The world has turned, and so has politically correct language. Historians once employed the terms BC, Before Christ; and AD, Anno Domini, meaning in the year of the Lord or after the coming of Christ. Now, it’s BCE (Before Common Era) and CE. Sad! The Donald would tweet… they stand for the same damned thing. In Singapore, however, the initials are BMBS and MBS: Before Marina Bay Sands and after Marina Bay Sands.
For exiles and those who came in late, Marina Bay Sands is the epicentre of the global city, a showcase for the people of the lifestyle rewards available to the single- minded pursuit of all modern life has to offer. It was into this milieu that Mercedes-Benz pitched its fizzing convoy of CLA, GLA and A-Class models replete with a new generation of early adopters and influencers. June 2017 MBS marked the Ultra-successful era of the Mercedes-Benz Urban Hunting Movement.
The rebranding and engagement campaign started in 2015 MBS; it’s described by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia as a “movement driven by the Mercedes-Benz’s new generation compact cars to hunt for the active leisure and lifestyle that defines the city lifestyle.” To translate, the strategic marketing brief might go like this: get millennials and Gen Z to like our brand. Make the design more street and sear the brand-lifestyle associations into their hips and brains.
But, for the longest time, there were no models that fit the brief; the initial entry- level A-Class and C-Class range were not designed with an influencer mindset. (Fun fact: the first A-Class was actually radical for its time but felled by a Swedish “moose”.) Worse, the brand’s signature value of build quality and longevity was a conservative value that worked against it, because a Merc was seen as “my father’s car”.
The CLA, GLA and A-class range change all the above. You know how successfully they fulfil the brief because so many of the specimens you see on the road have not been subject to the indignity of third-party cosmetic mods, or relatively little of it; this shows they’re readily acceptable to their market because they speak the same (design) language and are spec’d to the hilt with options.
The company also seems to have committed hefty marketing budgets and creative resources to lowering the average age of its buyer. In addition to the impressive “Grow Up” series of videos that plays on the brand’s traditional image for its global campaign, Mercedes-Benz has been elaborating on its regional campaign idea of “urban hunting” more ambitiously since its pilot Urban Hunting Art and Music Drive in 2015. Last year saw the first Urban Hunting Star Drive to the Ultra Music Festival in Singapore for “fans and owners” in 130 cars, where the new CLA was also presented.
This year, Mercedes-Benz secured premium partner status to Ultra Singapore. In its two-storey suite directly across the Ultra Main Stage, it hosted more than 1,500 “fans, customers and partners” from Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos, all of whom had a chance to touch and feel the Mercedes-AMG GTS and the newly launched GLA. But the draws were Ultra headliners Tiësto and Aoki. Tiësto’s EDM verged on industrial, the block-wide and high backdrop like the display on Godzilla’s ghetto blaster magnified to infinity at a gajillion watts PMPO (that's Peak Music Power Output to audio nerds). Aoki’s set was intriguingly classical and operatic before turning into Modern Talking with algorithms. The crowd on the muddy plains, absorbed it all with de rigueur gym bodies made for the occasion.
Esquire’s ride home was the A 250 Sport, the perfect narrative continuity to the techno spectacle of Ultra. Chiselled haunches, squat stance and aggressive jewellery (designer-speak for parts that can be blinged, like headlamps) are matched by bassy, upfront power delivery and a chassis tuned to leave you in no doubt you’re going places fast. It’s the kind that makes you want to bomb into the wrong corners, lose your nerve and hit the brakes. Many will, but it holds its line. Later, a ride in an older example used just like this, and worse, showed that Mercedes-Benz still builds them like they used to (Chrysler years now exorcised). In short, like its stately predecessors, the new generation can still be used to part the seas—to your chosen lifestyle destination.
Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport, 4 in-line cylinders; 1991 ccm; 155kw/211bhp at 5500rpm; 350 lb ft at 1200-4000rpm; 240km/h top speed, RM238,888; mercedes-benz.com.my
Speaking of Tiësto, find out where you can buy tickets to party with him in Kuala Lumpur here.