Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour Puts Bands, GLA On Stage

Time flies. The older Gen Ys aren't kids anymore. Hitting their mid-thirties stride, a lot of these people — particularly upwardly mobile urbanites — have money to burn. While they may or may not be looking for luxury cars, Mercedes-Benz is sure looking for them. 

With vehicles like the CLA compact sedan and the GLA compact crossover, which comes out this fall, the Montvale, N.J. luxury automaker has an opportunity to bring younger buyers to the brand (The CLA actually began with the 2013 Super Bowl, well before the fall launch date.) 

Now, with summer here, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is spotlighting the GLA with an alternative music program called the MB Evolution Tour. It's a series of concerts, but it's also a media strategy responding to the socializing behavior of 18- to-34-year-olds. 

The campaign, which starts in New York this week, is an invitation-only concert series also visiting Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The headliners include Mayer Hawthorne and Young the Giant. 

"All of [the artists] are authentic, up-and-coming artists; they aren't big pop bands getting peppered all over the radio," says Drew Slaven, VP marketing for MBUSA. "This is for more of the discerning palate. They are all critically acclaimed bands with lots of buzz. They are going to be big, but they are midway on that path." The tour and artist relationships were negotiated by MB's event agency Engine Shop. "We chose [the artists] and they chose us. They are our ambassadors, and we are their advocates." 

The opening acts at each show will comprise a roster of local performers, and Mercedes-Benz' own presence includes vehicle displays, interactive elements, test drives of the CLA and GLA, and a social media wall scrolling social feeds by attendees who Tweet, Instagram and Facebook the experience to their digital communities. 

Slaven tells Marketing Daily that social connections are among the parameters for who gets an invite, but music insider savvy also matters. To get an invite, people have to participate in a promotional campaign launching this week at www.MBEvolutionTour.com (#MBEvolutionTour), where they can upload a photo that best captures the spirit of the program, or a social-sized note about why they should be chosen. A panel of judges makes out the invitation list based on the entries.  

Slaven says the program is designed to appeal to Gen Y consumers' penchant for discovery. "It's really important to this generation; you see this in the rise of a new 'speakeasy' culture with restaurants in amazing spaces hidden behind boarded up storefronts, and sites like Gilt where you can get luxury brands at discounts, but only if invited in by someone,” he says. “This is a generation that loves to be the first there to try it and then to share it. That notion that 'I've discovered something, formed an opinion about it and share to my community.' When we chose bands and thought about the program we wanted to tap into that."

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