Mercedes Separates Star From Brand Name, Loses Dimension

Mercedes-Benz is separating its iconic three-pointed star logo from its name. That's the most obvious visual change the German automaker is instigating worldwide on Nov. 1. It is the first major revision of Mercedes-Benz brand identity in 18 years, per the company, which recently divorced itself from Chrysler.

The new look will appear in European-market advertising for the 2008 C-Class sedan and Estate wagon, and in the U.S. next year.

The effort, which also includes a transformation of the three-star logo from a three-dimensional visual to a two-dimensional shape, affects both Mercedes passenger cars and commercial vehicles.

The company says the change, which reflects a "more sharply focused brand positioning" program begun last year, will be reflected in advertising as well as corporate communications generally. Specifically, the star will now always appear atop creative executions and communications, with the Mercedes-Benz name on the bottom. Both will appear in what the company calls "arrow silver," with the positioning reflecting a new corporate mantra, "The Star always shines from above."



The company also says that henceforth, advertising for Mercedes globally will adhere to a kind of creative template, in which images of automobiles will prevail in settings around architecture, people and landscapes. Per a company release, advertising will feature "generous compositions" with unusual perspectives and lighting. Says a company release: "Vitality and dynamism are major components of the visual idiom as are the inventive use of focal depth and unfocused images."

The forthcoming European-market ads follow the new theme. Ads for the C-Class show the vehicle up close--as it appears to be speeding along a causeway past the viewer, away from a sun-dappled series of waterways and islands, with mountains ranging in the background under lowering clouds, suggesting the drama of Albert Bierstadt's nature paintings. Another, for the C-Class Estate wagon, sets the vehicle in a sere Aegean landscape, on what looks to be the set of a Greek dramatic tragedy, complete with chorus.

The company is also installing a retail strategy, including a color scheme for dealership signage in "midnight blue."

The redesign was developed in-house and with the agency Claus Koch Identity GmbH.

"The new brand identity of Mercedes-Benz revives our entire presence and ensures an unmistakable image which combines tradition with a future-oriented approach," says Klaus Maier, executive vice president/Mercedes Car Group, responsible for sales and marketing, in a release.

Says Olaf Gottgens, vice president/brand communications, Mercedes-Benz Cars: "The image that has established our brand identity over the decades is and remains the star. In the future, we will be featuring this even more prominently, where it is visible to our customers."

Donna Boland, spokesperson at the company's U.S. arm in Montvale, N.J., says the move has nothing to do with recent changes in Daimler's corporate structure. "This is something that historically, we have done from time to time, to refresh and sharpen the brand profile; it is necessary when you have an iconic brand that is among the top ten most recognized brands in the world."

She adds that Mercedes-Benz USA* will begin refreshing to the new look next year--not under an enforced time frame, but "as an area redoes banners, dealership materials. We are not going to pull everything out at once."

Separating the logo from the text may make sense given the universal recognition among consumers of the brand. "My first instinct was, why do they need to do it?" says Wes Brown, automotive guru at Iceology. "But then, it's a symbol everyone knows. For customers and non-customers alike, that silver-pointed star is arguably the strongest emotional connection, and if that is what pulls people in, if that's what they connect with, why not make it front and center?"

* Editor's note: The story was amended post publication.

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