Mercedes Readies Second Exclusive Online Community

‘Generation Benz’ will get a lot older next year.

Emboldened by the success of its private, online Generation Y-centric community, Mercedes-Benz USA is planning a second site. Launching next year, the yet to-be-named site will target boomers.

Steve Cannon, vp of marketing, has found the site——so efficient and useful that he can envision it replacing some types of focus groups, particularly those that delve into broader issues, such as “green-washing.”

Mercedes launched the password-protected Web site six months ago. Through questionnaires, polls and live chats, the company seeks to better understand what makes Gen Y tick. It uses the forum to get feedback on an array of topics from product designs to advertising concepts for the 19- to 32-year-old crowd.

“In marketing, you have to stay relevant. Certainly some brands are more challenged than others in staying relevant and vital to this new audience,” Cannon said. “[Generation Benz] is allowing us to gather data and get to know our customers in a deeper and richer way.”

The site, developed by Passenger in Los Angeles, currently has about 800 members, each of whom was invited by Mercedes. Nearly half have visited in the past 60 days, and of those, a few hundred are “very regular users,” Cannon said.

About a third of the members own Mercedes cars; the rest are generally interested in the brand and may become owners in the future.

The luxury car maker honed in on Gen Y initially because it’s a “big and important” group that’s comfortable with technology and represents great potential buying power, Cannon said.

So, what has Mercedes learned thus far about Gen Y? “Here we have a generation that actually likes their parents and would definitely drive what their parents drove.”