Mercedes-Benz understands the fundamentals of Instagram; it's visual, it's aspirational, and it gives followers the opportunity to see the world from their mobile phone. What better platform to pair with an automotive brand?
The traditional advertising we see from Mercedes is crisp, sanitized, clean, and modern. Stark, if you will. To bring their brand back to ground-level and maintain authenticity, they enlist Insta-Influencers who create grassroots content while maintaining their pristine brand image. Influencers like German travel blogger, Heike Kaufhold (@koelnformat), who now has nearly 30,000 Instagram followers.
It's a simple recipe: a personable Influencer with a keen eye for photography, an exotic or adventurous road trip, the newest model of Mercedes-Benz, and a hashtag (a la #koeninformat_michiganroadtrip).
Heike hops on a plane to her next destination, and the newest model of Mercedes is awaiting her and her iPhone's arrival. From there, she explores the world in the comfort of her Benz.
Whether it be through a winding street in Spain, or an icy highway in Michigan, Heike documents her adventures and incorporates the vehicle regularly yet artfully. Mixed with beautiful views, interesting roadside attractions, selfies and pictures of her son who will occasionally join her, she demonstrates the versatility of the vehicles while maintaining everyone's goal of leading the "always on vacation" lifestyle.
To expand their Influencer efforts even further, Mercedes-Benz has jumped on the new Snapchat-like Instagram "Stories", telling chronological stories of camping in The Alps under the stars, allowing users to experience a week-long road trip in under 60 seconds. The images are beautiful, the cars are integrated into the Influencer's day-to-day, and the users are captivated.
What can we learn from all of this?
Product integration is a very viable marketing tactic. And it can be very cost-effective.
Whether you make cars or clothing or food, handing your product to an Influencer provides context and relevance to their audience. And if their audience is also your audience, brand affinity is created. Followers see the Influencer they've cyber-bonded with using a product regularly and exclusively, and it builds their trust in your brand.
The costs are often very low. For Heike for example, I expect Mercedes and tourism boards cover her travel and accommodation costs, Mercedes gives her a press car that will be rolled over when corporate is done with it, and they get 60-100 pieces of content per road trip that drives back to their brand with authenticity.
Not too shabby indeed.
All imagery sourced from Heike Kaufhold.