In 1888, Bertha Benz was daring enough to take the first ever long-distance journey in an automobile from Mannheim to Pforzheim. The three-wheeler, without a proper steering wheel and body, ran on ligroin and took about 12 hours to complete the 106 km journey. The historical journey brought out to the world her husband’s invention, but more importantly, revolutionized the automobile industry. Its founders envisioned mobility with the three-pronged Mercedes star in the three dimensions of land, air and water. The modern era has seen tremendous improvements in car technology, with Mercedes Benz rising to become the epitome of cutting-edge automotive technology. There are currently more than 70 Mercedes Benz models with varied shapes ranging from sedans, SUVs, hatchbacks, and heavy commercial truck ranges. They all have proper circular power steering wheels with both steer, honk, and airbags; sleek body designs, and come in four stable wheels. Going forward, the company is developing autonomous vehicles with futuristic and many sophisticated features.
Mercedes Benz is one cool brand in both the intrinsic and extrinsic perspectives. Its exterior body designs are created out of the ordinary and are characteristically so sleek and lust-worthy that anyone would want to lick them. The designers base their art on their design philosophy of ‘sensual purity’ as an expression of modern luxury.’ Its well-finished body shapes with minimal edges and creases showcase sophisticated technology, which arouses emotions on the public eye. Each of its products utilizes distinctively innovative materials, colour combinations, structures, shapes and light. The components are of uncompromising quality that guarantees long-lasting performance. Mercedes Benz’s Motor Yacht is a testament to the company’s aesthetic perfection.
The interior of its machines fulfils the highest expectation of elegance, quality, and comfort. Exquisite materials are used to create outstanding versatility for both luxury class private and business travel. While inside, the vehicles have been built to offer a luxurious driving experience. Its safety features, such as multiple airbags and accident sensing and warning technologies, evoke a feeling of relative protection from any form of unexpected incident or accident. Indeed, the brand image is shaped around the bipolarity of beauty and intelligence. Owning a Mercedes Benz is in itself a fashion statement.
Mercedes Benz communicates its prestigious and elegant features through advertisements. The company primarily showcases its range of products on the company’s main website. The brand prides itself as a company that offers customers a unique and rewarding driving experience. Its website features visual and textual information on its models and their capabilities. There are also multiple films posted on its YouTube page that give potential customers a glimpse of what riding in Mercedes may feel like. The underlying message is on the value proposition of the brand: it promises to elevate a customer’s lifestyle to reach their ideal selves through the prestigious design features – a preserve of the individuals who are conscious about their position in the society. The highly exclusive design products bring the standard and unmistakable dynamic form of the brand into new areas of the user’s life. For example, by driving the S-class commercial, one becomes the King of the City.
A company distinguishes its products from the rest in the market through branding, which involves creating different brand elements, name, logo, symbol and package designs. Standing out in the market translates to value both in terms of financial profit and marketplace awareness and prominence. According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is a name, term, sign, or combination of both, that is intended to identify the goods and services and distinguish them from the competition. On its part, brand equity is a measure of the overall distinctive derivable value from a product or service by the customers (Lim & Weaver, 2012). It is imperative for firms to amplify their presence in the market by cultivating the attributes that matter to the customer.
In the history of branding, there have been two dimensions of brand equity: from the managerial/corporate perspective, and the customer’s perspective. Proponents of managerial perspective define brand equity as a set of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand, whereby, its name and symbol add or subtract from the value provided by the service or product to the firm (Lim & Weaver, 2012). Conversely, proponents of CBBE approach consider brand equity as the differential effect of brand knowledge on the consumer, or the way the customers respond to the marketing of the brand (Keller, 2001). In the latter perspective, the customer is assumed to be the determinant factor in the valuation of a brand. The organization, on its part, is subjective to the perceptions of the customers, who are the ultimate valuers of the brand. Brand equity can be enhanced through the creation of a positive brand image and brand attitude. A positive brand image enhances brand equity through increasing purchasing intentions as well as the customer’s willingness to pay premium prices.
CBBE sees brand equity as a customer-centric concept, that takes over from the initial product-centric concept. It is more pragmatic as it can provide a strategic vision of customer behavior, which can assist brand managers in formulating a corresponding brand strategy. CBBE is formed by components of brand awareness, including perceived quality, brand image, brand loyalty, and brand awareness. Perceived quality is a judgement made by a consumer about a product’s overall excellence; which is central to the notion that strong brands add value to consumers’ purchases. Brand image is defined as the consumer’s rational or emotional perception of their attachment to a particular brand. On its part, brand loyalty means that a consumer is willing to continue purchasing the original brand product when presented with other highly similar product brands, even when the other brands bear superior attributes. Lastly, brand awareness is the consumer’s knowledge and recall of a given brand in its category (Liu, Liu & Lin, 2013). Whenever a brand registers strongly in the mind of consumers, and a high level of awareness is evoked, there is a high chance that the consumer will perceive it favorably, ending up purchasing the brand.
Any brand desires to optimize CBBE. An enhanced CBBE sees the customer choice of a brand as dependent on a perceived balance between the price of a product and its utility. On this basis, brand value can be measured by asking the consumers whether the brand provides excellent value for their money and whether there are reasons to pick the brand over the others in the market. According to Boo et al. (2009), the perceived value of a product influences behavioural intentions, serving as a mediator between behavior intentions and quality evaluation. Ultimately, brand awareness, an element of CBBE, is a function of recall and recognition. In this regard, CBBE plays a crucial role in influencing not only the initial purchase decision but also such other outcomes as repurchase intention and the quantity of purchase.
