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Mercedes getting 'radio'active

Mercedes-Benz, the luxury car maker, has recently made its radio debut on the city based station, Hit 95 FM

If you are one of those Delhiites who swear by international music and stay hooked to Hit 95 FM, you must have been baffled by the commercials - Mercedes-Benz Stars - featuring Akon, Sheryl Crow and Britney Spears. No, it's not a mock-up or a spoof on the original brand. The luxury car maker is actually treading the radio way - exclusively in the capital.

This is for the first time that the German luxury automobile manufacturer has invested in the radio medium. For all this while, the brand has heavily utilised magazines, press, TV and outdoor media for promotions.

The eight week long campaign on the radio station was initiated in the beginning of the year. The commercials are mostly aired during the Morning Show with RJ (radio jockey) Sarthak. The creatives for the ad have been created by Hit 95 FM and approved by the automobile brand. The station also plans to take the campaign forward by incorporating some Indian personalities who own Mercedes-Benz cars.

The ad is reportedly being run by T&T Motors, the dealer of Mercedes Benz in Delhi, with support from the Mercedes-Benz corporate office, Pune. Explaining the reasons behind going the radio way, TV Thomas, president, T&T Motors, says, "Radio was so far an untapped medium for us. However, we were not unaware of the popularity and reach of the medium and were keen on utilising it. Delhi being an important market for us, we chose to start from the capital. Accordingly, we selected a station which has a niche audience and fits our customer base."

Hit 95 FM mostly plays international music and it's this feature of the station that has helped it bag the deal. "The station solely plays international music and has listenership among the upper segment of the society, which includes young entrepreneurs, CEOs and businessmen. It is this particular group of people in the capital whom we are targeting," adds Thomas.

On the other hand, the radio station is elated to get a breakthrough in the luxury category. Sanjay Hemady, chief operating officer, Hit 95 FM, sees this as a new trend in radio advertising. According to him, radio advertising will now take a step forward by foraying into the luxury brand category and will eye for more big-budget virgin brands to invest in the medium.

"We are proud to set the trend. We have been consciously working towards value propositions for various key brands. We started working on this project since October 2009. From identifying what the client's objective was to matching the requirements and production quality - we did it all to live up to the expectation of the client. It's nice to see that our effort is being noticed," adds Hemady.

Mercedes refused to disclose the amount spent on the radio spots. However, it reveals that it plans to intensify the campaign if it gets a positive response from the audience.

To determine public responses, the FM station is running a between-the-programme contest, where it is offering the winners a test ride on a Mercedes Benz car. According to the executives of Hit 95 FM, the response generated so far has been quite good.

In a conversation with afaqs! on the company's future marketing and branding plans, Manas Dewan, general manager, product management and corporate communications, Mercedes-Benz India, says, "On a corporate level, we plan to modify our positioning from a luxury brand to a lifestyle brand. For that, we plan to reach out to maximum number of audiences, utilising a broad spectrum of media which will include radio, online, electronic as well as classic media and BTL (below-the-line) activities."

Accordingly, Mercedes is now lending its brand name to several lifestyle products and accessories, including T-shirts, sunglasses and bicycles. It has entered into an engagement with designer Manish Arora, who has recently launched an apparel collection inspired by designs from Mercedes. Recently, the clothing line was presented in Bengaluru and will be followed by similar presentations in Delhi and other cities.

Mercedes is actively supporting the expansion of golf in India. According to Dewan, the number of golfers has increased from 600 in five cities in 2009 to 1,800 golfers in 15 cities in 2010.

For the record, Mercedes' sales reportedly declined by more than 10 per cent in 2009 and BMW India overtook it as the No. 1 luxury car major by sales in the domestic market. However, with the beginning of 2010, things started changing. The company has registered 400 per cent growth on a year-on-year basis for January 2010. Based on its sales figure of January 2010, Mercedes Benz India now claims 39 per cent market share in retail (413 units) over 32.2 per cent (341 units) of BMW and 28.9 per cent (306 units) of Audi.

One wonders if this change in sales figures is due to its aggressive marketing strategies!

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