Bettina Fetzer, Head of Marketing at Mercedes-Benz AG, talks to Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer at Daimler AG, about the fascination of a brand and the interplay between brand, design and luxury.
Mrs. Fetzer, you could be the great-granddaughter of Mercédès Jellinek, the patron saint of Mercedes-Benz. What makes the brand so attractive to you after such a long time?? And what will the future bring?
Bettina Fetzer: Isn't that absolutely fascinating? Our company founders invented the automobile over 130 years ago, and for 120 years the brand with the star has been a part of public life. During this time, Mercedes has become a symbol of German engineering and, especially in recent years, has rejuvenated itself and opened itself up to new target groups, while at the same time strengthening its claim to luxury. To develop a brand icon like Mercedes-Benz from a respected brand of the fathers into a respected and beloved brand of all generations is the ultimate task for me.
And for you, Mr. Wagener, what does Mercedes mean to you??
Gorden Wagener: My first car was a dash 8. You never forget the "first time", whether it's ice cream or a car (laughs). In our family Mercedes was always a dream. In my youth, people drove Mercedes who had "made it", who had fulfilled a dream with a star on the hood. Today I can help shape the future of the brand with my team, that's a dream come true.
Bettina Fetzer: Have you always wanted to go to Mercedes?
Gorden Wagener: In the act. I wanted to reach for the stars, if you will. Every designer strives to create icons, and Mercedes has the star that shines the brightest. Burden. Opportunity at the same time. If you deliver good design, you are celebrated, if it goes wrong, you are fired. According to your surveys, a vehicle from Mercedes-Benz is chosen because of the brand. Bought for quite some time as well because of the design. It wasn't always like this, so there's quite a bit of responsibility on both your shoulders, isn't there?
Bettina Fetzer: That's exactly why Gorden and I work closely together – there's more room on both our shoulders (laughs). But in fact, according to Interbrand – reaffirmed again in 2019 – Mercedes-Benz is by far the most valuable luxury automotive brand in the world – and the only European player in the top 10. The responsibility for this brand makes my team and me a little bit reverent, but most of all very proud.
Gorden Wagener: We have managed to transform the traditional luxury of our fathers into a modern and sustainable luxury. Older men in hats used to drive a Benz. Today, young people proudly drive A-Class. Is "fully connected". Mercedes is suddenly cool. The responsibility for good. Successful design drives us. The benefits of the brand. Fires up the team. It's like in sports, without big goals you can't set world records. Therefore our mission is: We want to make Mercedes-Benz the most loved luxury brand.
How much does the original Mercedes brand still have in common with today's brand??
Gorden Wagener: Mercedes was always a luxury brand and from the beginning also a design brand, the terms for it were simply different. The look, the design, the material, everything that we call staging today has been there from the beginning. The staging of technology has always been important, too, and this still characterizes us today.
Bettina Fetzer: True, Mercedes is then as now a brand that arouses emotions and provides an experience for our customers. We are a strong brand that gives our customers orientation and support. Especially in these uncertain times, this is a responsibility that we take very seriously. As a brand, we show attitude, have an opinion, and use ourselves and our voice in a targeted way. With our DonateourReach campaign, for example.
Gorden Wagener: Mercedes-Benz has always been a globally coveted brand. With a car from our house, you were always noticed, maybe even envied, but never in a negative context. And Gottlieb Daimler already knew more about staging or marketing. Communication than it was common at that time. Today we say influencer, back then we said movie star, celebrity or artist. His customers were always equal, women drove as well as men, that was very unusual in the first years of the automobile.
You two are actually in your target group yourselves. Young, successful, fully engaged in work and life, and driving Mercedes. How does the interaction of your disciplines work and – who is right in the end??
Bettina Fetzer: Gorden and I have been working together for quite a while on the holistic further development of our brand, we argue and get along almost like an old married couple (laughs). Because only when our two disciplines – design and marketing – go hand in hand can we create a consistent image for our customers and fans around the world. Our goal is to firmly anchor Mercedes-Benz in people's hearts for at least another 120 years.
Gorden Wagener: We both fight passionately for the brand. We burn for what we do, and that also applies to our teams. I am sure that our founding fathers would be impressed by what we have done with the brand. Today, Mercedes-Benz is a hip, sustainable design and luxury brand that is the envy of many beyond the automotive industry.
Please complete the following sentences, Bettina Fetzer:
Mercedes is .. … World-renowned as a name, world-famous as a brand, and on everyone's lips as a synonym for "the best.
The star .. … Is approachable and accessible. What you can't say about all stars.
A car is .. … The epitome of independence and freedom – and that for generations.
Men think .. … Maybe, they are the better drivers, but they all listen to "Mercedes" after all. Especially with MBUX: Hey Mercedes – who can park better, my husband or me??
Engine noise must .. … Not always being loud to attract attention. The all-electric EQC proves that silent mobility can also be quite exciting.
What comes to mind when you think of the following keywords, Gorden Wagener??
Sustainability .. … Was and is part of our brand and design identity, otherwise our brand would have disappeared from the market long ago.
Luxury .. … Is not an end in itself for us, it is the core of our brands. Our founding fathers invented the car, so in that sense there's a bit of Mercedes in every car.
Maybach .. … Is the crowning glory of our brand portfolio and the obligation to add something sublime to the best.
Heritage .. … Is an obligation and an enormous incentive to leave behind something lasting. So that the name Mercedes will still sound so beautiful in 120 years' time.