THE MARKETING 100: MERCEDES M-CLASS: MIKE JACKSON

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Mike jackson laid lots of groundwork before Mercedes-Benz of North America launched its M-Class last September. It paid off.

Mr. Jackson, president of the Mercedes division, ordered a direct-mail drop two years before launching M-Class, its first sport utility and first U.S.-made vehicle. A year before the launch, the Mercedes sport ute hit the road, touring events in 25 cities, surveying attendees for reactions and building a data base. The result: 100,000 highly qualified prospects by the time M-Class went on sale.

The vehicle appeared in Steven Spielberg's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" last May. Its movie appearance broadened the vehicle's exposure and showed its capabilities, says Mr. Jackson, who has continued to oversee marketing and advertising since his promotion last spring from exec VP-marketing, service and sales.

"It's the first time we went that far out in advance," he explains. "We had to prepare the marketplace for M-Class to fit in with brand Mercedes-Benz, but further develop Mercedes-Benz excitement."

Mercedes expected to produce up to 35,000 of the vehicles annually. But demand was so great, production was increased. Mercedes figures it will sell about 40,000 in the U.S. in 1998. The marketer sold nearly as many in the first four months this year, 14,450, as it did from September through December last year.

M-Class got $25 million in measured media last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. But Mr. Jackson cites relationship marketing as the key to M-Class' success.

"What was very effective was the dialog of listening to the concerns of the people we invited to the relationship marketing, responding in a meaningful, knowledgeable way and keeping that dialogue going through the whole process," he says. "The success of the relationship marketing program led to the situation where we have extraordinary demand for M-Class, which has been a sales success."

It paid off.

Mr. Jackson, president of the Mercedes division, ordered a direct-mail drop two years before launching M-Class, its first sport utility, and first U.S.-made vehicle. A year before the launch, the Mercedes sport ute hit the road, touring events in 25 cities, surveying attendees for reactions and building a data base. The result: 100,000 highly-qualified prospects by the time M-Class went on sale.

M-Class appeared in Steven Spielberg's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" last May. Its movie appearance broadened the vehicle's exposure and showed its capabilities, says Mr. Jackson, who has continued to oversee marketing and advertising since his promotion last spring from exec VP-marketing, service and sales.

"It's the first time we went that far out in advance," he explains. "We had to prepare the marketplace for M-Class to fit in with brand Mercedes-Benz, but further develop Mercedes-Benz excitement."

Mercedes expected to produce up to 35,000 of the vehicles annually. But demand was so great, production was increased. Mercedes figures it will sell about 40,000 in the U.S. in 1998. The marketer sold nearly as many in the first four months this year, 14,450, as it did from September through December last year, when it sold 14,569.

M-Class got $25 million in measured media last year, via Competitive Media Reporting. But Mr. Jackson cites relationship marketing as the key to M-Class' success.

"What was very effective was the dialog of listening to the concerns of the people we invited to the relationship marketing, responding in a meaningful, knowledgeable way and keeping that dialogue going through the whole process," he says. "The success of the relationship marketing program led to the situation where we have extraordinary demand for M-Class, which has been also been a sales success."

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