The genesis of the SMART project was to create a new kind of compact city car, not just a car that was smaller, more suitable for our crowded cities, but a car that was as unique as the person driving it, more economical and with less impact on the environment, something that at that time was a niche in the marketplace.
The solution was to design a car that utilised advances in manufacturing technology as well as offering interchangeable elements that would allow the owner to personalise their vehicle at dealer level. Thinking of it as an accessory was no accident as the project originated from the owners of the Swatch watch brand. The challenge was to shift the audience’s perception of compact ‘eco’ cars and be at the forefront of defining a new category.
Following the 1994 divesting of the SmartCar project from Volkwagen to Daimler-Benz, we collaborated with the European marketing team to evolve the brand identity and sales strategy ahead of launch. Sold through the Mercedes-Benz worldwide distributors the product had an immediate and cost effective route to market.
Our communications material, rolled out across multiple regions and languages, included press advertising, dealership POS and printed matter that effectively delivered the product messaging ‘Forward-thinking’ and ‘Be Smart’.
European sales increased by 24% in the 12 months between September 1999 to September 2000. The Smart car successfully managed to lead the eco car category for the first 4 years and change audience perceptions. Previous barriers to entry were broken down with the new product considered fun, safe and an opportunity to display ones individuality.