Sales and marketing: From small beginnings to a global brand

Nov 4, 2014
smart cars are sold in 46 countries around the world. A successful expansion strategy: China recently became the second most important market for smart after Germany, with Italy following in third place. smart cars are now available from 1250 sales outlets worldwide In the implementation of creative marketing ideas smart makes increasing use of social networks and enters into cooperation with trendy brands and designers such as BoConcept or Jeremy Scott.
The joke spread like wildfire: anyone buying enough vehicles from a smart centre would get the smart tower as a display case into the bargain. The marketing ideas from the youngest European car brand are just as unconventional as the vehicle itself. Nowadays smart towers are no longer an indispensable part of the smart marketing concept, and smart centers are no longer the only sales channel. But the fact that the towers are now available on a scale of 1:87 for model railway fans shows that they have had a lasting influence on car marketing and industrial architecture.
And they are an example of how the great success of smart has led to a restructuring and professionalisation of sales and marketing. Whilst approximately 60 independent smart centers were responsible for sales and service when the smart was introduced in October 1998, since the restructuring at the end of 2005 these tasks have first and foremost been carried out by Daimler sales and service outlets in a shop-in-shop system.
Today the smart marketing network comprises around 1250 sales outlets worldwide.
The locations of the company divisions have also been bundled. The company headquarters were originally in Biel/Switzerland, whilst development was carried out in Renningen/Germany. In 2001 the company moved to new headquarters in Böblingen/Germany.
Worldwide success: smart is sold in 46 markets
While smart cars were initially only offered for sale in Germany and eight other European countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland), today the products are available in 46 countries around the globe. Since the market launch in 1998 more than 1.6 million smart fortwos have been sold.
Most recently the brand was introduced in Russia in July 2012. smart was launched in the USA in January 2008. In July 2011 Mercedes-Benz USA assumed responsibility for sales and gave a new boost to sales figures. As a result, sales in the USA doubled in 2012 compared with the previous year (+92.2 percent). Since mid-2009 the smart fortwo has also been available in China where it has been very successful as a compact premium car: China recently became the second largest market for smart after Germany, overtaking Italy which had held this position for many years. In 2013 approximately 17,600 city runabouts were sold in China (+10.9 percent). Since 2013 the new smart fortwo electric drive has also been available from dealerships in China. It is the first fully electric car from a European importer in China. smart first and foremost uses social networks for marketing activities in China. For example, in the spring of 2014 smart used WeChat (the Chinese WhatsApp) to inform around 600 million users about a special model. The limited series of 388 units sold out in three minutes! In China smart also uses other social channels such as Weiboa (similar to Twitter) and Taobao (similar to eBay).
Three-dimensional ring, lighter lettering: the new smart logo
Functionality, innovation and joie de vivre – these are the brand values that make smart so unique. smart sees itself as a future-oriented, visionary brand that stands for a great idea. smart is more than just a car; smart is a manifestation of urban joie de vivre. This is expressed by the new brand campaign which is being launched under the leitmotif "FOR". "FOR" stands for a constructive, positive and optimistic outlook that can change the world.
The updated brand positioning is also manifested in the revised corporate design. The revised brand label is more self-confident and modern in character. The brand ring, which also has a more central and dominant role in the products, is now larger and radiates more strongly than before. The word mark, too, is more succinct and therefore more significant and visible.
The last time that smart changed the logo was in 2003, together with the new nomenclature: the city-coupé and cabrio became the fortwo coupé and fortwo cabrio. And from this point in time the front also proudly bore the smart ring as the brand logo.
Creative marketing and sales ideas
Unusual marketing activities and creative events for the smart community have a tradition at smart. Here are some examples from the last four years:
  • 2014: a BRABUS special model as wished for by smart fans – that was the aim of an unusual social media campaign that smart launched on 15 May on Facebook. In five rounds of online voting all those interested were able to vote on the configuration of the special model smart BRABUS fan edition on Facebook and a specially programmed microsite ()
  • 2014: between May and August 2014 smart turned cities all over Germany into atmospheric beach volleyball arenas during the smart beach tour. Spectators were able to enjoy exciting duels, a beach feeling and an extensive supporting programme
  • 2013: smart, the car brand for urban mobility, and BoConcept, the Danish urban interior design specialist, pooled their expertise in the disciplines of “ form” and “functionality”. Together the design teams of both brands created a collection of furniture and accessories and a smart fortwo cabrio
  • 2012: internationally acclaimed fashion designer Jeremy Scott designed a smart fortwo electric drive. A striking feature of the smart forjeremy was the wings – a familiar trademark of the American star designer. In 2013 a limited special edition licensed for road use was produced.
  • 2011: smart and the street fashion brand WeSC teamed up and presented the fruits of their "golden" cooperation at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt: the "smart BRABUS tailor made by WeSC" and the "headphones for the smart by WeSC". Since the spring of 2012 the headphones have been available from and worldwide in WeSC shops and concept stores
  • 2010: smart's worldwide design contest "Style your smart" implemented the "open innovation" approach in the car industry with resounding success: more than 8000 smart and design fans from more than 100 countries took part in the creative contest that ran for a period of around six weeks. On the website entrants created more than 50,000 designs for the exterior of the smart fortwo
  • 2010: in July smart kicked off a European tour with the world's smallest mobile TV studio. With its slogan “ remix your reality”, the smart. studio. initially stopped off in Rome, Berlin, Paris, London and Barcelona, where it offered interested locals the chance to take an innovative and unusual approach to exploring their city as an ambassador for urban mobility and lifestyle