Does Mercedes really need business transformation?

What does “business transformation” actually mean? Especially when an ag agency group gets its mitts around it.

Daimler’s former head of “digital agency model and data activation” (whatever that means) Conrad Fritzsch is moving to Publicis Emil, Publicis Groupe’s new bespoke agency for Daimler’s Mercedes, intended to operate in 40 markets. On a transforming mission.

Fritzsch (above) has been telling The Drum what he’s going to be up to. And not up to, such as: “I don’t want to pollute the air with better advertising. When people want something, we as a brand should have an answer and the answer should be surprisingly interesting. It’s all about precise, one-to-one advertising. And, sometimes, another brand will fit a customer better, but in order to have compelling answers for customers seeking us out we need to have the right products in front of them.”

Now maybe something has got lost in translation here (“polluting”) but what he seems to be on about is direct – one to one – marketing (it’s been around for over a hundred years.) And, according to the Drum, he aims to “drive Daimler’s transformation from car maker to a digital automotive business.” Like Uber? Or a carmaker with a fully functioning website?

Daimler-Benz invented the first car in 1885 – Mercedes came later, named after an engineer’s daughter – and has done pretty well since. The C-class parked outside gets from A to B – although the satnav is crap. Maybe Publicis Emil can improve that.

Really can’t imagine the day when Mercedes shuts down its car factories to become a “digital automotive business.” So why do such clients bother?

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

  1. Avatar

    Hi Stephen,

    As you know, I was associated with Mercedes-Benz advertising for decades, in 8 different markets. Way back in the 70’s they were desperately trying to attract younger buyers (who seemed to prefer BMW’s) and lose the image of being a “dad’s” car.
    I was once invited to an international Mercedes conference in LA where the objective was to “examine the Mercedes DNA” and come up with a strategy to help the brand to reach one million sales.

    So around 30 exceedingly smart people, and me, were divided up into smaller groups to come up with a solution to the key problem: How to attract younger buyers (and grow sales).

    For years copywriters like me had been challenged to create advertising that would appeal to younger buyers. Inevitably we failed. So my group, of which I was unaccountably the leader, came up with the statement: THE PRODUCT IS THE MESSAGE.
    It seemed obvious to us the only way to attract younger buyers was to produce cars that appealed to them. At the time our strategy received scant recognition. But we were right.

    A-Class, C-Class, AMG! plus a timely foray into Formula 1 and some lovely model variations, like the 4-door coupes and hot hatches have pushed sales way above 2 million and into the hands of many younger buyers.

    So…what is this “Fritz” kid going to achieve? Well, let’s start by asking, “Did he jump or was he pushed?” Daimler are cutting costs and hiving off their digital department to Pubilcis will save them money. Does he intend to make dealerships redundant – a la Tesla? (Good luck with that! Most of them are owned by the Chinese and the Saudis.) Does he intend making the Mercedes driving experience “virtual” as opposed to real? Might work for teenagers.

    About the only smart thing he said was, “We need to have the right product in front of them.” Now, there’s a thought.

    Transforming the automobile business has taken 100 years and it has taken a genius like Elon Musk to do it. Maybe young Mr. Fritsch, with his background in digital music, is another Elon Musk. Then again…..

    Cheers,

    RJ.