Mercedes-Benz’ Slaven says social marketing is people-intensive

As Mercedes-Benz continues to expand its product lineup — a new entry-level A-class sedan is coming in 2018 — it is turning more and more to social media marketing.

Drew Slaven, vice president of marketing at Mercedes-Benz USA, discussed the shift with Staff Reporter Amy Wilson.

Q: The Mercedes portfolio has changed a lot. It’s broader, with more SUVs and entry-level models. How have you changed your marketing approach to reach the audiences for those new categories?

A: So has it shifted what we’ve done in media? Yes. Where has it made that shift? First and foremost, in the social space. And this one is surprisingly less generational than you would think. But video continues to be our single most important marketing piece. It’s where the video is being seen that’s changed.

How so?

Often I’m asked: [Are] television commercials going to die. They’re not. It’s just you might not see them in the same place you’d always thought you’d see a TV commercial — namely on television. Where you’re seeing them with greater frequency is [online] video. How you build them has broadened. You can’t be as formulaic with television as you were 10 or 15 years ago. You have to push a little bit more in entertainment. We try to push a little less heavily the price, payment, the “come in, act now” and [push] a little bit more of the brand when we develop for online.

Has your spending on social increased?

The interesting thing about social is it’s not necessarily spend-dependent. It’s time- and commitment-dependent. It’s really more of a human resource shift than it has been an expenditure shift. When we make a TV commercial, how much more [do we leverage] the production expenditure? Do we want to put another day on a shoot to build out four or five social pieces to it? People may have gone to an event to serve as a guest ambassador or logistics and car transportation. Now all of a sudden we’re struggling to say, “Yeah, but I need people at the event to sit and literally document the event and post at the event.”

So I think what I find increasingly is the strain for me as a manager in marketing isn’t as much on expenditure as it is on my human resources. Some of my direct reports are coming to me saying, “I need more help.”

So you’ve hired more?

Yeah, we have over the years. But [general and administrative expenses] are not unlimited. It tends to come from other places.