Mercedes Benz’s #GLApacked campaign

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2015-09-28 03.24.14 am

With the glut of social media outlets available for companies to take advantage of, it was inevitable that branding would eventually be streamlined across multiple platforms. Mercedes Benz was one of the first pioneers in cross-platform branding with its advertising campaign for the new Mercedes Benz GLA-class integrated together on both Instagram and Facebook.

The basis of the formula for Mercedes Benz was to cultivate interest and captivate its audience with creative Instagram posts, a platform that lends itself to quick and convenient viewing. The imagery of Instagram was supposed to be eye-catching enough that it prompted viewers to respond to the caption and take a closer look at the GLA-class vehicle on the Mercedez Benz Facebook page, where more detailed posts existed to show case the finer intricacies of the interior of the vehicle. Facebook posts were linked to the actual Mercedes Benz website, where viewers were encouraged to engage even more virtually with the vehicle. Through a unique and nearly unprecedented three-layered virtual campaign strategy, Mercedes Benz became a pioneer in a new class of social media campaigns.

The campaign was run off the hashtag #GLApacked, a play on the already popular hashtag #ThingsOrganizedNeatly. In the original #ThingsOrganizedNeatly trending topic, Instagram users were encouraged to posts pictures of everyday items — bookshelves, desks, drawers — that were particularly organized, a concept that proved to be extremely photogenic. Seeing the rise in popularity of the trending topic, Mercedez Benz decided to apply the hashtag to its own brand in an effort to seamlessly integrate its social media advertising with a concept that already had a proven foundation.

Instead of using everyday objects, the car company used the new, larger trunk mat to photograph items neatly organized on top of it. Mercedes Benz prompted users to visually answer the question, “What would you pack in your GLA?” Professional photographers were utilized to kickstart the campaign in a sleek looking way and set a high bar for customers to try and boast about the items they were able to neatly tuck away in Mercedes’ new compact SUV. Customers were encouraged to showcase items in a themed manner, such as the beach theme above for a user going on a trip for 4th of July.

The aim for Mercedes Benz — widely known as a high-end, luxury car brand — was to appeal to a high-tech, millennial generation of customers who weren’t aware of their need to have a new compact SUV. More specifically regarding Instagram, the company’s aim was not to showcase how much could fit in the car’s expanded trunk space, but to photographically catch the eye of prospective customers. Practically was not the purpose so much more than aesthetics.

In theory, prospective users would be captivated enough by the creative Instagram posts to further seek out information on the actual car website linked in the Instagram caption, or get caught up in strategically targeted Facebook ads — the parent company of Instagram.

The strategy of centering a social media adveritsing campaign around imagery is spot on. Visuals are quickly becoming the key to user engagement in any social media platform, even ones not catered specifically toward photography like Instagram. Facebook blows up users’ pictures big on other people’s timelines, and Twitter has started to do much the same in allowing for still photography and even animated GIFs or videos to dominate the real estate on users’ timelines.

Mercedes Benz took the appropriate route in trying to engage a user base with pictures, and further helped its cause by running with an idea based off an already successful social media campaign. It’s concept was not a complete carbon copy of what was already a trending topic, but the company assuredly knew it was a safe bet given the proven popularity of “organized photography.”

But despite the clear corporate connection with the two social media giants in Instagram and Facebook, the bond isn’t as clear-cut as it should or could be in this campaign. The Instagram captions prompt users to engage with the vehicle further on the website, a difficult assignment considering Instagram does not allow for direct hyperlinking in captions. A more effective strategy may have been to explicitly encourage viewers to check out more about the vehicle on Facebook — not a big ask by any measure — and then from there directly link to the manufacturer’s website.

The ultimate aim for the company was to get more clicks to its website about the new car model, but the most sufficient route to that may have been winding users directly from Instagram, to Facebook then to the web without trying to take shortcuts from Instagram to the web. It’d likely be in the company’s best interest to have users take that route to maximize engagement on all of Mercedes Benz’s platforms, getting users to dabble on Instagram, Facebook and website.

Logistically, the nature of the campaign was likely too confining. The expensive nature of the product makes the campaign far more likely to be consumed by viewers than actually responded and added to by customers. The Instagram posts — by far the most engaging aspect of the campaign — all featured items laying on a trunk mat only found in the Mercedez Benz GLA. If a user doesn’t own the vehicle, it’d be nearly impossible for that person to engage with the campaign.

It’s a hinderance that significantly hamstrings the campaign from expanding vastly — or even threaten “viral” status. In hindsight the company may have been better off trying to compare itself to other, lesser-expensive compact SUV’s and trying to get users to show what their vehicles couldn’t do vs. the high-class Mercedez Benz GLA.

Social media in general is a platform that lends itself to response and interaction, and most users are limited to a double-tap Instagram “like” or Facebook Like to interact with this Mercedez Benz campaign. The use of dueling social networks is admirable, but the explicit lack of a direct connection between Facebook and Instagram is where this campaign falls short in addition to the inevitable lack of participation with the expensive vehicle being advertised.

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