
  • “Safety” was M-B’s greatest leveragable strength

 

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