McKinsey Quarterly:

The Quarterly: What does the digital side allow you to do that you couldn’t do before?

Ola Källenius: Here’s one example where big data has actually changed the way we’re doing business: car2go.1 We know everything that happens to those cars, 24/7, around the year. If you start analyzing that data, you can see patterns. You can see, for instance, that between 8:00 and 10:00 in the morning, in different cities, there is a likelihood that somebody picks up a car, drives somewhere, and is in a certain “neighborhood A.” So we can make sure there are more cars in that neighborhood during those hours.

We can also improve the customer experience so there is a one-to-one relationship with the customer. That’s what we do now with “Mercedes me,” which allows our customers to have a unique Mercedes ID. This allows seamless integration between your smartphone and your car, and between us and our vehicles. We know, for example, how your brake pads are wearing. That data lets us know when a car needs service even before the customer does, so we can prompt a service appointment.


The Quarterly: Is this also a response, in part, to the challenge of proliferation? How do you break through the clutter?

Ola Källenius: If you look at society as a whole, we all know this, the amount of information that you absorb per day now—compared with, maybe, what you did 10, 30, 50 years ago—is much, much higher. So to grab the attention of the relevant people and drive their buyers’ choice, you have to be really smart about this. This has huge importance, as far as Mercedes is concerned, compared with where we were years ago, when marketing was more just about the product.

Now, to digitize within Mercedes, we have a proof point that we push for connectivity: “Mercedes me.” You have to have connectivity, especially for younger people. We offer all kinds of services around the car and beyond, so to speak. The look and feel of our advertising, physical presentation, and stores all need to fit into that world. This is reflected in our “Mercedes me” showroom in Hamburg—well, you could call it a showroom, but it’s really not. It’s a restaurant, it’s a happening place where we cooperate with artists and with musicians. It’s the cool place to be for young, successful professionals. They’re working hard all week, and they deserve a treat on the weekends!

The Quarterly: Which becomes a key facet of this new golden age, does it not? The better you engage with your customer, the stronger your customer’s experience going forward.

Ola Källenius: The founding father of our company called it: “The best or nothing.” What did he mean when he said that? He was not talking about a product description, per se. He was talking about attitude. You don’t rest on your laurels. You move beyond.

We push the emotional button very consciously across touch points in marketing. And the great thing with Mercedes is that you do have emotional brands. When you buy a Mercedes, it’s always been about the dream of the little kid one day driving the star.