April 29, 2016 2:45 pm This blog post was originally written by Ruan Fourie. When we think of Mercedes-Benz we think of luxury and the high life. Casey Neistat is a YouTuber and he will happily admit that neither luxury or the high life is part of what he does. How does a luxury car brand like Mercedes and Neistat end up working on an advertising project? Two words: Influencer Marketing As other digital marketing efforts are becoming less and less effective, brands want to reach audiences that are engaged. Influencer Marketing is a great way of doing this, but sometimes the brand restricts influencers to what can or can not be done. Problem is: Influencers know their audience best. In a way it’s similar to how Hollywood works. Creatives create something for an audience, then producers, the production studio and network executives apply changes as they see fit, because they are, after all, fronting the bill. Too many cooks really do spoil the broth, especially when the most vocal cooks don’t know what the people in the restuarant want to eat. Mercedes-Benz have had multiple commercials for many cars over the years and most of these commercials cater to the same audience: High LSM males. If you're in advertising you'll know that target market well! Mercedes commercials look fantastic, but for most of us it just leaves us wishing we could actually afford one of those beautiful luxury cars. The marketing team at Mercedes realised this, and so set out to reach a new audience - but to do this they had to try something they hadn't done before. This new audience is not the usual target - they are people like you and me, people like Casey Neistat, people who just want to have fun, people that Mercedes-Benz don’t really understand. This can be a problem, for any marketing team. Luckily the solution is obvious. Just find someone who understands the audience and let them create - no strings attached. Casey Neistat stepped up to the plate and Mercedes-Benz armed him with the new CLA Class and bags full of money. Their instructions to Casey? Nothing. “There’s a huge insecurity on my part that my audience might perceive this as: this is something a company is directing, or this is a company that wants to be something else, or this is something that a company is pushing in a certain direction.” said Neistat about his fears when taking on this project. Right from day one, Neistat and his team did not hide a thing from their audience. They made a four-part video series to help showcase their process and the production of the CLA Class commercial. Like any good influencer, Neistat had all cards on the table where his audience could see them. The resulting commercial is probably the best commercial that has even been made for Mercedes-Benz. Instead of making you feel like you need to earn more, the commercial makes you feel like you want to have fun. https://youtu.be/NZ8RiLLt6yg It’s because of this honesty that influencers have with their audience, that there is a different type of connection. A connection that can change behaviour and influence purchasing decisions. The audience also want to support the influencer, especially if branded content is not forced on them under false pretenses. Even though content might be paid for or sponsored, the audience will not mind if the content has been created for them. In fact, in most cases the audience will support the brand, because the brand supports the influencer. This shows us that trust between brand and influencer is key. It’s only natural for a brand to be concerned about what will happen to their brand when placed in the hands of an influencer. Influencer Marketing is the future of marketing, but it will be critical for brands to identify influencers that understand branding and marketing as well as they understand their audience. A real influencer builds his own audience using branding and marketing skills. If a brand can trust an influencer, and give them the creative freedom they deserve, not only will the campaign be a success but a mutually beneficial relationship will blossom between the two parties. Once a mutually beneficial working relationship is created between brand and influencer, the influencer becomes a brand ambassador for life - and that is more valuable than any other form of media a brand can buy.