How Mercedes-Benz Is Using Facebook and Instagram's Direct Messaging to Play Secret Santa

A social 'ho, ho, ho'

The carmaker is giving away gifts on digital platforms. Mercedes-Benz USA

If you think direct-messaging features on social channels are marketing wastelands, guess again. Mercedes-Benz told Adweek that it gets roughly 100 direct messages daily from customers and prospects on social channels like Facebook and Instagram. 

That constant communication inspired a cheerful "Secret Santa" effort that is running until a few days before Christmas. Mercedes is direct-messaging its Facebook and Instagram followers with the chance to send a loved one a gift courtesy of the brand. The German company is giving away 1,000 items such as a leather chronograph watch (retail price: $179), a Harmon Kardon bluetooth speaker ($249) and Mercedes-branded products that cost more than $100 like a wool throw blanket and leather tote bag. 

"We had this clever idea of helping our customers find the perfect Santa gift," said Mark Aikman, general manager of marketing services at Mercedes-Benz USA, which worked with agency Razorfish on the initiative dubbed "#MBSecretSanta." 

"We hope people will continue to follow the brand [on social] for some pretty amazing things," he said. "This is definitely not a hard sell."

Indeed, the company is not collecting any data or lead-generation information for future marketing efforts. And Mercedes is only messaging people who already follow the brand—it's not spamming people. It's asking individuals for the name, mailing address and social-media handles for the recipient of the gratis holiday present. 

If Mercedes-Benz is typical, then companies are using direct messaging on social platforms more than most folks realize. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter only started letting brands ping users in such fashion during recent years, and it had been unclear how often companies actually use the opportunity. 

"Lots of time people will message us and say, 'Hey, look at this great Instagram I just took of my Mercedes. Can you post it?'" Aikman said. "When we post those and give credit to the fans, oftentimes it's a surprise and delight that people really love, and it doesn't cost us anything."

Meanwhile, Aikman and his team haven't been afraid to have a little fun this holidays season. For instance, check out their "elf-driving car" video from Dec. 4 below:

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