- Mercedes-Benz Vans recruited Henry Rollins, the writer, actor and radio host who also fronted the iconic punk band Black Flag, for a new branded content series that challenges ideas of toughness and addresses stereotypes around van owners, per The Drum.
- In "Tough Conversations," Rollins travels Australia and asks people what toughness means to them. The campaign, which includes a podcast series, radio, social and digital content and a one-hour TV documentary, aims to help the automaker connect with different types of utility vehicle drivers and align its brand with more progressive values, The Drum said.
- In a 90-second video for the campaign, people share what they view as being tough, such as standing up for what's right, being honorable and following through on goals. The effort was created with the agency The Royals.
Automotive marketing, especially for outdoor and utility vehicles, has been defined by the kind of macho and "tough" messaging Mercedes-Benz Vans is now looking to challenge — an approach that risks alienating some consumers but could pay off. Rollins seems a natural fit to help the brand break that mold, as he's shifted from the aggressive frontman of Black Flag into other areas such as social commentator and even a reader of spoken word poetry, per The Drum. By highlighting a more progressive side, the auto brand could connect with a broader audience of consumers. The campaign also focuses on trendy branded content, including a documentary and podcasts, and real drivers, lending it some authenticity.
Mercedes-Benz Vans isn't alone in trying to break down traditional notions of what its brand's about. Consumers increasingly expecting brands to shun outdated gender roles, for example, and pivot away stereotypes. In a recent survey by the programmatic ad platform Choozle, 36% of consumers reported they liked a brand more when its ads went against stereotypes and 25% said they'd be more likely to purchase from those brands.
Similar to Mercedes-Benz's Tough Conversations, Unilever body and grooming line Axe created a campaign last year targeting younger males that attempted to break the "cycle of toxic masculinity." "Is It OK for Guys?" included a YouTube video asking questions that real men Google searched to find answers to, including whether they can be emotional, wear makeup or experiment sexually.