Last year, drivers in Kingston would have seen a Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 parked by an intersection with an oversized hashtag on its side. They might not have thought much at first but then they would have seen another, then another; each deliberately parked where slow-moving rush hour traffic could get a good view. Some people even stopped to ask questions.
Local Benz dealer Silverstar Motors would park the vehicles as early as 4:30am in the morning, each Friday for four weeks. Then they moved each vehicle throughout the day and other high traffic locations in order to maintain the surprise. All in an attempt to gain familiarity for a model not yet introduced to the Jamaican motoring public.
“Typical Mercedes-Benz customers who may have bought three or four Benzes in their lifetime were not entirely happy about the concept as you would expect, but the majority including owners and those who’ve never owned a Benz liked it because it was deliberately different, created attention and drew a response – it was the single most successful thing we did last year,” explained Silverstar General Manager Sloane Jackson.
Results were as eye-catching as the campaign:
– Eight units sold, priced around J$8 million each.
– Total campaign cost, to transport and park the vehicles, was a ridiculously low J$150,000 (less than two of the monthly payments it would take you to buy one of the vehicles).
While the campaign wasn’t smartphone-mobile, it was indeed mobile by other means and had a similar experiential effect, which also carried over to the small screen. Not least because placing the hashtag as a call-to-action on the physical product prompted people to share photos and to talk about it on social media.
“We pushed this campaign only by social media and got people reacting from outside the locations where we posted,” said Jackson. “It’s about touching people and they don’t know what they want until they can see it. When we initially tried to sell the GLA, people didn’t know what it was. We had to find a way to expose them to it. You won’t have any of that if you don’t try something and right now social media and mobile is still the best way to get your message out there – all it takes is an ideas and your effort.”
Significantly, the campaign also aided the shift in the perception of the Benz brand towards being a less stuffy brand thanks to exposing more affordable and sporty models. Before, Benz in Jamaica had been a brand you purchased later in life when you have arrived.
“The remaining units we had, went out in the summer sale which this particular campaign fed into,” Jackson added. “Having the cars out there, having people talking about it, having a more youthful angle to the brand with young people saying ‘This is cool!’ – all that really worked for us.”
The end result? By the end of 2015 Silverstar had broken its all-time sales records and now aims to overtake BMW and Audi locally.