120 years of Mercedes – "We want to make Mercedes-Benz the most loved luxury brand!"
Bettina Fetzer, Head of Marketing Mercedes-Benz AG, in conversation with Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler AG, about the fascination of a brand and the interplay of brand, design and luxury.
Ms. Fetzer, you could be the great-granddaughter of Mercedes 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 the brand with the star has been part of public life for 120 years. During this time, Mercedes has become a symbol of German engineering and, especially in recent years, has rejuvenated itself and opened up to new target groups, while at the same time increasing its claim to luxury. Developing a brand icon like Mercedes-Benz from a respected brand of your father 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 Strich 8. You never forget your “first time,” whether it was ice cream or a car (laughs). In our family, Mercedes was always a dream. In my youth, people who “"made it” drove Mercedes, people who made a dream come true with a star on the hood. Today I can help shape the future of the brand with my team – it's a dream that has come true.
Bettina Fetzer: Did you always want to join Mercedes?
Gorden Wagener: Of course. I wanted to reach for the stars, if you will. Every designer aspires to create icons, and Mercedes has the star that shines the brightest. It’s both a burden and an opportunity. If you deliver good design, you’re celebrated. If it goes wrong, you’re fired.
According to your surveys, a Mercedes-Benz vehicle is bought because of the brand and, for some time now, also because of the design. This hasn’t always been the case, so you've got a lot of responsibility on both your shoulders, don’t you?
Bettina Fetzer: That's exactly why Gorden and I work closely together – there’s more room on both our shoulders (laughs). But indeed, according to Interbrand – again confirmed in 2019 – Mercedes-Benz is by far the most valuable luxury car 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 awestruck, but above all very proud.
Gorden Wagener: We’ve succeeded in transforming the traditional luxury of our fathers into a modern and sustainable luxury. In the past, older men wearing hats drove a Benz. Today, young people proudly drive A-Class cars and are “fully connected”. Mercedes is suddenly cool. The responsibility for good and successful design drives us. This benefits the brand and fires up the team. It’s like in sports – without big goals you can’t set world records. That’s why our mission is to make Mercedes-Benz the most beloved luxury brand.
How much does the original Mercedes brand still have in common with today’s brand?
Gorden Wagener: Mercedes has always been a luxury brand and, from the very beginning, also a design brand. The visual appearance, the design, the material, everything we call “staging” today was there from the very beginning. The staging of technology has always been important, too, and that still shapes us today.
Bettina Fetzer: That’s right – Mercedes is then, as now, a brand that arouses emotions – and is an experience for our customers. We are a strong brand that gives our customers orientation and support. Especially in these times of uncertainty, 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 manner – for example, with our DonateourReach campaign.
Gorden Wagener: Mercedes-Benz has always been a globally coveted brand. With a car from our company, you were always noticed – maybe even envied – but never in a negative context. And Gottlieb Daimler already knew more about staging or marketing and communication than was usual at the time. Today we say “influencers,” back then just movie stars, celebrities or artists. His customers were always on an equal footing: women drove as well as men, which was very unusual in the early years of the automobile.
You two are actually in your target group yourselves. Young, successful, fully committed to your jobs and lives – 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 some time on the holistic development of our brand. We argue and get along almost like an old married couple (laughs). Because only if our two disciplines – design and marketing – go hand in hand, will it ultimately result in a unified image for our customers and fans around the world. Our goal is to keep Mercedes-Benz firmly anchored in people’s hearts for at least another 120 years.
Gorden Wagener: We both fight passionately for the brand. We are passionate about what we do, and that also applies to our teams. I am sure that our founding fathers would be delighted with what we have made of the brand. Today, Mercedes-Benz is a hip, sustainable design and luxury brand that is the envy of the automotive industry and beyond.
Please complete the following sentences, Bettina Fetzer:
...world-famous as a name, world-famous as a brand and synonymous with “the best” on everyone’s lips.
...is near and within reach. Which is more than you can say for all the stars.
A car is...
...the epitome of independence and freedom – and all that, over generations.
...maybe that they’re better drivers, but they all listen to Mercedes. Especially to MBUX: Hey Mercedes – who can park better, my husband or I?
Engine noises must be...
...not always loud to attract attention. The fully electric EQC proves that even silent mobility can be quite exciting.
What comes to your mind regarding the following keywords, Gorden Wagener?
...was and is part of our brand and design identity, otherwise our brand would have disappeared from the market long ago.
...is not an end in itself for us, it is the core of our brands. Our founding fathers invented the car, so in this sense there is a little bit of Mercedes in every car.
...is the crowning glory of our brand portfolio and the obligation to add something sublime to the best.
…motivates us to leave a lasting impression, so the name Mercedes will still sound so beautiful 120 years from now.
...and men, to pass on the same enthusiasm for our design to both is my goal.