An Automotive Icon

The Situation

Mercedes-Benz of North America (MBNA) recognized the need to increase its presence in key Western United States markets. As a premiere automotive brand, MBNA believed that it needed to be more competitive with the likes of BMW, Jaguar, Porsche and luxury American models. MBNA research showed that upper middle demographics did not necessarily recognize the brand/value relationship and had aspirations to be part of the brand.

The Goals

  • Elevate the brand and position the models against specific demographics.
  • Identify the brand and models with specific events and activities.
  • Create an enhanced aura of wanting to belong to the MBNA exclusive club.
  • Increase the qualified prospect ratio as reported by authorized dealers.

The Solution

  • Retool the “car pool” process for editorial coverage by analyzing not just reporters’ request for vehicles but adding metrics which discern historical coverage of Mercedes by the reporter/publication as well as matching up the media’s demographics with those of the car model purchaser. This became the foundation for our “driving media” campaign
  • Query the dealers to determine what areas they felt were most needed from a public relations perspective and other tools that would assist them in generating qualified leads.
  • Develop an editorial calendar for key markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas and Seattle which prioritized media for editorial pursuit for non test-drive coverage.
  • Display Mercedes cars at top-tier locations to create a “buzz” including exclusive restaurants, retailers, country clubs, museums, etc. along with collateral and sales reps to answer questions.
  • Execute a comprehensive public relations campaign around MBNA’s sponsorship of the Los Angeles Marathon including: Launch a first-time event where elite runners met with the press on an informal, social basis to generate feature exposure. Matched up reporters with runners from their home towns/states whenever possible. Created an editorial “hot line” that allowed reporters to track us down whenever they had a request.
  • Provided transportation to select journalists in Mercedes cars to the Marathon. Develop exclusive feature concepts to pitch to leading media based on the interests of readers/viewers.

The Results

  • MBNA dealers reported positive increase in qualified leads following press exposure.
  • MBNA asked the agency to develop a dealer public relations guide to generate their own publicity.
  • Mercedes’ sponsorship of the LA Marathon resulted in continuing increases in positive coverage and dealer participation.
  • Mercedes continued to invest in additional agency programs

Contact Us

14415 Benefit Street, Suite 202 Sherman Oaks, CA. 91423

Phone: 310.849-5573

Fax: 818.849-5696



Articulating the broad-based philosophy and passion of the founders of a truly revered product requires a skill set that is much more strategic and complex than a traditional marketing campaign. Steve Smith and his team were selected to craft and implement just such a program for Cakebread Cellars which would persuasively convey the family’s commitment to community, education and the joy of wine and food. The quality and demand for their premium wine was the foundation for communicating the Cakebread’s ideals and values to a high end audience through a flow of ‘backend’ stories by top-tier media and through proprietary events. This included the American Harvest Workshop, which brings together leading chefs and journalists and Cakebread U, which provides a three-day educational program for students from leading universities about the world of wine. The agency focused on the most powerful non-wine press continuing to build on brand cache and the vision of the founders. There aren’t many agencies that get it but Smith PR does.
Cathleen Burke Visscher, Founder, Wine Works & Co., Former senior vice president and director of corporate development at Kobrand Corp., a leading high end wine and spirits company with interests in California, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and more
We brought Steve onboard to help us define our position in the marketplace and provide a marketing strategy to take us to the next level. He performed a comprehensive audit of our senior staff, board members and other key parties to provide a positioning for our business model, searched for a branding agency overseeing all elements of the RFP, and conducted an advertising agency resource review with equal skill and professionalism. He handled these challenging tasks with enthusiasm and efficiency that made our senior staff’s time effective throughout this process. Following the completion of the branding and advertising searches, Steve supervised a number of other marketing programs including a public relations outreach which resulted in highly positive exposure in USA Today, CNNRadio, ABC television, CBS Marketwatch and many more placements for our new brand. He has become an important part of our team and I would recommend him without reservation as a professional who is a quick study, able to drive a marketing campaign to successful goals and is focused on providing tangible ROI for his clients.
Gary Brahm, Chancellor & CEO, Brandman University, part of the Chapman University System, Former EVP & COO, Chapman University