January 24, 2013

The Stupidity Epidemic

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And yet the knee-jerk, out-of-date, pointless strategy of pandering to young people -- invented in the 1960's and completely irrelevant today -- continues at full speed.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

When I wrote this blog post I was only aware of this teaser spot Mercedes-Benz had done for its CLA. I had not seen this piece of unspeakable nonsense. Drooling frat boys -- yeah, yeah, that's who buys Mercedes.


Anonymous said...

"...is clearly intended for a younger, if daring driver -- one who wants entrance to the premium segment..."

then why waste money and buy CLA? By this logic one already enters the premium Mercedes segment when boarding a Mercedes public bus. At least in Europe it's quite popular make for public transportation.

Anonymous said...

Some men just want to watch Mercedes burn. Like me. Can't wait...got some popcorn.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's not necessarily the young people...but their parents who are being targeted.

andymac53 said...

AC - why did you leave out the 35-45 age group in your stats??

Being that the VP of Mercedes said he was targeting 30 to 40 year olds it seems like you're hiding something by not showing those stats.

Car ads are traditionally shown with much younger drivers than the people who actually buy them because no-one wants to be old. Perception is - buying the car will make them feel younger.

That's why you've never seen a car ad with an old git in it.

Anonymous said...

There is a logic to Mercedes' thinking. First - young for Mercedes means <40.

Mercedes drivers are among the most loyal in the world. When you buy a Merc, it's >90% certain your next car will be a Merc. But people buy their first Merc in their late 40s. So they don't buy so many. Get into the high volume/lower cost young market and you get loyalty earlier.

Mercedes' problem: every car they release aimed at a younger (early 30s is a child in Mercworld) actually gets bought by *older* drivers. A classes and SLKs are cars aimed at 31 year olds bought by pensioners.

This is a way to sell more S Classes to 50 year olds in 20 years time. Mercedes plays a long game.

Anonymous said...

Andymac, the answer is 27% if you could do the maths.


Sorry. Assumed my readers knew how to subtract.

As for everyone wanting to be like young people, the 60's are over.

Unknown said...

Ad Contrian is my daily reality check.

In the spirit of your recent posts I just had to pass this on.

Extole raises $7.6M for social advocacy platform


Anonymous said...

No the 60s are not over. They will never be over. If you haven't noticed, it long left teenagers and now aims younger .
Mercedes already spend plenty marketing to their core older audience. PLENTY. And i agree with the writer above: they will aim this car at people under 40 - the next time I see one here in LA it will be driven by someone over 60.

You just have a bee in your bonnet.

Also, old people don't like Kate Upton's breasts? I'm over 40. They work for me.

Paul Eveleigh said...

Mercedes marketing folk prove that most people are in the wrong jobs.

Alan Wolk said...

I thought the logic on this was pretty basic.

As follows: luxury car buyers are extremely brand loyal.
So the 55 year old who owns a Mercedes is likely going to buy another one, and the way to make sure that happens is for the dealer to show her some one-on-one love.
The targets for the advertising is the 35 year old Honda driver. You want him aspiring to own a Mercedes when he can afford one. Because if he's aspiring to own an Audi or a BMW, he's lost to Mercedes forever. But if you reach him long before he's ready and keep him dreaming of a 450SL, you'll get him in 15 years when he's ready.

At least that's how it's been explained to me.

George Parker said...

Bob... There you go again, using logic in an attempt to bring some rationality to the world's most fucked up business. You've attracted some wanky commentors with this one.
Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


With all due respect...sheer and utter nonsense.

Please read this-- http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/04/science/study-in-science-shows-end-of-history-illusion.html?exprod=myyahoo&_r=1&

Matthias D. said...

I think Mercedes it trying to appeal to what the older wealthy guys _want_to_be_ (=younger wealthy guys) rather than what they _actually_are_. Kind of like BMW once did it in the JOY campaign (see this pic: http://www.bimmertoday.de/2009/06/20/neues-marketingkonzept-bmw-ist-freude/p90048591/)

I'm not sure if Mercedes will be successful with their "interpretation" of the fountain-of-youth-theme because they are polarizing a lot with their ads. I guess they are doing it on purpose.

Patrick Scullin said...

Maybe car clients just want to appear hip by advertising to youths.

Silly car clients.

Anonymous said...

So wait, you're comparing one age group that spans 7 years and one that spans 12 years to one spanning 30 years and one spanning 10 years?

That proves your point how?

Did you account for the parents who purchase cars but are buying them for their 18-year-olds?

Really, Bob, if you're going to go to the trouble to write a post, you should at least get the basic math right and compare apples to apples.

Anonymous said...

Just so I'm clear, a single study poorly reported, and this is the basis for your retort? I know you're getting old, but hell.
Get back to us when Mercedes USA sales have slumped. That may be a while.