Mercedes-Benz SG CEO calls street culture a ‘natural fit for the company’


Luxury and street? That’s not a combination we see everyday but Mercedes Benz decided to give the collision a shot.  Taking on the chance to sponsor the street culture convention named Culture Cartel, Philipp Hagenburger, president and CEO, Mercedes-Benz Singapore told Marketing that the sponsorship is a natural fit for the company as the defining characteristics of street culture – self-expression and individuality – are what Mercedes-Benz endorses and wishes to show full support for in this partnership.

“Self-expression and individuality are what we try to incorporate in the design philosophy behind our vehicles and the ownership experience we seek to deliver to today’s car owner,” he added. According to him, there are many similarities between the Mercedes-Benz brand and street culture. He explained that street culture epitomises the freedom of self-expression and individualism, which are characteristics that Mercedes-Benz works to incorporate into the product design for all its cars.

“By being advocates for street culture and the dynamism behind the art form, we encourage owners of Mercedes-Benz to see their cars as an extension of their own individual personalities,” Hagenburger said. While he declined to reveal the monetary value of the sponsorship, Hagenburger said the endorsement of the event and what it stands for “is invaluable” and one that has helped the brand establish and promote its creative and artistic spirit. Hagenburger said the company aims to actively engage the Millennial consumers who are active stakeholders at such events.

When asked how marketers can leverage on street culture to gain awareness and reach the younger crowd, Hagenburger said it is important to first draw parallels between the event and the brand, and find creative ways to capitalise on these similarities.

“With a street culture event, marketers must also acknowledge its distinctive and definitive characteristics, and see how best to apply them to their own products for promotion,” he said. In the case of Mercedes-Benz, it turned its own product into an art installation.

In terms of creativity, relevance, and shock factor, this ticks all the boxes.

The automotive company first came on board as a sponsor for last year’s inaugural Culture Cartel and Hagenburger said the partnership has brought “resounding success” to the entire event and overall perception of the brand. In 2018, it tied up with American contemporary and street artist Joshua Vides (pictured below) to showcase the newly-launched Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Vides is known for highlighting the shape of objects using a black and white comic-like perspective. According to Hagenburger, Culture Cartel 2018 saw a “surprising yet receptive reaction” from its consumers. It garnered over 1,450 pieces of coverage and Vides’ collaboration spurred a lot of positive reactions on social media.

This year, Mercedes-Benz intends to outdo itself by partnering exclusively with street artists COARSE and Ricardo Cavolo to create the next masterpieces. Their latest creation will be made on the Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupe and A-Class Saloon respectively. The company is confident that the pieces from both artists will help accentuate the youthful and dynamic design flair of both cars. Hagenburger said it hopes to build on the success from last year’s event.

“Our continued representation at the event will help cement the brand associations it managed to create from Culture Cartel 2018. We hope to also build positive engagement with active and passive stakeholders present, and those paying attention to the event,” he said, adding that Mercedes-Benz also hopes to gain new followers and advocates for the brand.

Seeing that the event makes for a very social event, Hagenburger said Mercedes-Benz will focus on marketing on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube to spark conversations that will challenge individual creativity, self-expression, and artistic flair. “We will also be working with like-minded content creators and key opinion leaders to bring these conversations to their spheres of influence and to drive awareness around this partnership,” he added.

Meanwhile, among the list of brands that are sponsoring Culture Cartel 2019 include DBS, G-Shock, HUGO Boss, The Glenrothes, Spinelli Coffee, and Hydro Flask.

Jeremy Tan, convention director of Culture Cartel, told Marketing that it is trying to break traditions and build new content, instead of classifying street culture into a certain genre of suitable brands that people expect. For Culture Cartel, street culture is a way of living and a lifestyle, and the brands it works with represent that, Tan explained.

He added that having a global brand such as Mercedes-Benz partner with Culture Cartel has changed public opinion about the event, that it was more than just a hype or merely riding the wave of the next fad in street culture. Instead, the partnership has helped to prove that Culture Cartel is able to provoke new schools of thought and inspire a new generation of creatives and thought leaders.

“The partnership with Mercedes-Benz has definitely shown that Culture Cartel is an event that’s suitable for the adult consumer, and more far reaching than the usual street community that the world is accustomed to,” Tan said.

Like Mercedes-Benz, Culture Cartel is marketing the event through social media and word of mouth. Tan said it believes that unique collaborations across all subculture categories will spark interest and stand out from all the marketing messages that surround smart devices. “By engaging the different subculture communities as a core part of our content, we can ensure the most authentic experience brought to you by these communities,” he said.

Adopting fresh formats

In a bid to make the event more accessible to any consumer with a smartphone and engage them via live-streaming, Tan said Culture Cartel is extending its reach beyond just visitors of the convention and testing out new formats on digital. They include streaming content on ground in real-time and conversations with participating regional and international artists on Facebook and Instagram, featuring YouTubers The Fung Bros and Richie Le as hosts.

It also recently relaunched the official website which includes a sub-site that reads like an intimate diary, Tan said. It keeps readers and fans updated on the latest trends and happenings related to street culture within the region. The sub-site will also document conversations with cultural stalwarts, digging deeper into burgeoning brands and reimagining stories through Culture Cartel’s lens.

“As we continue with our regional expansion and continued pop-ups in different neighbouring cities, we are in a prime position to create English content for stories that are only told through the grapevines in their native languages. We cannot allow these tales to go unnoticed and exist within their secular bubbles,” Tan explained.

Capturing Gen Zs’ attention

While Millennials are its main target audience, Culture Cartel is not forgetting about Gen Zs too. According to Tan, since Gen Zs are more tech-savvy and have access to various social media and digital tools, they often do not have a single preffered platform. For example, they would visit Facebook for information inputs, and Instagram for sharing of real-life moments and are more likely to react to call-to-action posts which could help increase brand engagement.

As such, Culture Cartel chose to work with YouTube personalities that Gen Zs are familiar with, to host live content on-site on our social media platforms. In the weeks leading up to the event, Culture Cartel also utilised its Facebook and Instagram to drop updates on the artists line-up and exclusive launches. It also leveraged its Culture Cartel newsletters to deliver and include content that are not as focused on the convention offerings.

According to Tan, many have the misconception that street culture deviates from the conventional values and societal norms. This could be attributed to how the street culture movement originated from underground and till today, there are still many taboos surrounding the various sub-cultures – especially around tattoos and graffiti, which brand marketers might shy away from due to the conservative nature of the local or regional market.

“Through Culture Cartel, we want to provide street culture a stage of its own, to shine and remove the stigma through the interactions and experiences that we’re providing at the convention. The event allows the different urban labels and street artists to join forces, share resources and empower each other to be part of this collective movement to educate brands and even members of the public,” he said.