Mercedes-Benz and the knee-jerk, out-of-date, pointless strategy of pandering to young people

Date posted: January 31, 2013

The Ad Contrarian logo ?>

by  Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay Earlier this week I wrote about teaser ads and why I hate them. As an example, I used a new Mercedes-Benz teaser campaign.

But there’s a lot more wrong with Mercedes’ strategy than just tossing money away on teasers. According to an article appearing this week in Marketing Daily, their new campaign…

“…is clearly intended for a younger, if daring driver — one who wants entrance to the premium segment…

‘The CLA lets us open Mercedes-Benz to a totally new audience,’ says (their VP Marketing) ‘It’s our new gateway car; it’s a very seductive design, very sporty and aggressive, and it’s for a younger audience…’

He adds that the automaker is reaching out to 30- to-40-year-olds…”

We’ve all read a version of this same blather every year forever. Every car manufacturer, every year, introduces some new products and makes a big hoo-ha about how their new models are more youthful and more aimed at attracting a younger buyer.

The question is this: Why?

Why in the world would any sane car manufacturer want to aim his product at young people?

Let me give you the facts and then maybe you can explain it to me.

  • People 18-24 bought 1% of all new cars in 2011
  • People 24-35 bought 10% of all new cars in 2011 — down 1/3 from 2007
  • People 45-74 bought 62% of all new cars in 2011
  • People 65-74 bought 30% more new cars than people 25-34
  • The average age of a new car buyer has risen 3 years in the last 4 years
  • Someone over 45 is twice as likely to buy a new car as someone under 45
  • Between now and 2030, the 50+ age segment will grow at 3 times the rate of the 18-49 segment

Please explain to me why in the f**king world any auto manufacturer who can read and count would be targeting young people?

Every ounce of demographic, economic and social information points to the fact that the key to success in the auto business is attracting the older buyer, and that the road to ruin is targeting the younger buyer.

And yet the knee-jerk, out-of-date, pointless strategy of pandering to young people — invented in the 1960’s and completely irrelevant today — continues at full speed.

As hard as I try, I have a difficult time exaggerating the alarming stupidity of the marketing profession.

The automotive data in this post come from RL Polk & Co.
The demographic data come from a study called “Introducing Boomers, Marketers Most Valuable Generation” by The Nielsen Company.

– The Ad Contrarian is Bob Hoffman, ceo of Hoffman/Lewis advertising in San Francisco and St. Louis. Hoffman is the author of The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. Reprinted from his blog The Ad Contrarian.

– Industry profiles you’ll make time for. Sign up for our free newsletter!