ROI: The Risk of Being Ignored

As someone that’s worked in both the traditional and digital media for nearly a decade, I’ve been privy to a number of conversations around the bottom line. Most of them end with, “How will this help my business?” or “What’s the ROI?”  Several years ago I could answer the question with the number of people who had viewed my team’s efforts in a magazine or watched a TV segment.  Today, it’s much harder to define ROI – or Return on Investment – as there are so many different channels and opportunities for consumers to interact with brands.  At a recent Luxury Daily Roundtable, I think Bernie Glaser, VP of Marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, said it best, “today ROI is the Risk of Being Ignored.”

Generation Y is currently as large as the Baby Boomer demographic and they’re still moving up the financial ladder.  MBUSA doesn’t want to “die with its consumers” like several other luxury auto brands have done in the past.  With a carefully curated media strategy, they took a tremendous risk and invested millions of marketing dollars in an integrated campaign to reach the 30+ consumer.

You may have seen its Super Bowl commercial, featuring Willem Dafoe as the Devil trying to coax a young “dude” into signing his soul away for the chance at the good life, including trysts with Kate Upton and a “bromance” with Usher.  At the end of the clip, a billboard announcing the new CLA vehicle, starting at less than $30K, was revealed and the young man tells Satan, “Thanks, but I think I’ve got this.”

The conversation surrounding the advertisement was amplified via Mercedes-Benz’s social channels, which are populated with millions of fans from Gen Y hungry for behind the scenes content and news.  Famed YouTube filmmaker, Casey Neistat, has been commissioned to create a four part video series to help enhance its image with this younger demographic.  Later this year, they’ll continue to build online buzz with an Instagram campaign, leading up to the car’s September release.  Glaser told event attendees that even if consumers don’t run out to purchase a Mercedes this September, they’ll have them hooked for when they can afford it, keeping the brand both aspirational and inspirational for years to come.

Mercedes-Benz is using a variety of social and traditional verticals to reach Gen Y.  Is it costly, yes.  Is it risky, of course, especially since there’s no definitive way to measure the campaign’s social components.  We may never know how a Tweet sent today leads to the sale of a car 2 – 3 years down the road; however, taking a campaign or idea that would traditionally live only as long as its shelf live and giving it digital “legs” is what brands need to do to stay relevant.

Aliza Licht, DKNYPR Girl, summed it up perfectly, “the goal of social media is to be where your current and future customers are.”  Luxury brands, just like every other product or service, need to embrace holistic marketing to keep their companies in business for the long haul.

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