The CBBE pyramid was put forth by Keller (2013) as a model for building brand equity through a series of steps. Each of the steps is contingent on successfully achieving the objectives of the previous actions. The first step is to establish brand identity through ensuring identification of the brand with customers. Secondly, is to create brand meaning in the customer’s mind by linking tangible and intangible brand associations. Third, is to elicit the proper customer responses to brand identification and brand meaning. At the height of the pyramid, brand responses are converted to create an intense, active loyalty relationship between customers and the brand. Below, is an application of CBBE’s model on Mercedes Benz’s brand, detailing and evaluating how each building block builds a customer-based brand equity building process.
Mercedes Benz can arguably be said to score highly on the depth of brand awareness. The brand features are distinctive and can be easily recognized and recalled by the customer, having been in the market for almost a decade, and consistently maintaining standards all through. Any user of the Mercedes Benz brand clearly stands out as a member of a prestigious class in the society. The breadth of its awareness is wide due to its product category structures ranging from the different series: A, B, C, E, and S-class. It has also extended its brand to include luxury yachts and helicopter to offer a comprehensive means of transport in the luxury category, enabling consumers to place Mercedes Benz prominently on their memory anytime they need comfort while travelling on either land, sea, or air Mercedes Benz, 2019).
Mercedes Benz is mostly famous for its quality, high safety features with powerful engines that can reach its peak in seconds. The sensual purity philosophy of its designers makes the brand elegant while integrating high technology features that make it the brand of the future. Its interiors are comfortable and made of quality and refined materials. Its price level is relatively high, helping it to communicate its high-performance standards (Mercedes Benz, 2019). Generally, customers would expect high standards of performance from Mercedes Benz. Top in the minds of consumers of modes of transport is the safety measures. Indeed, Benz scores highly on safety features
Mercedes represents outright elegance and modernity. Its user profiles include the affluent, modern, business class individuals who have a sense of fashion and class. It’s brand personality is modern, yet with a sense of heritage, distinctive sleek style reflected through their exterior design and interior comfort. It is also imagined to be of masculine German quality that always leads the way with new design and automobile features.
The perceived brand quality of Mercedes Benz in the eyes of consumers is generally high. Its customers attest to high quality, prestigious, and top performance. They showcase their product features through online films and even encourage potential buyers to book a test drive to verify the promised brand attributes.
The brand communication of Mercedes Benz attempt to evoke some sense of achievement. Owning the brand gives a feeling of success and superiority. It is a mark of confidence in oneself and embodies a feeling of safety through the hard-to-break body and safety features included.
At the peak of the pyramid, Mercedes Benz can correctly be said to have achieved brand resonance. Once a customer has adopted the Mercedes lifestyle, they can only come back. It is the height of prestige, quality, performance, and safety, giving no space for switching to other brands. Owning it qualifies one to the elite class of the community who the customer will want to maintain.
Whereas mainstream advertisements through promotional tools of choice achieve on brand awareness, it takes a special approach to attain brand recall and instantly identify with the brand offering. Celebrity endorsement is among the most impactful strategies to attain brand recall. According to Chang, Lee and Wong (2018), celebrity endorsements create an elevated effect on consumer purchase decisions by helping them recognize and recall the brand. It involves the creation of an emotional connection with consumers of a brand through a particular celebrity, whose brand values can help accentuate the subject brand’s attributes. The endorsements can be through celebrity testimonials, whereby, a celebrity gives their personal experience with a brand. The celebrity may also perform as a spokesperson for the brand. A celebrity’s word is more trusted than when the message is delivered by the said brand. According to studies, celebrities promoting their choice of the brand helps in building reliability towards the brand (Chang et al. 2018). For this purpose, it helps for Mercedes Benz to use this form of promotion to elevate their brand position.
Notwithstanding, there are downsides involved in celebrity endorsements. One of the pitfalls of celebrity endorsement is incongruence in the image of the celebrity endorser and the brand (Chang & Ko, 2016). If the celebrity is known for a different thing than what the brand wants them to accentuate, the endorsement may be wasteful as the audience may find it difficult to relate the attributes they are trying to endorse. Secondly, there is the danger of the celebrities overshadowing the brand being endorsed (Illicic & Webster, 2014). When a celebrity is too big, their image is likely to eclipse the brand, such that an advertisement diminishes the associative link between the celebrity and the endorsed brand.
Rodger Federer has been the face of Mercedes Benz since 2010. Going forward, I would recommend Michael Jordan to be the future to endorse the brand. He is arguably the greatest athlete of all time, rated highly for coordination, speed and grace, attributes that also feature in the Mercedes Bens brand. Being a heritage brand that has been around long enough to build a meaningful and relevant past, an appropriate celebrity should be someone who has a significant history of achievement, whose appearance will evoke nostalgic feeling among prospects. Jordan is a legendary athlete who made significant achievements in the history of basketball and therefore fits the part. Jordan was popular for stylish moves on the court and dunks. The two attributes will make a near perfect match for Mercedes’ quest to dominate land and air.
The Mercedes Benz Logo features a three-pointed silver star. The emblem has been a consistent feature of Mercedes Benz, representing quality, innovation, and tradition in the automotive industry. The iconic design is synonymous with quality vehicles as well as a variety of personal accessories carried by the brand’s enthusiasts. According to the company, the three-pronged star signifies its quest to dominate the land, sea and air.
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