Automaker Cites Music Promotion as a Branding Success

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DETROIT -- Internet users are clamoring to hear what Mercedes-Benz sounds like.

The German automaker last year launched “Mixed Tape,” an online offering of songs that visitors can download for free.
Mercedes, like Scion and Honda, is hoping that its popular, free music downloads mix lures young car buyers.

A selection of 15 songs are updated every six to eight weeks, with the compilations made up of tracks from emerging artists. Songs are housed at micro site Consumers can download a single song or entire collections from the site. The music can be retrieved via streaming data, burnt onto a CD-ROM or recorded onto an MP3 player.

The eighth of 10 planned compilations bowed on the site a month ago.

Effort to reach younger consumers

Mercedes is using the program to try to reach younger, more active consumers, said Eva Guratzsch, a marketing spokeswoman at the carmaker’s headquarters in Stuttgart.

While rivals like BMW and Audi have turned to short films to drum up interest in their brands, Mercedes-Benz has gone the route of other carmakers like Scion and Honda and tapped into music to appeal to young car buyers.

The promotion has proved that it’s a small world after all. The site receives the most visitors from Germany, the U.S., the U.K., Japan and South Korea, the spokeswoman said. But the site has also attracted downloaders from far-flung places like Yemen, Swaziland and the Faroe Islands, which lie between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic.

The automaker has pretty much relied on word of mouth to drive traffic to its tunes, with countless blogs in various countries announcing when the latest tracks are available. Blogs are also helping keep the compilations alive. More than 100 German-language sites offer the first three editions for download -- compilations that are no longer available on Mercedes’ site.

Target demographic

More importantly, the campaign is reaching the demographic Mercedes was hoping to reach. The advertiser’s market research has revealed that numerous “Mixed Tape” users had not been in touch with the Mercedes-Benz brand in the past.

Mercedes-Benz’ Lothar Korn, global advertising chief, said the project has been a success. “The overwhelming response that ‘Mixed Tape’ has received is all the encouragement we need to develop it further.”

Mercedes’ “Mixed Tapes” have certainly been gaining in popularity since the project’s launch in June 2004. Just take a look at the numbers:

Songs on the first compilation, “Mixed Tape 01,” were downloaded more than 500,000 times.

In the first year, 1 million visitors to the site from 88 countries made 10 million downloads.

As of February, the site had generated more than 5 million downloads.

Those numbers are also helping the artists that perform on the compilations.

Music for commercials

Mercedes liked the track “Push It to the Limit,” from Sweden’ s Urzula Amen, so much that it decided to feature her song in the carmaker’s commercials for this summer’s pan-European blitz for the new B-Class models. Ten other musicians on “Mixed Tape” released their own CDs after being featured on the Web site, including Audio-treats from the fourth collection. Paj Asia, from the fifth compilation, recently released an international remix for Destiny’s Child.

A team inside the advertiser judges the music and decides whether it has what the spokeswoman called “that special Mercedes sound.” If so, the music is offered at the site along with a write up of the artists, as well as photos, cover and title art, e-cards, an e-mail newsletter and the chance for visitors to virally pass along the tunes to others. The music genres cover rock, pop, hip-hop, soul and jazz.

2,200 artists submit songs

More than 2,200 artists from 50 countries have submitted their songs to the automaker since the idea was hatched, Ms. Guratzsch said. After the debut of its second album, the project was attracting submissions from more than 300 applicants per month. More than 60 artists have been featured to date.
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