The German car maker has launched its B-Class luxury compact in China to give the Mercedes-Benz brand a youthful and energetic image.
Besides boosting sales, broadening the appeal of its brand among young, affluent professionals will expand Mercedes-Benz's market share at the expense of rivals like Audi and BMW in a critical market. Like most global automakers, Mercedes-Benz is feeling the impact of the worsening worldwide recession.
Globally, Mercedes-Benz's year-on-year sales fell 31% in January 2009. But the mainland turned out a small but welcome 3.9% sales increase last month.
"Mercedes wants to extend its product range to reach a wider range of customers in China," said Viveca Chan, the Hong Kong-based chairman-CEO of WE Marketing Group, the independent agency that created the launch campaign.
Marketing for the B-Class is aimed at successful young professionals who balance their emotional and functional needs with a car, she said. "They are well-off and desire quality" but are probably turned off by larger, less trendy and more expensive Mercedes-Benz models.
The company has lowered prices to broaden Mercedes' brand appeal to young white-collar professionals. The B-Class sticker price ranges from 288,000 to 318,000 RMB ($42,100-$46,500).
The launch campaign steers clear of technical data and engine specs. In fact, it barely even shows the car itself.
Instead, Mercedes has created an emotional TV spot in which a handsome young Chinese executive pops the question to his girlfriend, also a white-collar office worker, by playfully sending her written messages that are projected on the outside of the building across the street. The Chinese characters in the message convey promises to give her a rosy and prosperous future.
At the end, the young couple drive off in their B-Class car.
"Owning a Mercedes-Benz B-Class definitely symbolizes a perfect new beginning. It's a milestone to young Chinese, said Li Dong, WE's exec creative director. "We created a proposal story, an equally important moment of their life to match it. [The] promises projected onto the walls, in a way, imply great lifestyle and functionalities that B-class bring to our forward-looking customers."
The launch campaign is also running in print, outdoor and digital media through the end of this year and is supported with events and retail marketing. Media planning and buying was handled by WPP's MEC arm.
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