MIKE JACKSON MERCEDES C-CLASS

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It was a calculated risk for Mercedes-Benz of North America to break with tradition and include the price in introductory ads for its new C-Class sedans. For Mike Jackson, exec VP in charge of sales and marketing, it was the most direct way to change an image: Mercedes was too pricy.

"The buyer of the '90s is more mature, more prudent, more thoughtful," he says.

Before the C-Class made its debut in November 1993, Japanese luxury competitors Lexus and Infiniti had undercut Mercedes by positioning themselves as offering better value. Their stunning success forced the German automaker to reassess.

Previously, "our engineers built products for themselves that were distributed to the market," Mr. Jackson says. The result was expensive cars, like a redesigned S-Series introduced in 1991 that topped out at more than $125,000.

But with the C-Class, marketers like Mr. Jackson had input on features and price-a $29,900 starting price-throughout development.

The multimedia campaign-from Scali, McCabe, Sloves, New York, nationally, and its Richmond, Va.-based Martin Agency subsidiary regionally-that followed focused on Mercedes' dedication to quality and prominently called attention to the base price.

Mercedes also worked with its dealers on a direct-marketing program that brought in 80,000 people to dealerships on Nov. 18 for the car's unveiling.

Sales followed. Mercedes sold 3,683 C-Class sedans in the last six weeks of 1993. It sold another 8,041 units in the first four months of 1994, an 83.8% increase from sales of the 190 in the comparable period the year before.

For Mr. Jackson, "This was a unique opportunity to change the perception of Mercedes-Benz."

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