It has become almost a given for auto shows and launches to go down the digital path. However, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class launch in Taichung carried out by SMS Group last September was “decisively undigital” as there was no VR headset or game console in sight.
Instead, the Taiwanese city’s National Theatre was converted into a pop-up gym with built-in courts for basketball, table-tennis and tennis. The latter two games were played with a novelty element inspired by the triangle star emblem of the German car brand—visitors had to beat two opponents instead of a straight match in a three-sided game. Live sports commentary was carried out by guest TV sports anchors while the weekend event was livestreamed online.
"We wanted to make this very hands-on, a physical, real world experience,” Daniel Seyferle, chief creative officer, SMS Group, told CEI. He does not have any misgivings about technology but believes that its application in events should be "sensible".
“It's a good usage [but] it has to make sense. [You] have to be wary about investment of money; smart and creative doesn’t necessarily always need tech. In this case, I think our offering was so rich we decisively stayed away from it,” he said.
‘Never stop improving’
The sports-themed brief tied in with C-Class' ‘Never Stop Improving’ slogan so that the slick execution in its launch clip looked straight out of a Nike or Adidas ad.
“Growing up in Stuttgart which is the hometown of Mercedes, I’ve seen this brand come a long way,” said Seyferle. “Years ago it was the car that your uncle drove, never something for young people. But that has so tremendously changed."
The brand rejuvenation effort was matched by a facelift in the C-Class models including features such as a diamond-studded grille, new LED headlamps and a revised front bumper. Seyferle felt that the revamp and sports theme was well placed since the C-Class models has always been the bread-and-butter range of Mercedes-Benz but lacked the sporty edge of its S-Class models.
Yet the spirit of the pop-up gym concept was not about the euphoria on the podium but was rather an immersive experience from playing the games. This was intended to evoke a sense of satisfaction and achievement from participation in sporting activities, Seyferle said.
The launch was the result of the first pitch from SMS Group’s Taiwan office to Mercedes-Benz. Seyferle said the client was rather pleased with the results—3,500 participation from visitors and 30,000 engagement from foot traffic—that the event was extended to Kaohsiung and Taipei. “For a brand to do an event like this, it’s not just a product launch, [but] really a branding effort,” he said.
He believes that car launches in Asia are set apart from US and European markets with their heavy focus on brand positioning. “Mercedes-Benz wants to reposition the brand and appeal to a younger audience, [and] that totally came in the choice of format,” said Seyferle.