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How a luxury car brand embraces digital art


Mercedes-Benz has become the first and only carmaker to join the Aura Blockchain Consortium for luxury brands. The company has unveiled its vision for virtual art as part of its marketing strategy. Digital artwork will appear on customizable screens inside the cars. Mercedes moreover wants to convince luxury consumers to buy electric cars. "This is all about the art of creating desire."

Five non-fungible token artists were asked to create digital art in the form of NFTs inspired by the Mercedes G-Class line. Limited artworks went on sale on an NFT marketplace earlier this year with prices up to US$1554 and sold out almost immediately. The aim of the project was to build a bridge between the two worlds of G-class enthusiasts and the flourishing NFT community. For Can Florian Ahegger, founder of Art2people, it was a dream come true to work with the artists in bringing the project to life. "The pieces are extraordinary. To own exclusive art that is truly unique, that you can keep in your digital purse, is something very special."

Digital luxury: new experiences and touchpoints
Digital luxury is expected to play an important role at Mercedes-Benz in the future. "We no longer focus just on the product, but on customers and their wishes and needs. In addition to desirable vehicles, we also want to offer desirable digital luxury that can be experienced beyond the car. We are ready to enter the market for digital art and NFTs to offer new digital experiences and touchpoints to our customers," said Bettina Fetzer, vice-president Marketing at Mercedes-Benz, during a talk at the Digital Life Design Conference.

In May 2022 the company outlined a new strategy inspired by 'creating desire' during a strategy day on the French Côte d'Azur. The German car maker will dedicate 75% of its investments to its highest-selling segment of core luxury models. The company aims to sell exclusively electric vehicles in 2030, and there are new models to come. "The volume of EVs will accelerate in the second half of the decade," Chief Executive Ola Källenius said. Mercedes aims to fuel road to electric luxury with 'desire', as Reuters summarizes it.

Principles of marketing and luxury
A key term in the world of luxury brands is positive luxury. "The values of luxury today are very different from those of the past. It is not about bling or shiny stuff, but more about craftsmanship, beautiful design, respect for the people on the planet. It is about understanding how the product or the service interacts with the ecosystem and the world. That is what we call a company's positive luxury, because those are the values that we have signed up to," says Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder of Positive Luxury, a company that advises luxury brands. Mercedes-Benz has defined some luxury principles. "It is one side to say that what we think is luxury should be built into the cars, but the most important is to be a customer-centric company. What do we want the customer to perceive? Luxury is first of all to give fascinating and surprising moments with the brand or the product that go beyond our customers' expectations. This for us is pure luxury, something where you think: wow, I wouldn't have expected this," marketing vice-president Fetzer explained.

Another principle is to offer a seamless experience. "In today's world where you jump from digital here to digital there and where you could go back to physical, we want this to be a seamless experience." It is a principle that is not only applicable to luxury companies, any company should apply it, but Mercedes wants to take it a step further by treating each customer in a unique and individual way. "The high individualization of the approach for us is absolutely luxury. So, I don't want to start from zero every time I get in contact with this brand. I would love this brand to know who I am and what my desires and challenges are. It is this catering to this personalized experience." Ultimately, luxury will be visible in the design of the cars. "It is about beautiful and extraordinary aesthetics." More and more companies are now focusing on sustainability and Mercedes has made it one of their luxury principles. "This is about letting customers know that we treat them and our environment responsibly. This could be from the way we handle customer data to the footprint we leave on mother earth. These are the luxury dimensions we look at. It is a very broad picture and it is far from bling bling or anything like that."

Making sustainability desirable
Sometimes a company wants to be innovative and sustainable, but then finds out that their clients are not ready for it. Mercedes did some research on it. "We want to be a sustainable company with sustainable products. But many luxury consumers are not particularly interested in buying sustainable goods for the sake of being sustainable. In our research, they said, well if my neighbor will look at me in a bad way because my product is not sustainable, this might be a reason to switch. As a marketer it is part of my job to advertise it in a way that people say 'I want to have that' and therefore we worked a lot on what is progressive luxury," Fetzer says. The company has made a commitment to reduce its footprint and is shifting to electric cars. "We have been thinking a lot about what will be appealing for people. We manage quite well to make these products desirable and I think it is the only way forward." She notices a difference between younger and older target groups. Younger generations are generally more aware of environmental issues. "Younger people have parents to convince. Our job as marketers is to inform them what the challenges are and inspire them, show the benefits and beauty of being sustainable."

Aura Blockchain: new expression of creativity
Mercedes has recently joined the Aura Blockchain Consortium for luxury brands, together with other founding members such as LVMH, Cartier and the Prada Group. The blockchain consortium is pursuing a long-term strategy towards the metaverse. "As a design team we are pushing our digital luxury ambition with digital art, as a new expression of our style and creativity," explains Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer at Mercedes-Benz, in a talk at the design center in Nice. "We use digital art to create desire in-car and beyond. It offers exciting potential for our design approach to exceed customer expectations with extraordinary and surprising elements." The blockchain technology will enable the companies to develop new dimensions of digital brand development, such as creating digital artworks as NFTs. "We want to take digital luxury to a new level, side by side with other luxury brands," Wagener says. 

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