It’s funny how we think about brands: We personify them. We talk about their voices and attitudes — and sometimes, we even talk about their genders. But while some brands (like Marlboro and Chanel) have clearly defined gender identities, some are much harder to pin down — which brings us to Mercedes-Benz.
As pointed out to me by my esteemed colleague and fellow Wildcat loyalist, Katy Miller, a look at Mercedes-Benz’ advertising reveals some interesting contrasts: For instance, the brand is the lead sponsor of the German Football Association and just acquired the naming rights to the Superdome, yet it’s also the lead sponsor of the world’s most fabulous (and feminine) fashion festival — Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
I was curious as to how Mercedes’ gender-bending marketing approach affected its gender identity among consumers, so in a strictly administered, completely unscientific survey, I asked 19 guys and 19 gals (including 33 Bulbs) to assign a gender identity to each of these brands: Coke, Target and of course, Mercedes-Benz. Respondents were instructed to designate each masculine, feminine or neutral.
Here’s what I found:
Coke and Target drew a strong consensus among the group. A whopping 92% deemed Coke gender-neutral, while an 84% majority said Target leaned feminine. When considering the brand gender of Mercedes-Benz, however, the picture wasn’t so clear.
Overall, 47% of those surveyed viewed Mercedes-Benz as a masculine brand while another 47% felt it neutral. Only 6% saw the brand as feminine.
Among males, 63% said the brand seemed masculine, while another 26% responded neutral. Two of the guys voted feminine.
Among females, 68% said Mercedes-Benz was neutral, while the remaining 32% felt it had a masculine gender identity. Interestingly, none of the ladies voted feminine.
So what does this all mean?
According to the survey, a majority of guys see Mercedes-Benz as, well, a guy, and a solid majority of women feel the brand is, at the very least, un-masculine enough to be called neutral. And though I expected to see more feminine votes in the women’s group, the even split between masculine and neutral seems to jive with the brand’s varied marketing approach.
For what it’s worth, I personally see the Mercedes brand as feminine, but I suspect it has something to do with my fondness for Pebbles’ 1988 hit “Mercedes Boy,” (LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPZwbWZpyho ) which has been mercilessly coursing through my brain for the length of this project. What do you think?